Trip Reports

Missionary Impossible (09-Sep-2001-11-00):
11:00 AM local time Sunday, September 9th (0000 September 9th UTC). 14 05 S 157 26 E. Temp. 85, Humidity 71%, cloud cover 10%. Seas SE 1.5 meters. Wind SE 10k. Crossing the Coral Sea. (I think that's still technically part of the Pacific.)

We left Vanuatu on Tuesday, one day after anticipated, because we decided we may want to make a pit stop in Papua New Guinea, and we had to get a visa from the High Commissioner in Port Vila or they wouldn't let us in. We're about 650 miles out now, with about the same to go to Port Moresby, and both the weather and sailing have been quite pleasant. We currently have 10 knots from the SE, and we're heading NW under poled out headsails doing about 4-5 knots. The Coral Sea is a place where we expected strong winds, but we got these in the eastern part of the South Pacific where winds were supposed to be lighter. As of yesterday the wind freshened for a while and a swell came up on our beam as well as what we had from behind and as we were dead down wind it got a bit rolly, making it hard to stay in one's bunk. We tried a trick we'd read about and hoisted the main with a double reef and using the mainsheet, preventer, and traveler centered it so that the leach points directly into the apparent wind. This really did do a good job of dampening the roll a bit. And check this out: we were playing with the GPS and found a "maximum speed" function we had never paid any attention to. It was reset at zero when we left but somehow we have a reading of 16.7 knots. We must have been falling off a wave back on one of those 35-knot days.

In this post we will review a letter from old friend Bob Riedel to see what wisdom we may find therein, and in doing so will hope to shed more light on the issue of bare-breasted native women in response to a plea from Mr. Shrode's father-in-law, Paul, and by the way, thanks for the inquiry about this important topic.

Mr. Riedel, who does not share the Captain's enthusiasm for less-is- more anthropology, actually spent quite some time in this area of the Pacific and amongst its residents, and can speak therefore with some authority on the topics of local health care and customs. On the former subject, he points out quite rightly the astonishing fact that surgical gloves weren't used in our fancy western hospitals either, until the AIDS scare.

In Mr. Riedel's letter he also brought up the subject of penis belts or sheaves or whatever, so recently covered by your correspondent. He said, among other things, that "A penis sheath is surely little worse than a codpiece, and serves the same purpose." This is quite an interesting point of view, on which we will be commenting next time. First, let's recall a little history.

The belief that the soul, or the spiritual and mental part of the human being, is its most important or essential aspect has an ancient provenance. The doctrine that the body is on the other hand a source of misinformation and cause for bad judgments seems to be more recent, but can be traced back at least to the pre-Christian thinker, Plato, in his depiction of Socrates' last day on earth in the Phaedo. In that dialogue Socrates recommends paying little heed to the body, a temporary vessel, and concentrating on the soul, which, he argues at some length, is eternal. That the body is a source of actual evil is a more radical doctrine which can claim as its defenders personages no less imposing than Saints Paul and Augustine. It is less clear what Jesus taught on the subject; he is well known for miraculously making wine, and defending a woman of ill repute against her accusers. But Augustine takes the austere view that spicy foods, bright colors, and even the love a father has for his son, not to mention sexual impulses, are temptations the world offers to misguide the soul onto a false path.

This doctrine spanked its way down through the centuries, shaking its bony index finger at many a lustful teenager, until, through the efforts of courageous European missionaries shortly after the voyages of discovery initiated by James Cook, it finally flopped down exhausted on the beaches of the native peoples of the South Pacific. Like many societies, including those of ancient Greece, Rome, and India, some of the South Pacific cultures had until that moment venerated fertility and the instruments thereof. In the golden age of ancient Athens the god Hermes was represented in statuary with an erect penis. Assuming that this hadn't fallen out of fashion by the first century AD, St. Paul would have passed many of these popular figures as he traveled to the Agora to preach. Paul would probably have taken this in stride, but we prim heirs of his thought would be shocked to see the same thing decorating middle-class houses in our day. When the people carrying on St. Paul's mission came to the South Pacific they brought with them, among many new beliefs, doctrines prohibiting cannibalism (which, not incidentally, was in the self-interest of the missionaries but also, I mean, get real), the display and enhancement of male genitalia, and the uncovered female breast. The Captain, also a product of the culture founded by the above-mentioned sages and other worthies, heartily concurs with the first prohibition, is strong supporter, so to speak, of the second, and has heard of the third. Presumably, the native people were taught that among other things, observing these prohibitions would contribute to their being given eternal life. Not doing so may send them to hell. It's a carrot and stick kind of deal.

Now the Captain would like to offer a couple of puzzles among many which may, you be the judge, be emblematic of the fragile and fickle nature of human morality, once a favorite subject of the Great King, Darius of Persia. Your correspondent would like the reader to put himself in the position of the thoughtful South Pacific islander and imagine what his conclusions might be when pondering these same curiosities.

1) When foreigners come to visit this area they are often cautioned to dress conservatively, and particularly not to go bare-breasted or wear skimpy bathing suits near villages where native people may be worshipping fully dressed as their missionaries have taught. Who are the people who sent missionaries but need to be admonished thusly, appearing to have no such prohibitions amongst themselves?

2) When tourists come to visit, they are offered a variety of activities and one of the most popular is attending native dance ceremonies. In these performances, local people, who usually wear Nike t-shirts and shorts which cover their naughty parts, will dress in traditional attire, and this sometimes means the men wear penis sheathes and the women perform topless. They do dances that have various themes, many based on animism-a set of beliefs inconsistent with the teachings of Christianity. Who are the people who sent missionaries and now pay the natives to do the things these missionaries taught them were evil?

And that's not all. It took relatively little time for the missionaries to convince the Polynesians and Melanesians to adopt the teachings of the Christian tradition. But the very Catholic French, for whom the reader is well aware the Captain has nothing but praise, have turned a deaf ear to the teaching above about female breasts, notwithstanding the fact that they've been Christianized for well over a millennium. So to Mr. Shrode's father-in-law Paul, namesake of the other Paul mentioned above, the report is, the crew of Maverick has seen a number of bare- breasted native women in our travels, but unfortunately that number is zero. Join us in France, where the real primitives still haunt the shores of Cannes and St.-Tropez and ignore the mighty Augustine.

PS to GV: Thanks for the info on Bobby Black

PS to Emmy and Eric: So when are you hoisting those sails and coming out here?

PS to Lance: Welcome aboard.

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