Mighty Mouse, Popeye, Looney Tunes, and all the cartoons associated with Rocky and Bulwinkle were my favorite shows as a young child. Eventually, I grew to appreciate any Hanna-Barbera cartoon, with a deep appreciation for the humor of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo along with the lessons of Fred Flinstone. Truth be known, I thought Barney’s wife, Mrs. Rubble was kind of hot. But, I share too much now.
Perhaps, Popeye was my very first hero. I couldn’t understand how Olive Oyl would keep falling for Bluto time and again. I believed, I mean I really believed, in the supernatural restorative power of a can of spinach. One day, I finally convinced my grandfather to let me eat my own can of spinach. I was probably about three years old. He said that I wouldn’t like it. He proved to be a wise man. I took the can, and tried to throw the spinach back in my throat, the same way Popeye did when he got tired of getting his ass kicked by Bluto. I spit it all back out quicker than I threw it down the hatch. Outside of that puff of cigarette I tried when no one was looking, it was the worse thing I had ever tasted. I swore off canned spinach, and tobacco, for life. I was very disappointed in Popeye’s taste buds. I did, however, develop a fondness for Whimpy’s favorite food choice…the hamburger he would “Gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”
There was one phrase Popeye would use consistently at the end of an episode, “I y’am what I y’am.” Like the taste of canned spinach, it has stayed with me. I wish I had understood its true meaning sooner because it’s as powerful as his can of spinach. If I were to create my own church, it would be called The Church of the I Y’am What I Y’am. You can spend so much of your life running away from your natural state, who you really are, in an attempt at impressing others or in an attempt to improve your self-esteem – impressing yourself.
I have spent the last couple of years thinking a lot about religion, God, spirituality, and authenticity. I read many books by believers and non-believers. I explored a lot of intellectual threads. My grand conclusuion is that God, whatever name or title you want to use for the Great Mystery,… loves me. There is nothing I can do to earn that love. It is just there and I can recognize it now or at the moment of my death, but I will finally recognize it. And, perhaps more importantly, everyone around me is loved too. So, so simple and yet it has taken me a lifetime to begin to understand it. Why? Well, my traditional religious upbringing did not make it easy to believe in such a simple idea. That is not the only reason though. I think I spent too much time defending an ego. Important and as necessary as that might be at times, too much of a defensive nature can hide your true nature.
So Mr. Popeye, I salute you, sir. Not only are you a great father for swee’ pea, or the boy-kid as you call him, but you gifted me with words of wisdom which I first heard, probably from my crib, “I y’am what I y’am” and “You are what You are” and that is simple and good, natural and mystical, sacred and holy.
A good friend, who is not religious at all, felt an urge to record a cover of the old song. For me he captures much of what I just shared, in this blog, with the honesty of his vocals. He is not trying to be anything close to religious, pious, just sharing an idea, the wonderful possibilty of.. an Amazing Grace.