Thursday, September 03, 2009

An imperfect man


“Tho’ much is taken much abides, and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
— Alfred Lord Tennyson (from Ulysses)

The passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy last week was the personification of the imperfection and redemption in all of us. None of us are perfect and must work assiduously to overcome our flaws. The challenge is to recognize those flaws in fact exist in us.

In his last weeks of life, Sen. Kennedy wrote to Pope Benedict XVI stating in that letter: “I know that I have been an imperfect human being, but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path.”

Whatever you thought of Ted Kennedy, be it good or ill; his letter to Pope Benedict should cause some reflection upon one’s own life journey. Each of us surely has lived imperfect lives with mistakes and misjudgments.

Kennedy was the youngest of nine children and the youngest of four brothers who were exceedingly competitive. He saw two brothers killed by assassin’s bullets. He took on their children as his own responsibility. Kennedy’s imperfections were many; from abuse of alcohol to womanizing and of course the tragedy of Chappaquiddick. He endured a plethora of public scrutiny for all of his mistakes while enduring his own familial tragedies along the way, including the death of brothers, two children who suffered cancer and a third who dealt with substance abuse.

Often an imperfect man meets that less imperfect woman who nurtures and guides him along life’s path. Such was with Kennedy. He began to overcome personal challenges that have forever stained an outstanding legislative career. It is not our place to judge others lest we judge ourselves by taking a moral inventory of our own lives. (My Emphasis)

As Tennyson said, “much is taken, much abides.” Our lives are the sum total of what we have failed to do, failed to learn, our accomplishments and of course our treatment of one another. “What we are, we are.”

We cannot possibly change the events and actions of our past, but we can attempt to make amends for past deeds and straighten our paths. I do not pretend to pontificate or advise others what to do. I am speaking as one sinner among billions of sinners on the planet. I am also an imperfect human. We are all imperfect humans. Would we wish to be remembered only for our mistakes?

. . . . .Despise Kennedy for his mistakes and misjudgments if you will, but credit him — as do his adversaries across the political aisle — for his commitment to the causes of health care and education. Though Sen. Kennedy was made weak by time and fate, he was strong in will and strove, to seek, to find and not to yield. May we all have a strong faith to guide as Sen. Kennedy clung to his faith, and strive to serve the public in some fashion to make life better for others.

Tim McDonald can be reached at

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