KEEPING THE FAITH: Fight like a butterfly

ronnie

Ronnie McBrayer

Published: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 11:56 AM.

Decades ago, while speaking of an upcoming championship bout, Muhammad Ali constructed a poetic couplet of epic proportions. With glitzy words corresponding to his style both in and out of the ring, “The Greatest” claimed he would “Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” because his opponent’s “hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”

Few athletes, maybe no others, have matched Ali’s combination of bravado, proficiency, showmanship, and charisma. Rightly and deservedly, he has more than once been declared the most iconic sporting figure of the previous century. And while I’m not one to tug on Superman’s cape, I’d like to slightly amend his most famous of phrases. I believe that before one can “float like a butterfly,” he or she must fight like one.

You might know the familiar story of a little boy who came upon a cocoon in the forest. He knew exactly what it was, so he snapped off the stick to which it was attached, and took it home. Every day he would watch this little pouch, knowing a remarkable metamorphosis was going on inside.

Then one day it happened. A small tear in the chrysalis appeared, and the butterfly began to emerge. But it was such an awful struggle. The slit was so tiny and the butterfly was now so big. The poor thing was desperately fighting and scratching to get out, and the little boy was so worried about his new little friend.

So, the boy decided to help. He took a pair of school scissors and carefully cut the cocoon open to rescue the exhausted, beautiful butterfly. But it wasn’t beautiful; not at all. It was fat and swollen. Its wings were limp and wilted. Further, over time, it never learned to fly. It could only crawl around in a shoebox, a jar, or wherever the boy placed it.

When the boy told his science teacher this gloomy tale, he was taught an invaluable lesson: The butterfly had to struggle. The butterfly had to face oppositional forces. The butterfly’s laborious effort to emerge from its shell was nature’s way of circulating dormant blood and strengthening new wings. The butterfly’s fight to get out of the cocoon was not an impediment. It was preparation, and the boy’s “help” actually turned out to be a hindrance.

Resistance is required to transform a crawling, ugly insect into a magnificent, winged, flying machine. And what is true in nature, is true of human nature too: Some suffering is necessary. We have to struggle — we must — if we will ever gain the strength we need to fly.



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