Livingston Seagull, a novel by Richard Bach, is a much-loved
classic that has touched the hearts of many. A tale of
courage, truth and love, this beautiful story is a
rich and vibrant literary work. This book centers on the
character development of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, who
changes from a quiet and timid young seagull to an
enlightened, brave and courageous being.
story begins with Jonathan as a lonesome seagull wants to get
beyond the boring world of eating, mating and sleeping that
most gulls live in, in order to survive. But
he did not want to just survive, he wants to transcend all
barriers and go beyond the limits of being a seagull:
"It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle
sea. A mile from shore a fishing boat chummed the water; and the word for
Breakfast Flock flashed through the air, till a crowd of a thousand seagulls
came to dodge and fight for bits of food. It was another busy day beginning.
"But way off alone, out by himself beyond boat and shore, Jonathan Livingston
Seagull was practicing. A hundred feet in the sky he lowered his webbed feet,
lifted his beak, and strained to hold a painful hard twisting curve through his
wings. The curve meant that he would fly slowly, and now he slowed until the
wind was a whisper in his face, until the ocean stood still beneath him. He
narrowed his eyes in fierce concentration, held his breath, forced one...
single... more... inch... of... curve... Then his feathers ruffled, he stalled
gulls all that really mattered was how to get to the shore and
back with some food. But for Jonathan, all that mattered was
Seagulls, Cornwall, England.
| More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston Seagull
loved to fly.
of thinking certainly did not make him the most popular bird.
Other seagulls mocked his efforts and told him that he was
just wasting his time. Even his parents questioned him as to
why he could not be like all the other birds. When questioned,
he would bow his head and reluctantly obey his parents. He
tried to behave like the others, fighting and screeching with
the rest of the flock, but it seemed all too pointless to him.
But, this seagull, though a little timid at the beginning,
possesses an inner curiosity and wonderment that finally gives
became very adept at low-level flying, stalling in the air and
doing many other aero-dynamic maneuvers. As soon as the elders
in his flock learned of these uncommon feats, they decided to
shun him for violating the dignity and tradition of the
Gull Family. They told him that, Life is the unknown and the
unknowable, except that we are put into this world to eat, to
stay alive as long as we possibly can.
To this statement he
responded, "Who is more responsible than a gull who finds
and follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life? For a
thousand years we have scrabbled after fish head, but now we
have a reason to live - to learn, to discover, to be free! Give
me one chance, let me show you what I've found."
this statement, Jonathan began to speak up for himself. He
became bolder about sharing his discoveries. However, no gull
had ever spoken back to the elders, as did Jonathan, so he was
spent countless days on his own. He was distressed not because
of the abandonment by his flock, but because they refused to
believe the glory of flight that awaited them; they refused to
open their eyes and see. He was getting pretty used to being
alone and adventuring to unknown places and reaching new
heights and new speeds with flying.
day as he was flying, he was greeted by two gulls
whose wings were as pure as starlight and who glowed
with gentle friendliness. These gulls told him that
they too were outcasts once; now they had come to
take him higher, take him home. They told him that one
school was finished, and that the time had come to go
to another. As they ascended into the other world, his
wings seemed to glow and his flying became effortless.
Seagull, Nagasaki, Japan
Jonathan thought that he was certainly in heaven.
found great comfort in that these birds thought as he thought. For
them, the most important thing in living was to reach out and
touch perfection in that which they most loved to do, and that
was to fly. They were magnificent birds all of them, and they
spent hour after hour every day practicing flight, testing
evening Jonathan heard that an Elder Gull would soon be moving
on to the next world. He mustered up his courage and walked up
to that gull to ask him something that was stirring deep
inside of him. The following exchange was a turning point in
he said, a little nervously.
old seagull looked at him kindly. "Yes, my son?"
of being enfeebled by age, the Elder had been empowered by it;
he could out-fly any gull in the Flock, and had learned skills
that the others were only gradually coming to know.
this world isn't Heaven at all, is it?"
