by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Can we possibly fathom how it must have been for the swashbucklers to set sail in the Mayflower in 1620 “in search of a new land”? Talk about raw travel adventure! Their existing circumstances in England had to have been forbidding to promote the idea of such a voyage in the first place. It speaks to the enigmatic buoyancy of humanity to have looked out upon the unavoidable prospect of uncertainty.

The Mayflower was the ship that transported the first English Separatists, known today as the “Pilgrims”, from Plymouth, England to the “New World” in 1620. There were 102 passengers, and the crew is estimated to have been about 30, but the exact number is unknown.This voyage has become an iconic story in some of the earliest annals of American history, with its story of death and of survival in the harsh New England winter environment. The culmination of the voyage in the signing of the “Mayflower Compact” was an event which established a rudimentary form of democracy, with each member contributing to the welfare of the community.

The distance from Plymouth, England to Boston, Massachusetts is about 3,000 miles.  The journey took two months though the return trip was half that time because of the prevailing North Atlantic “Westerlies” which of course hindered the voyage out. The ship’s 30′ high aft-castle didn’t exactly help when sailing against the wind.

What a thrill it must have been to have landed on the beach!  No doubt it was an unparalleled chore and a frightening assimilation! Small wonder the event inspired abstruse principles. Not to mention the sudden realization that you control your own destiny – a base recognition far removed from anything we have since heard uttered by high school valedictorians. It readily provides an insight into the more dynamic features of the American psyche – though I hasten to add that likely the desire to plunder the territory wasn’t too far beneath the veneer of moral propriety. That contamination alone affords a peek at the less than mystical truth of the American Dream.

By comparison to these “early settlers”, we seem infinitely better positioned to predict our future.  But in retrospect the distinction may amount to mere haughtiness.  Four hundred years from now our current progress on this planet may inspire a far different assessment. The so-called supremacy of the human being is more and more subject to qualification.  Only today as I sailed on my bicycle down a hill past a local farm I marvelled at the mystery that surrounds the lowly cow.  Why do they have an instinct to do what they do, to bend their knees to collapse into the field of surrounding flowers in the late morning sunlight?  Who wrote that blueprint of behaviour?  Why do humans command them? Will we ever comprehend the miracle of life on any level?  In our journey forward are we really that far removed from Plymouth?

My own mother is nearing 100 years of age.  With respect she reminds me of the millennia required to alter the pattern of existence measurably. The transition from fins to wings wasn’t accomplished overnight. Any attempt to elevate the condition humaine by anything other than individual application is inescapable. Change is fomented microscopically and at low depths not superficially and in great swaths. And historically it is even more apparent that rudimentary advancement is barely touched by so-called revolutions of any description. The greatest voyage remains that of personal discovery.