Quick preface: Every now and then you may discover a song, poem, image, movie, quote, or some form of media that speaks a message to you. The “Meaningful Media” section of the blog is where I share such discoveries. I encourage you to listen to the song linked above while reading this post. This particular post is written in response to a weekly theme challenge (this week’s theme is “Retrospective“). Also, you may be interested in the background of the composer and his monthly film-score album release project and more on The Endurance expedition.
“She’s going, boys” is the alarm call that was proclaimed among Ernest Shackleton’s crew as their ship, The Endurance, began to submerge into the depths of the Weddell Sea off the coast of Antarctica after being crushed and splintered by pack ice. Can you imagine? You, as a crew member, are stranded on an ice floe in sub-zero temperatures, miles away from civilization, and the only thing visible through your cloud of frozen breath is your home, slipping away beneath the surface. And there isn’t a thing you can do about it. What do you do now? This is the moment that inspired this song.
And what a song it is. How does it manage to convey such a tragedy so beautifully? And why does it seem so oddly relatable? Thankfully, I have never been involved in a shipwreck or been stranded anywhere where help wasn’t readily available. So why have I mentally latched onto this song saying, “I know what you mean”? Here’s my theory:
I feel that the chief purpose of a song is to tell a story. How this is done is a great mystery. Think about it: The right combination of sounds (they need not be lyrical) produced by wooden, metallic, nylon, and wind-based instruments will cause your mind to create images and emotions that perhaps you’ve never seen or felt before. The right song will even dust-off ancient memories of yours that have been tucked away for ages or elicit an emotion that you have felt come alive in a variety of other contexts. That is exactly what Adam Young has accomplished through this song. This is why we can relate to a story about a shipwreck.
None of us were there when the crew initially abandoned The Endurance when it became trapped in the ice and, later, when those jagged walls relented and she faded away into the sea. We don’t know the extent of that story. But we have all experienced loss in some form; the drifting apart of friends, the death of a loved one, moving away from home. The loss of anything that represented security and familiarity. We do know that story quite well.
It is notable that The Endurance was held afloat by the pack ice for nearly a month after it was crushed and swamped. During that time, the crew camped and drifted on the ice floes, frequently returning to the site of the wreckage until she finally sank. How often have we camped and lingered near the shadows of things that are no longer there? Do we try so fervently to resurrect things from our past that we blind ourselves to the present and the future ahead?
But here is the beauty: Only after The Endurance sank did the crew truly abandon ship, forsake their navigation by incidental ice drifting, and begin their long and intentional journey home. Likewise for us, we must learn how to part well with the wreckage. Loss is a vast sea and the grief that comes with it is a ship that can carry us only so far until we are ready to set out on foot again. There are things in our past that we must make peace with so they can finally sink out of our waking lives without us onboard.
In a few days, 2017 will be here and we will embark on the journey of a brand new year. 2016 may have been a rough year for you. There was a lot of good to be found in the year but there was also some tragedy. My family and I welcomed a beautiful child into a conflicted and violent world. This past year found us celebrating at times and lamenting at others. I don’t know what next year will hold for us. But I do know that remaining adrift on the ice floes of 2016 is not going to help us get our bearings for 2017.
As the song fades out to the hauntingly beautiful sounds of The Endurance descending to rest beneath the sea, may the debris of our past do the same. After all, we have a long journey ahead of us. It’s a brand new year out there.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
– Phillippians 3:13-14 (NIV)