Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What We Can Do

He was far from a perfect man.

There is a better version of ourselves that we can pursue. There are deeper meanings we can invent for our lives. There is nothing written (worth reading) that says that a person must never fall down or err, or speak the wrong words at the wrong time. We're allowed to fail. It's what we learn from that failure that matters.

Call whatever larger meaning you discover for yourself whatever you want to, but do it the respect of answering it honestly. "By their fruits you will know them". Whatever you think of Ted Kennedy personally, the words he spoke at his brother's eulogy make me want to the best version of myself I can be. Listen:

A few more thoughts:

Everyone will be mulling over Kennedy's legacy this week. We'll hear every opinion under the sun as to whether or not his policies were good or bad*, what kind of man he was, and how he fits into American history. It will all be very interesting. What interests me right now is something that occurred to me on the ride back from my sons' soccer practices tonight. Kennedy's story is a great example of the notion of redemption. Kennedy made many mistakes in his life, and inherited a significant family legacy. It wouldn't have been surprising if he had fallen into a certain kind of despair, wallowing in his own degeneracy and defeat, as other members of his family have done. But that's not what he did. Through a variety of tribulations, he seems to have learned from his mistakes and misfortunes, rolled up his sleeves, and went to work. He fought ferociously for what he believed in, but not in a way that belittled his opponents. He passed a significant amount of landmark legislation, much of which I agree with, and think made our country a better one.

The notion I'm taking away from Senator Kennedy's passing tonight is that redemption is possible, and that a life surrendered to higher notions is a life lived right, a life deserving of redemption.

*Kos has a good piece up about Kennedy that I agree with and recommend.


Lodo Grdzak said...

Reading this post, I can sort of see the mindset that may have been behind some of your thoughts and comments mentioned at Stays Put. Its definitely harder to live long than to die young--at least as far as history's concerned. Im not gonna bring up certain events in Kenndey's life after a post like this, but I'd argue its so important to have the means to be able to pick yourself up and start again after a mistake. What a beautiful luxury that life granted him. The luxury to screw-up a few times. Man, we all need that. And in Kennedy's case, I'd argue he used his opportunities to the better good.

Spencer Troxell said...

Good insight, Lodo. Ted was given a larger field to actualize his redemption than any field any of us are ever going to get. I'm glad he did something with it. Nothing's worse than missed opportunity.

PS: I didn't even notice the connection between this post and what I wrote on your blog. Definitely food for thought.

Willie Y said...

Ted Kennedy' worked very hard to help the less advantaged in this world. He did not live a perfect life, but who has.

He who has never sin cast the first stone.

Joe Schlottman, Salem, MA said...

Let me express my sadness at the passing of the only survivor of the SS Chapaquitic.

I raise a glass of his favorite drink, scotch and mirky water and in his honor will take a drunken stupor stroll naked across a beach. Then to dinner to molest a waitress as any Kennedy supporter would do. We should, in his honor, name every socialist bill in his honor (this will help the less fortunate). We should urge again, the passing of the bill to require more head room between the steering wheel and seat of new cars.

Let us all pray that the Hearse carrying the remains does not have to cross any bridges.

Really, I do have sympathy for his family and friends at their loss.

You speak of his work and how he tried to change things. I appreciate how hard he worked, but believed he did more to destroy good in this country than ANY other Senator. You say he over came much in his life, I say he squandered advantage and privelage. He was quick to demand more from me, but was slow to take from himself. This is one case where the office held deserves a great deal more respect than the man who held it. Hold him up if you choose, memorialize him, but remember all he and his family hurt and destroyed. I wish the survivors and his mouners well, I pray for him. Please forgive the cynical attitude towards your well intended words. He is a polarizing figure that deserves as much scrutiny as praise both personally and historically. As I've search for something redeeming in his past, I've yet to find it. I'm sure some of what he has done was well intentioned.