Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Before the Mast

This is a mast on the training ship Amerigo Vespucci, one of the finest of its kind. It's a large enough vessel and can carry more than 300 trainees - although I think most have to sleep in hammocks with that many on board! It called in to Canary Wharf when I was there and I made a visit. If it berths near you, do take the chance to explore, because it's fascinating. Now the symbolism is all about ships and boats. Technically, masts, sails and rigging fall within the scope of journeys and voyaging. But I feel that often, symbolism literature fails to take into account of the more prosaic topics. These boats were all about trade and ultimately profit. Particularly in this location, they carried goods that could not be obtained in the destination country - spices for example. I remember in the 1980s, some London docks still carried a faint aroma of the spices that were unloaded there. But ships do symbolise the voyage of life and the life trading that goes on is about the accommodations we make on the way. We make decisions, choices and sacrifices on that journey. Some plunder their way through life like privateers. They're as opportunistic as the pirates of old and that involves a certain amount of risk and danger. Some opt for a safer passage. But the voyage can't help starting with birth and ending in death. It's what we do on the way that matters.