What To Do With The Number "23?"

I can fly high for a while and then fly low. I can fly first with my right hand and then with my left. I can shift my position a little in the seat, sitting stiff and straight, slouching down, twisting sidewise. I can create imaginary emergencies in my mind—a forced landing-the best wave or rough to hit—the stinging wetness of the ocean. I can check and recheck my navigation. A swallow of water now and then will help. And there’s the hourly routine of fuel tanks, heading, and instrument readings. All these trick I muse use, and think of others. Similarity is my enemy; change, my friend.

Ten years of school were like that—mining for knowledge, burying life—studying in grade school so I could pass examinations to get into high school-studying in high school so I could pass examinations to get into college—studying is college so . . . but there I broke the chain. Why should I continue studying to pass examinations to get into a life I didn’t want to lead—a life of factories, and drawing boars, and desks? In the first half of my sophomore year I left college to learn to fly. . .

Oh, I know that civilized progress depends on education. Without it, I’d have had no motorcycle to ride, no tractor to run on our farm; I wouldn’t now be flying in an airplane above the North Atlantic Ocean. Of course one must have knowledge. But why cant we partake of it in moderation, balance it with other qualities in life? Why learn the mathematics of the planets if we lose appreciation of the earth?

But maybe if I’d been a better student I’d know what to with the number “23.” Maybe this is my punishment for not studying harder, for not training my mind in Latin verse, and memorizing those formulae of physics. “23” may be the key to Paris, and I don’t know how to use it. “Failed his examination because he couldn’t solve the problem with X equals 23.”

- Charles A. Lindbergh (1902-1974)