09/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Ted Kennedy: A Whole Human Being

Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy passed on, and the world woke from its lethargy and paid attention. Homage is being paid to Kennedy across the globe, from Ireland to Bangladesh. But while the good senator from Massachusetts is silent and still, lying in repose in brother President John F. Kennedy's presidential library where thousands are expected to pay their respects, thousands more in an Internet mob has digitally armed itself to seek revenge. They see themselves as Righteous to now go after the iconic dead Kennedy's neck.

When someone dies, is the real impact of his or her life measured by how much passion is shown--pro or con, good or bad? Does this explain how much he or she has expanded consciousness in our Universe?

Ted Kennedy was a man, even if his personal stature, reputation, and family put him in a category larger than life. What is a man, and what are our traits? A brief discussion:

According to the Apple Dictionary:

man |man|
noun ( pl. men |men|)
1 an adult human male...
2 a human being of either sex; a person : God cares for all races and all men.
• (also Man) [in sing. ] human beings in general; the human race : places untouched by the ravages of man....
• a person with the qualities often associated with males such as bravery, spirit, or toughness : she was more of a man than any of them....

Philosophies take the character of man into account and suggest values and aspirations, habits and patterns to produce a life well lived. We are advised how to address mistakes we will no doubt make because we're human. I would like to add this to the above definition: One who will go through life on a journey of learning and growing from the mistakes we all make, accept, and try to recover from.

As we all know, Ted Kennedy made plenty of mistakes. But like all of us, he was a man of light and dark--yin and yang--or whatever label one wants place on our human duality.

From Wikipedia:

The relationship between yin and yang is often described in terms of sunlight playing over a mountain and in the valley. Yin (literally the 'shady place' or 'north slope') is the dark area occluded by the mountain's bulk, while yang (literally the 'sunny place' or 'south slope') is the brightly lit portion. As the sun moves across the sky, yin and yang gradually trade places with each other, revealing what was obscured and obscuring what was revealed. Yin is usually characterized as slow, soft, insubstantial, diffuse, cold, wet, and tranquil. It is generally associated with the feminine, birth and generation, and with the night. Yang, by contrast, is characterized as hard, fast, solid, dry, focused, hot, and aggressive. It is associated with masculinity and daytime.[3]

On Election Night, 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for president, I'd volunteered to assist with some VIP guests who were flying into Little Rock. Stationed at a hotel to welcome them, I found myself in the bathroom with two women who had volunteered for former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee's first big campaign. He was running for the Senate against Arkansas Senator Dale Bumpers, a Democrat. I had popped into the bathroom when two other women stepped in. They didn't know I was there, and the venom spewing out of these "Christian" women's mouths toward their Democratic rivals, including the Clintons, made me ill. But I kept my mouth shut.

Anyone who knows me would tell you that this in itself was a miracle from God. I am not known for keeping my opinions to myself, which, as you might imagine, turns out well and not-so-well for me. But people who identify themselves as "Christian" and then act like anything but--absolutely no compassion--are truly repellent in my estimation. Hypocrisy isn't a virtue that I admire.

In the summer of 1972, I moved to McLean, Va., lived with my uncle and aunt and worked for Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan on Capitol Hill. I'd just graduated from high school and was a hippie girl who wore mini-dresses to work. With the Vietnam War and Watergate, our government's hypocrisy was much on my mind. I saw myself as part of the alternative culture--definitely not the straight line. Senator Ted Kennedy was giving a speech to which I was invited. But even I thought, hmmm, I'll go but he certainly behaved badly at Chappaquiddick. Don't think I'm going to like him.

I saw him with how many others? Hundreds? I don't remember that but what compelled my attention and has stayed in my memory was that Ted Kennedy lifted me up and out of the typical bullshit propaganda that was constantly being spewed on Capitol Hill. He gave a riveting and inspirational speech that drew wild applause and earned him the respect and admiration of his audience. Yes, he definitely had the Kennedy charisma, but it was more than that: I believed in his words and ideas, in his recognition of problems in our country and the ways he wanted to fix them--the things he tirelessly worked for during his long and distinguished career--policies that would help the common man.

Yes, Ted Kennedy made a tragic and deadly mistake, and he had to live with the ruinous mistakes of others. We all do--in varying degrees. It takes much terrorizing internal work, including forgiving ourselves for countless errors, for any of us to survive this life. We struggle to bring our yin and yang together, learn and grown, face and replace our personal shadows with light.

At Senator Kennedy's speech, I discovered that I'd misjudged the man. I hope that now I would have the wisdom to confer more compassion on any and all in tragic circumstances.

It is my belief that Ted Kennedy came to terms with himself, lived and died a whole man--a whole person. This would be a grand goal for any of us.

From the

Longtime parishioner Melba Thompson, 90, said of Kennedy as she left midday Mass: "He has done more than anybody to stay alive for everybody else, and now he's tired, and God is taking care of him. And you can't ask any more."

Beth Arnold lives and writes in Paris. To see more of her work, go to