Truly Powerful People (313)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Lora was on a ship that late one night ran aground in the Icy Straits of Alaska. They had to abandon ship. With several other passengers she was taken onto a fishing vessel. One of the passengers had a cell phone that had service so she left me a message (I was on the east coast sleeping in a comfy bed while she was having her adventure) telling me that she was fine, that all of the passengers where safe and that she’d call me when she was able. She wanted to call because she knew the news channels would tell a story of disaster instead of the story of safe competent response to an unfortunate accident.

Indeed, the next morning after receiving her message I turned on the news and saw the ship run aground. All around it were life bright orange rafts – in cold climates the life rafts are like tents – the news choppers couldn’t see inside so they were reporting that people were freezing in the rafts and that almost certainly there would be casualties. The rafts were deployed but no one was in them. All the passengers were transported to an Alaska State Ferry boat; while the news reported a tragedy the passengers were enjoying a warm breakfast and a good nap after a night of high adventure.

I remembered this experience today as I listened to the stories being told around the tragedy in Italy. People died. The captain most certainly abandoned his ship. And, within two hours, the crew safely evacuated over 4,000 people despite the limited ability to launch their lifeboats – a listing ship renders the boats dangerous to deploy. Someone did something right. And, it was certainly messy and panic-filled.

Yesterday I listened to economist Tyler Cowen’s TED talk in which he implored us to doubt our facility for story. I think he got it wrong – we are storytelling beings and our facility for story is what makes us human. It is the glue that binds community; it is how we make sense of the world. What we need to doubt is the intention behind the stories that we tell (and are told). We are in too much of a hurry to assign blame, too interested in whipping up disaster. Affixing blame also limits our capacity to see, to think, to act, it is easy, feels good (because we are not to blame), and makes victims of us all.

3 Responses

  1. Love this . . what a timely & perfect reminder regarding the perception & intent of our very human stories . thanks for this David .

  2. Another recent example is the shooting and killing of Park Ranger Margaret Anderson at Mount Rainier. Desperately we try to make sense of it and in so doing we create an even larger tragedy, that in this case is but one scenario that could have occurred. We reason the shooter was planning to get to Paradise and kill everyone there. Margaret stopped that. She put herself between the evil and the top of the road. She died to save over a hundred others. That’s what we say to ourselves, what we create to make sense, but the truth is we don’t know the killer’s intention, his internal story, his reason for visiting Mount Rainier. We know a Ranger died, and that’s tragedy enough. What other stories could there be, and what would those alternatives open us up to?

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this David. As always, I love your perspective and your gentle reminders. 🙂 Tamara

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