Sunday, July 20, 2008


What’s the deal with Popeye? With that bad eye of his I can understand him missing a thing or two, but his ears are okay aren’t they? If so, didn’t he hear any of the advice they were handing out in those faraway ports when he was on shore leave? For instance, there’s that old Chinese saying that “the woman with the long feet ends up alone in a room.” And then there’s the Indian proverb that “if a girl develops long feet, she will be in trouble after marriage.” Even if those were a little too oblique for the sailor man, there should have been no mistaking the Sena of Mazambique when they put it bluntly, “Don’t marry the one with the big feet, because she is your fellow male!” Exposed to all that “wisdom”, it’s a miracle Popeye even stays in the same state with Olive, much less pursues her so relentlessly.

Or maybe it’s not a miracle. Maybe Popeye just doesn’t take to all that eastern religious talk. While it’s unclear what religion, if any, Popeye’s creator E. C. Segar adhered to, it’s definitely clear that the town he grew up in (Chester, Illinois) is crawling with Catholics and Lutherans. That, plus the fact that Popeye’s favorite saying “I yam what I yam!” sounds awfully similar to Yahweh’s “I am that I am!”, hints that maybe Mr. Strong To The Finish probably spent some time in Sunday School as a boy. In that case, he was likely already familiar with Semitic wisdom literature, the kind we find in books like Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus. Those books seem to have a different take on finding the right woman, one that doesn’t involve whipping out a Brannock Device.

According to Pope John Paul II, “Although sapiential literature frequently alludes to woman's defects, it perceives in her a hidden treasure: "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord" (Prov 18:22), says the Book of Proverbs, expressing convinced appreciation of the feminine figure, a precious gift of the Lord. At the end of the same book the portrait of the ideal woman is sketched. Far from representing an unattainable model, she is a concrete image born from the experience of women of great value: "A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels..." (Prov 31:10). Sapiential literature sees in woman's fidelity to the divine covenant the culmination of her abilities and the greatest source of admiration. Indeed, although she can sometimes disappoint, woman transcends all expectations when her heart is faithful to God: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (Prov 31:30).” Small feet are optional.

No comments: