C.P. Cavafy’s poem “Ithaca”, the subject of great inspiration to me two weeks ago (Drawing a Line in Lubna’s Sand, Saying ‘No More’ to the Growing, Global Erosion of Women’s Rights in the Name of Any Man’s Religion) returned to me this morning, in a long post about Cavafy and his poetry on The Nation: Mixing History and Desire: The Poetry of C.P. Cavafy.
Like Cavafy, I’m a sensualist, in spite of the bad-girl reputation that accompanies being in touch with my physicality and humanity.
Checking the thesarus, synonyms for sensual include: x-rated, animal, arousing, carnal, debauched, delightful, epicurean, exciting, fleshly, lascivious, lewd, libidinous, licentious, justful, moving, pleasing, rough, sensuous, sexual, sexy, steamy, stimulating, stirring, tactile, unchaste, unspiritual, voluptuous, unspiritual.
Personally, I take issue with “unspiritual” but I’m accepting — if somewhat saddened — by the rest of the list that comes from being a tree lover and ocean embracer. Today, I no longer feel guilty about the adjectives. My own relationship with my five senses (plus a couple more) is stronger than ever.
For me idealism, virtue and sensuality cannot be separated. If I’m not mistaken, Aristotle agrees with me.
Day Into Night
You must admit that these night photos are very sensual, an appropriate visual tribute to Ted Kennedy and the entire Kennedy clan. Do you think there might be a connection between being scandalous on occasion and also being visionary?
The Kennedy saga has always tossed and turned between glorious and noble ideals and temporary debauchery. Ocasionally, the actions were worse than scandalous, threatening the very identity of the family’s moral fiber.
I can relate to the Kennedys as flawed, sensual idealists like myself. My heart grieved often for Kennedys — as shots screamed in my ears, drilling bullet holes into my beliefs. Each Kennedy response to enormous tragedy said: “Stay the course; carry on”.
Life was unusually messy for America’s first family, full of cancer as well as marital affairs and other extraordinary events.
Can you imagine if the Kennedy’s believed in honour killings! The scene might look like Gettysburg.
In the midst of extraordinary civic commitment and political leadership, God never gave the K-clan a free ride. In fact, they have been tested more often over the decades, than any American family in history and maybe in the whole world.
Muslims and fundamentalist Christians might say the Kennedys prayed to the wrong god, and such an influential family could have changed the course of global history, had they only picked up the right hymn book.
Watching the family these past few days, and especially Ted Kennedy’s extraordinary wife Victoria, I can’t help thinking about the Kennedy relationship with nature and sensuality. The ocean in particular, but land as well kept the Kennedys close to feminine principles and the emotional nature of existence.
Unlike the highly moral people who have judged them over the years, the Kennedys know that life is mired in inexplicable, irrational muck.
Devoutly Catholic and moving from one crisis to the next, the clan seemed to acknowledge that ‘flaws’ of human nature exist in all of us, no matter how devout.
In how many cases, do we cause our own grief? How often would we actually go through that grief again, because the flip side of the agony was enormous joy? How do we understand the vagaries and challenges of life, if we never savour them?
I acknowledge limits to social experience, in the pursuit of a civilized society. The questions concerns one of balancing our desires with responsibility to others.
In opening ourselves to a sensual path — la dolce vita of food, wine, travel, sex, learning, poetry, sailing, languages — do we grow because we’ve trusted ourselves to sin? It doesn’t take much, depending on your choice of spiritual paths.
The Kennedys emphasize living every moment of life: the good, the bad, the novel, the deprived, the inhumanly demanding, and the ugly. Unlike recklessly self-absorbed narcissicists, family members are also propelled by a strong sense of civic obligation and idealism.
The family’s Catholicism takes us to Rome, one of the most sensual cities on earth, the seat of high expectations around spirituality, but also confession and another chance to make good with one’s life.
Confession acknowledges our propensity to experience life and not sit on the sidelines, reading the rule book. In fact, the word redemption was used often these past few days to describe what Ted Kennedy made of his mistakes.
Unlike their critics, the Kennedys acknowledge life in the shadows. We’re intrigued with them, not only because they inspire us and are the closest thing to royalty America knows. WSJ writer Lev Grossman wrote this morning: plot makes perverts of us all. How true!
