In his "Why Read the Classics?" of 1954, Italo Calvino, who died in 1985, writes of the transition from small owners' sailing ships to vast vessels operated by huge companies solely for profit.
The chapter in the book that's titled "Conrad's Captains," ostensibly about Joseph Conrad, author of "Lord Jim" and "Heart of Darkness," rings as true in today's Key West as they ever have:
"Conrad's world of heroes was based on the culture of the small shipowners' sailing ships, a world of rational clarity, of discipline at work, of courage and duty -- as opposed to the world of a new fleet of steamships owned by huge companies that seemed to him squalid and worthless.
"Conrad saw the universe as dark and hostile but against it he marshaled the forces of man, of moral order and courage. Faced with a chaotic world laden with mystery and despair, Conrad's humanism held the line and dug in.
"His lesson can be fully understood by those who have faith in the forces of the human and a faith in those who recognize their own nobility in the work that they do, who still hold dear to a principle of fidelity that should not be applied solely to the past."