Tuesday
Sep242019

The Unforgiving Minute

I awoke early in the morning of the last day of my 40s, unable to sleep because I could not recall a phrase of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If." Now I cannot sleep because I'm arguing the meaning of another phrase -- what is it that makes the "unforgiving minute" unforgiving? 
Each minute of time contains exactly 60 seconds of your life, no more, no less. If you choose to waste it by doing evil or doing nothing or reading this, a replacement minute will not be affixed at the end of your life to make up for it. It is quite simply gone and there is no element of mercy that will restore it, despite your pleas. in the minute or so you have wasted reading this, 105 of your fellow humans have died while 250 wailing infants have replaced them on Earth and that minute does not care. In fact, it is prepared to do the same thing if you should continue reading another foolish minute. Actually, one of those minutes will deign to be so unforgiving in the future that it will even claim your life. 
So, Kipling recommends to his son, and by extension the sons and daughters of every generation, that one fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds' of distance run. Run with purpose, run with abandon, run as if each minute is your last, run with every ounce of energy you possess, conserving nothing for the next minute which might never appear anyway. The apostle to the Gentiles urged his readers to remember that everyone in the race of life is "running," but that wisdom entails running so as to win an imperishable crown. 
Robert Frost spoke of choosing to do that on a road less traveled, a message often misinterpreted to mean living with no regrets about taking the less trodden path. That's not really what the poem says. It speaks of a sad man who lives with regret no matter which road he takes. He always wonders what might have happened if he had taken the other option. Vanity of vanities. Life offers regret, even repentance, but has no reset button; it is the sum of all your choices, not to be erased, but to be etched in the folds upon your face and then upon the hard, cold reality of your epitaph. 
The minute is unforgiving because it is vapor which appears only for a little while, then vanishes forever. Kipling believed success belonged to the person who poured life and energy and purpose into every unforgiving minute. His would be the earth and all that is in it and, which is more, he would be a man.

Please don't bother reading this; I post it here in my sleeplessness only to be rid of it from my mind. 
I awoke early in the morning of the last day of my 40s, unable to sleep because I could not recall a phrase of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If." Now I cannot sleep because I'm arguing the meaning of another phrase -- what is it that makes the "unforgiving minute" unforgiving? 


Each minute of time contains exactly 60 seconds of your life, no more, no less. If you choose to waste it by doing evil or doing nothing or reading this, a replacement minute will not be affixed at the end of your life to make up for it. It is quite simply gone and there is no element of mercy that will restore it, despite your pleas. in the minute or so you have wasted reading this, 105 of your fellow humans have died while 250 wailing infants have replaced them on Earth and that minute does not care. In fact, it is prepared to do the same thing if you should continue reading another foolish minute. Actually, one of those minutes will deign to be so unforgiving in the future that it will even claim your life. 


So, Kipling recommends to his son, and by extension the sons and daughters of every generation, that one fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds' of distance run. Run with purpose, run with abandon, run as if each minute is your last, run with every ounce of energy you possess, conserving nothing for the next minute which might never appear anyway. The apostle to the Gentiles urged his readers to remember that everyone in the race of life is "running," but that wisdom entails running so as to win an imperishable crown. 


Robert Frost spoke of choosing to do that on a road less traveled, a message often misinterpreted to mean living with no regrets about taking the less trodden path. That's not really what the poem says. It speaks of a sad man who lives with regret no matter which road he takes. He always wonders what might have happened if he had taken the other option. Vanity of vanities. Life offers regret, even repentance, but has no reset button; it is the sum of all your choices, not to be erased, but to be etched in the folds upon your face and then upon the hard, cold reality of your epitaph. 


The minute is unforgiving because it is vapor which appears only for a little while, then vanishes forever. Kipling believed success belonged to the person who poured life and energy and purpose into every unforgiving minute. His would be the earth and all that is in it and, which is more, he would be a man.