Never Say Never

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist Gord Turner addresses the open-ended nature of optimism

So my friend “R” is telling me about an incredible round of golf he recently played. “You may not believe this, Gord, but I shot a 69.”

If you know anything about golf, that’s a marvelous score. Certainly, the pros often shoot lower than that. Indeed, we often hear about Rory and Tiger coming in with a 67, 68, or 69.

After I congratulated him, I said, “I’ll never shoot a round of golf that low.”

And he replied, “Never say never.”

I thought about that expression for awhile. In life, older people often tell young people not to give up. “Never say never” is a statement about achievement. It’s about dreams and hope. For young people, it’s often a prescription for the future—at least for each task encountered.

How often do we hear, “I’ll never get my homework done” or “we’ll never beat the Nelson Leafs?” But the homework does get done, and recently both Castlegar and Beaver Valley have beaten the Leafs. So “never say never” becomes a kind of battle cry. Onward!

I was thinking about all the diseases in the world—and how many people don’t think we’ll ever find cures for them.  But Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 and shut down a lot of common diseases.

In 1921, Canadians Frederick Banting and Charles Best came up with insulin to knock a big hole in diabetes.  Later, Jonas Salk found a serum that aided in wiping out polio in North America. “Never say never,” these wise researchers told their assistants.

Rotary International took up the challenge when cynics said, “We ‘ll never eliminate polio in the rest of the world.”  Rotarians replied, “Never say never,” and with the help of the Bill Gates Foundation they have come close to annihilating the disease.

Right now, because of the prevalence of cancer in our lives, we hear pessimists moaning, “We’ll never get rid of cancer.”

But if the examples of numerous other diseases having been cured or subdued are any indication, we should hang on to hope and proclaim, “Never say never.”

Recently, my nephew who owns a board shop in Penticton, signed up for the annual iron-man competition.  That’s the August race in the Okanagan where each competitor swims four km, cycles 180 km, and runs 40 km—all in one session.

He had been practicing his swimming, and he had ridden the bicycle route once, but he had only been running 10 to 15 km in his preparations for the event.

When I visited him a week before the race, he said, “I’ll manage the swim, I’ll get through the cycling, but I’ll never do the run.”

I responded, “Never say never.” I told him to concentrate on going slower in some sections and to pace himself in order to finish.

Well, he completed the iron-man grind in 12 hours and 5 minutes—a very good time for a first time competitor. His sisters came from far afield to cheer him on, and his pictures on facebook are now circling the world.

The near-pros finished the iron-man race in nine or ten hours, but I compare my nephew’s performance to my level of golf.

He probably will never get his iron-man score down to nine hours, and I clearly will never shoot a 69 in golf.

The analogy is probably faulty, though, because at his age, he likely has a better chance of reaching the nine hour iron-man mark than I have of scoring 69 in golf.

But who knows?  Never say never.