Like most of us that came of age in the 90's, I love the movie Titanic. Not just because Leonardo became our first sex symbol (still is) or that Kate showed us what it means to be a woman (still saving up for those implants). It's the metaphor. Yes, lots of people died and it was an awful tragedy. But for the sake of this post let's pretend it was just a movie -- and one that does a damn good job showing us what it's like to be human, if you know where to look. And I'm not just talking about that scene in the car, with the handprint -- get your mind out of the gutter.
The point where this incredible (if maybe not totally plausible -- since when does Hollywood validate our own love lives, anyway?) story of two people meets the path of that giant chunk of chemical composition is what I'm really interested in. Two people, with lives and dreams and well, baggage; floating along unbeknownst of the fatal ice cube waiting for them in the ocean's giant cocktail glass. They laugh, they dance. Leo shakes some hair out of his eyes. We all see Kate's boobs (unfortunately I was 12 and seeing this movie with my father -- one of my most vivid traumas). They fall in love. Then all of a sudden their lives are ripped wide open from underneath.
This becomes so fascinating when we acknowledge what human beings are really made of. We are a surface, which is not so hard to see. We are the chunk that sticks out of the water, visible to the world with maybe a little more that we understand ourselves. And then we are the dark, murky subsurface. Everything that keeps an ice burg rooted in the ocean is also within us. Every memory we keep and instance we've forgotten -- it is all stored in our flesh and our bones; our brains and our cells and the atoms they all float upon. Everything a human being experiences in his lifetime does not float away on the air he breathes, but remains in pieces hidden within the puzzle.
So that which we are made of is a culmination of all that we have experienced. Got it. But what does that have to do with anything? Did Leo care that Kate was a prima donna princess, probably ingrained with the notion that she should get everything she wanted? Did Kate give a shit that Leo lived a life of lying and cheating, because that's all he ever knew of survival? No? Well they probably should have. Because it would have come up sooner or later.
This is the poignant moment here. The intersection where these two people decide to dedicate their lives to each other and the collision with the ice burg is where all of one person's shit meets all of another's. Because human beings are ice burgs, and all of what I am on the surface and underneath is all that I bring to any relationship I will ever have. And it will always be the same in reverse.
The only way to find your car keys is to retrace your steps, right? Well the only way to understand these things we know of our surface-selves is to retrace them back to their beginnings; which is to investigate our individual ice burgs. And sometimes it takes the collision of someone else that denies all of what you are or understand to really crack you open.
So to be in relationship with someone -- friend, family, coworker, lover -- is to say, "I am this, and you are that. We are different but by being together I see myself in the interaction." To see your patterns when they are magnified by someone else calls them to attention. To fix a destructive pattern is to see it and then retrace it from whence it came; which is to dive into water.
Human beings may all be ice burgs but that is not a bad thing. Buddy Holly and I both remember this as being one of the most poignant conversations we first had: we drew a picture together of this concept and really discussed what it meant. It means that for anyone to authentically interact with another takes a willingness to understand the ice burg. That to love someone takes little effort, but to be in relationship with them takes understanding ourselves enough to bring it all to the table. With humility and grace and acceptance. The learning never ends, but to acknowledge its existence in a relationship is something worth holding on to.
So yeah, it didn't end so well for Jack and Rose. But the beauty in it is what they found in their brief time together. They saw the pickaxe to their ice burgs in each other, and they moved towards them in anticipation. I hope you find your pickaxe -- or several, -- too.