I love history – both generally and specifically as it relates to our family. Last year when I was studying some of the Sparrow history I was fascinated to learn that our grandparents were married the same week that the RMS Titanic sunk. In other words, that ill-fated ship and the Sparrows are commemorating a 100th anniversary this week. Of course, our grandparents have been dead for decades. But our family celebrates everything without much provocation.
All the hoopla around the Titanic anniversary, including the re-release of the movie by the same name, has made me wonder what our grandparents thought about the disaster, or if it in any way affected their honeymoon. I suspect that I’m not alone in wishing that I had asked my parents and grandparents more questions before they died. Typical things mostly – what attracted them to one another, what their first job was, what mom was thinking when she chose that wedding dress, or, in this case, how did a major catastrophe affect their lives.
I suspect that in my grandparent’s case, it affected them very little. Theirs was something of a scandalous marriage at the time so they had their own personal ice floes to navigate (and, yes, I’ll write about that in a future blog). Something that happened thousands of miles away to strangers would have been interesting, but not necessarily all-consuming. I suspect that they read about the Titanic in the newspaper over breakfast and then said something like, “Please pass the Devonshire cream”.
Contrast that to what might happen if the Titanic sank today. One can only imagine the news coverage: helicopters flying over the site, news anchors broadcasting from both Southampton and New York, and inevitably Geraldo Rivera would be clinging to an ice berg, wind whistling through his hair, looking for lost treasures. We would be inundated with “expert” analysis and live interviews with people who had a third cousin once removed who went to grammar school with the porter on the third deck. I don’t even want to think about Twitter and Facebook. The Food Network would be our only place of refuge.
And all this leads me to wonder: are our lives improved by constant, overwhelming news reports?
I realize that in a broad sense we are all part of the “human family” and sometimes news coverage gives us a better understanding of an issue or a situation. And certainly there is a human interest aspect to every major story. But so much excessive coverage also leads to stress. We can hardly breathe for all of the information that comes our way. The news channels seem less interested in providing us with the salient facts than in out pacing their competitors in the minutia race. The result is a LOT of “noise” and the inevitable annoying person at the office who has to be the resident expert on every breaking news story.
Sometimes I think the generations before us had it better in this respect. They got the pertinent news, usually once a day, and unless it affected a friend or relative, they then went on about their business. Somewhere between 1912 and 2012 we’ve misplaced the happy medium.
Oh, one other coincidence between the Titanic and the Sparrows: there has been many a “morning after” when someone in our family has suggested that they were hit by bad ice.