Teddy Macker is the author of the collection of poetry “This World” (foreword by Brother David Steindl-Rast). His writing appears in the Los Angeles Times, Orion, The Sun, Tin House, and elsewhere. For many years he taught literature at UC Santa Barbara. He lives with his wife and daughters on a small farm in Carpinteria, California.
A skeptic’s take on such a variety of experience would chalk it up as privileged gonzo larkishness or chest-beating thrill-seeking—an understandable take, one likely partly true. But there was more to it. For I’ve not acknowledged the murders of his father and uncle; the psychic fallout in the family afterward; and his years-long struggle with drug addiction. That Mr. Kennedy had such an appetite for life despite these harrowings is considerable.
This is the spirituality of a man post-tragedy, post-heroin, post-forty-days-in-the-wilderness. Not the self-pleased, spick-and-span, airbrushed piety we’ve come to expect from presidential candidates these days but practical spirituality.
Life is ambiguous, murky, rife with situations that elude dogma’s capture. When the seas get rough, however, our tolerance of this is one of the first things hucked overboard. For example: have we felt into what it’s like to be a five-year-old walking into school in the morning?