The Titanic Sank, but not Nicholas Wade's Grandfather . . .
Nicholas Wade writes science articles for the New York Times, but also articles on other themes as well, such as the personal one recently published in the International Herald Tribune, "My grandfather, like most men, declined to rush ahead" (April 7-8, 2012), which tells of his grandfather, Lawrence Beesley, who survived the sinking of the Titanic.
He had stayed back and allowed women and children to board a lifeboat in the part of the ship where he was standing, like most other men on the whole ship, but when a rumor went around that men would be boarding lifeboats on the other side of the Titanic, he didn't follow the men around him, most of whom headed for the other side, but remained where he stood, along with two others besides himself. A short time later, he was invited into a lifeboat because even though all the women had boarded, there was still a bit of room. Nicholas Wade wonders about his grandfather's decision:
Why did he decide not to follow the rest of the men over to the port side? Although he owed his life to that decision, the explanation he gives in his book is not entirely satisfying. "I can personally think of no decision arising from reasoned thought that induced me to remain rather than to cross over," he said.I don't see the puzzle. Mr. Wade's grandfather states that he made no "reasoned thought," but that he had had a "recognition" of what he needed to do. A "conscious decision" was not the issue, rather the difference between focused reasoning and immediate recognition, or intuition, something he may have trusted in as a Christian Scientist.
As if in recognition that some more positive evidence for his nondecision would be helpful, he added, "I am convinced that what was my salvation was a recognition of the necessity of being quiet and waiting in patience for some opportunity of safety to present itself."
The two passages are puzzling because in the first he says he made no conscious decision, and in the second he describes one.
Mr. Wade is a bit too hard on his grandfather, I think, but he's probably trying to avoid any impression of in playing favorite in what might then be construed as a familial defense of a man who survived when so many men did not.