How many finger-waggers have scandal brewing in their own bedrooms? How rarely — if at all — did the Kennedys ever call them out in public on their hypocrisy?
The anti-sensualists believe that nature corrupts, not teaches. Ted Kennedy knew otherwise.
Riding the waves of life, he packed what sounds like a 48-hours day into 24. Reporters and pundits listened to the stories, adding up the events in his day, saying “impossible”. No person could live life so fully, touching so many people in the process. No person could be this attentive to others, a stepfather to how many children?
My favorite story of all was told yesterday by Ted Kennedy’s son, Ted Kennedy Jr. as he related the story of walking up the hill with his sled, on his new prosthesis.
Most of us can only imagine and wish for a parent or caregiver, capable of committing to us the way Ted Kennedy bonded with his son in this moment.
With all that was on his mind, Ted Kennedy’s ‘right’ to be bitter about life never consumed him. His actions unintentionally make a mockery of us lesser mortals, us pansies in life who complain rather than inspire.
As Ted’s son spoke, I could hear his father saying the words: “He lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I’ll never forget. He said: ‘I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can’t do. We’re going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day.’ ’’
Indeed, they climbed the hill, the two Teds. That day touched me as a young woman. I remember seeing photos of Ted Jr. skiing and saying “thank god”. Again, the family had triumphed. If the Kennedys could continue to beat back adversity, then so could I, and so could America make right with all its citizens.
Symbolically, from my point of view, the whole country was walking up that slippery hill with the two Teds.
The Kennedys run into the embrace of living, not away from it. Embracing a religious faith that sustains them with a belief of reunification — the three brothers together again — they engage, not run away, from Mother Earth.
The role and influence of feminine principles is deeply embedded in this great American family.
“Even our most profound losses are survivable,’’ said Ted Kennedy’s oldest son and the second of his three children. “It is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event, that is one of my father’s greatest lessons.’’
To be totally honest, I feel very bereft without a Kennedy in my life. For me, it would be a tragedy that their vision is gone from our national landscape.
The world seems to be at a crossroads on the subject of feminine principles. On the one hand, large numbers of men seek to protect and nourish a sensual, womanly relationship with life. Cultural Creatives are growing in numbers, with women still in the majority but many men embracing more sensual, nature-focused, human-centric principles.
Intelligent men and women are clear that we can no longer continue this Modern assult on nature and the feminine. The world is probably in grave danger, with a future not to be taken for granted. On the other hand, Traditional fundamentalism seeks to eradicate feminale principles permanently around the globe.
This leaves us with a Ted Kennedy set of values, a Cultural Creative path into the future, one lodged in a Smart Sensuality that encompasses “la dolce vita”: art, music, food, travel — the glorious flights of human imagination that comes from unfettered minds, trusted and encouraged to reach a high bar. We are also required to care deeply and passionately about each other, within our own borders and around the world.
The Kennedys were never provincial but globalists at heart, in the tradition of Jefferson.
When I think of the Kennedy brothers, I truly hope there is a benevolent God, who accepts everyone, regardless of their earthly denomination. If you’ve led a good life on earth, you get to paradise. None of this “we’re saved; the rest of you go to hell” thinking.
To imagine that the Kennedy brothers are reunited is the only justice and beauty in this sad and final event in one of the most incredible stories ever told.
For certain, a part of me has died, too, with Ted. I totally understand that if you’re not over 50, you can’t imagine what all the tears are about. But I’m a bit lost today, seeking solace with a like-minded man.
I wonder: who now will inspire me, when we need it most? Perhaps the answer lies in a bottle of good wine, dinner in Park Slope, stimulating political conversation and some serious lovemaking. I think Ted and Victoria would approve of that kind of day.
Boy, did we see a great American love story this week or what! Whoever would have predicted that Ted Kennedy would give us the ‘ultimate example of a prolifically rich and happy marriage’ as he check out for greener pastures! The guy was full of surprises to the very end.
Farewell, sweet princes. In case you’re still travelling, here’s a bit of inspiration for your journey — not that you need it. All my love, Anne
Ithaca by C.P. Cavafy