My daughter asked me last night, “How did that ship get four miles off course?” We'd been watching thew news about the Costa Concordia which ran aground off the coast of Giglio island near Italy. I didn’t know the answer, so I told her what they said on the news: There was a electrical failure and their navigational equipment wasn’t working. But having recently finished a coastal navigation course, it got me thinking. I know there are many ways to ‘take a bearing’ or know where you’re at in the water, and none of them require electricity. You do need a chart (map) and a compass. That’s it. Pretty simple. By looking at two to three points of reference and noting their compass bearing from where you are, you can ‘triangulate’ and know with great precision, where you are.
I think the tricky part comes in when we get lazy, when we don’t want to know where we are, or we’re pretty sure we already know, but don’t want to go through the effort to find out. Or worse, when all the data says one thing (i.e. the island should be on the port side of the ship, not the starboard side) but we just don’t care. I’m not sure what to call that. Pride? Hubris? Willfulness? I would also submit ‘afraid’. It’s a scary thing to take stock of where we are. Some people don’t want to look at their bank statements or credit score. Some students don’t want to look at their grades. Some people don’t want to visit the doctor. Why?
So in answer to my daughter’s question, “How did that ship get four miles off course,” there are many reasons, but I would say that one of them could be fear. It’s easy to become afraid, especially when working in a group. Who’s the guy on the bridge who’s going speak up and say, “Hey, I think we’re off course. We should check this out.” It’s scary to be the whistle blower, the one to challenge authority, or simply speak one’s mind. But what if we did? What if we said, 'Something doesn’t feel right. Something doesn’t look right. Let’s check it out.' Accidents happen, and often they truly are accidental. But also I think there are lots of ways to be brave.