The Unforgiving Minute

September 2016 | Remarks

The Unforgiving Minute

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
From If—, by Rudyard Kipling

FOR TWO WEEKS, in Brazil, a spectacular pageant of athleticism played on the world’s stage. As the images of euphoric victories, shattering defeats, and tragicomic intrigues recede from the spotlight, I mentally cling to their fading glow. Like wandering through an art gallery, or shutting my eyes at the symphony, watching the Olympics never fails to delight and invigorate me. The more wearily I struggle for my own small successes, the more grateful I am to witness the triumphs of champions. Even the great defeats (and disgraces) of the games strike me with a certain consolation: even the most gifted and tenacious among us must grapple with the common demons of human frailty.

The agonies and the ecstasies of each Olympic contest remind me that a quest for excellence beckons us all. Like Kipling’s unforgiving minute, the games dare us to pick up the gauntlet that Perfection throws at our feet, and, shedding the fear of our own inadequacies, run.