Wednesday, March 20, 2019

No quit in the boy

      Yesterday's post on quitting was something unusual. The back story is, I'm working on this big profile that's running Sunday, one of those rare collaborative efforts that requires conversations and team meetings and  careful calibration and fuss. There wasn't any gas in the tank for a post, so I grabbed this one I really intended to run should the day come when I decided to scale back the blog, made it less final, and put it up.
     It drew a good amount of reaction, and one line from regular reader Chris Wood resonated:
     "You're no quitter," he said. 

    And I thought, "Yeah, damn, he's right. I'm not." Which is a good thing, generally, I suppose. The unstated assumption that by not quitting you therefore go on to win. Pretty to think so. Growing up during the Vietnam War has to put a different spin on quitting—sometimes it's the smart thing to do, lest you end up Ahab and his crew on the bottom of the sea.  Sometimes quitting saves you from something worse. 
     In that famous line of Churchill's—"Never give in, never, never, never–never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty" people tend to overlook the next few words, "never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” But when is giving up sensible? That's the sticking point.
     I'm the one who used to say, "You can never fail as a writer: you either quit or succeed." And I suppose the success is in the doing of the thing, which is certainly true in my case. You can still win without ever standing on a podium; in fact, many people are pulled down by the weight of their accolades. I've seen it happen.
     Thinking about this, I remembered a moment related to my older boy. We were in Indian Guides—the last year they used the name, speaking of quitting. So Ross was about 7. We were at a summer camp, with cabins and a dining hall. There was a climbing tower, a mammoth assemblage of lashed together telephone poles, 47 feet tall. They had rigged up two stations, to move the crowd along, and the boys would climb at each, belayed by a rope. What happened is the kid would get five or 10 feet, if that, then give up, tap out and be belayed back down to the ground.
     Not my boy. He would climb a few feet, cling there like a monkey, gather himself, then push onward. For, oh, half an hour. Meanwhile generations of kids at the other station—I hesitate to put a number on it—5, 10, 15—attempted the climb, gave up after a minute or less, and were returned to Earth.
     My kid, like me not gifted athletically, had something that can be even more useful.
     "There's no quit in that boy," I said, marveling, head tipped back, squinting up at him with the other dads. It seemed to take forever, and at times I wish he would quit. There was almost something unseemly in this outsized determination. Eventually he attained the summit—I'm tempted to say he was the only kid to do so, but I don't recall that as a fact. I only remember that he did while most kids didn't.
     He must have gotten that from somewhere. It is true that one of my favorite quotes from the Great Cham of Literature, Samuel Johnson, is: "I will be conquered; I will not capitulate." That sounds like a plan though, now that I think of it, whether the end comes by defeat or surrender, the end result is still the same.


  1. Very good article. You never fail to entertain.

  2. Great follow up. I sensed you were not quitting. You passion for your work comes through.

  3. Please do not quit. I greatly enjoy your take on things, and today is my birthday.

  4. I waited, and waited. And then I waited some more.
    Tired of being the annoying mom yelling "It's time to wake up," all the while the kid is in the shower.
    A grown man was making a grown up decision, and I didn't want to be the whining complainer who sealed a decision to give it up.
    Now that I know you're back I can relax and say it, belatedly:
    : "Neil, where are you? 5:45 and nothing. Not even "Check back later."

  5. There are days when I realize the joys that only a parent can experience, the same days that a father understands it was all worth the effort. Is envy what I am feeling or regret for the road not taken? The Carson's entrance a fitting intro to todays post. The intricate design and the obvious painstaking work to bring it to fruition took people with no quit in them.

  6. Looks like the YMCA now calls their programs Y-Guides, after originally calling them Indian Guides, Princesses, Braves, and Maidens (Princesses? Maidens?). They're also known as Adventure Guides. Not only did the "Y" quit...they appear to have totally wussed out.

  7. Neil, no, you cannot quit EGD. I read EGD EGD and I cannot accept that it will not be there EGD. Alternatively, if you quit EGD, it must mean you're doing well, so I understand your reasoning. Wait, no, I want EGD EGD!

  8. No worries Edward. It was really just the poem that set me off. I'm frustrated that changes in Facebook have tamped down my numbers, and the thing isn't growing, just laying there, twitching. But people seem to like it, and it has a value, and I'm going to press on—though I'm on vacation beginning midweek next week. A sorely-needed vacation, apparently.


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