There is a story told about the one-time heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali. Ali was flying to one of his engagements, and during the flight the aircraft ran into foul weather. Moderate turbulence began to toss the plane about. All nervous fliers well know that when a pilot signals “moderate turbulence,” he is implying, “If you have any religious beliefs, it is time to start expressing them.” The passengers were instructed to fasten their seatbelts immediately, and all complied but Ali. So the flight attendant approached him and requested that he observe the captain’s order, only to hear Ali audaciously respond, “Superman don’t need no seatbelt.” The flight attendant did not miss a beat and replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane either!”
I draw attention to that story because I would like to consider the larger context in which many of us find ourselves. Unquestionably, we live in a nation of immense wealth and are offered an array of possibilities for material and educational success. Some of us will be granted access to the finest education available anywhere, thus positioning ourselves for extraordinary success in a rapidly-changing world and engendering a sense of invincibility—regardless of what measure of turbulence may lie ahead.
Yet unfortunately, academic or material advancement does not necessarily confer wisdom. How foolish it would be for us to take what generations preceding us have valued in coping with life’s turbulence and cast it all aside because we are “modern.”
G.K. Chesterton once said, “Before you pull any fence down, always pause long enough to find out why it was put there in the first place.”
King Crimson, the rock group, once sang: “Knowledge is a deadly friend when no one sets the rules.” In other words, we need wisdom as we process and distill all knowledge. But where does one find it?
In one of his Proverbs, King Solomon writes: “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding, for they are more profitable than silver and yield better returns than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with it.” This is the same Solomon who said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”—meaning reverence for God. That is where you start.
May you remember that falsely posing as a Superman will certainly ensure a crash landing, yet humbly seeking wisdom and following it will lift you to glorious heights.