Elder smiled in the moonlight. "You are learning again,
Jonathan Seagull," he said.
Jonathan, there is no such place. Heaven is not a place, and
it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect. He was silent for a
moment. You are a very fast flier, aren't you?"
enjoy speed," Jonathan said, taken aback but proud that
the Elder had noticed.
will begin to touch Heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you
touch perfect speed. And that isn't flying a thousand miles,
or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any
number is a limit, and perfection doesn't have limits. Perfect
speed, my son, is being there."
this moment on Chiang took Jonathan under his wing, so to
speak. He became his mentor and his best friend. The Elder
Gull taught him much about flight, but most importantly about
going beyond his limits. He learned how to disappear and
reappear in a different location and many other awe inspiring
things. He told him that the gulls who scorn perfection for
the sake of travel go nowhere, slowly. Those who put aside
travel for the sake of perfection go anywhere instantly.
soon all the gulls were in awe of Jonathan. But as he grew
wiser, he also grew humbler, for such is the nature of wisdom.
Everyone asked for him to teach them what he knew. Jonathan,
in his humility told them that he had just arrived in this new
world, and it was them that needed to teach him.
months of studying and learning with Chiang, it was time for
the Elder to move on. Before leaving he reminded Jonathan to
keep working on love. As the days went on Jonathan couldn't
help but think about the past. He thought of all the gulls who
were living and dying over breadcrumbs. Then he wondered
whether there was a gull who was made an outcast for living
his truth in the face of the other gulls. The more he
practiced his kindness lessons, the more he wanted to go back to
in spite of his lonely past, Jonathan Seagull was born to be
an instructor, and his own way of demonstrating love was to
give something of the truth that he had seen to a gull who
asked only a chance to see truth for himself.
his meeting with Chiang, Jonathan began to believe in himself
and the power of love more than he had ever known. As his
spirit became stronger, his soul became kinder, and out of
kindness he wanted to take back to others what he had learned.
others told Jonathan to stay and help the birds that were
coming to their world instead. It would be too difficult to go
back to the world where he was once deserted. He agreed for
some time, but he couldn't help but remember his old life. He
thought to himself how far ahead he would have been if Chiang
had shown up the day he was outcast. He decided that he indeed
needed to go back.
appeared just in time to witness the rejection of Fletcher
Lynd Seagull by his flock. Fletcher flew away with anger in
his eyes. Jonathan Seagull flew next to him and told him that
by casting him out, they had only hurt themselves. He asked
Fletcher to forgive them, for they knew not what they were
Jonathan had become to Fletcher, what Chiang was to him. He
taught Fletcher how to go beyond limitations and to touch
Heaven. As time went on other outcasts joined Jonathan. At
night Jonathan would tell them that they were only as limited
as they believed. He told them at their whole body was nothing
but thought, and if they could break the chains of thought,
they could break the chains of their bodies too. All this
sounded like science fiction to these gulls who could not
believe it at first.
day Jonathan told them that it was time to go back to the
others. They were ready now to help the other seagulls to see.
They all refused to go, so Jonathan flew all alone into the
sky. The gulls were concerned about their teacher going alone,
so they soon joined him. Jonathan taught his students flying
lessons right above the other flocks. But down below, the
others were warned not to watch, for looking at an outcast
would make one into an outcast too.
the few students became more and more, and were coming from
all places. Soon a sickly looking bird came and told Jonathan
that he wanted nothing else but to fly. Unfortunately his
wings were injured, so he could not. To this he was told by
Jonathan, You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self,
here and now, and nothing can stand in your way. Believing
this he spread his wings and flew. He shouted with great glee
as the others watched him in wonderment. Before long,
thousands of birds flocked around and began to listen to what
was being told by Jonathan.
he taught others, he inspired multitudes to come and join. He
became like another messiah, only he told the gulls that he
was no more divine than they were, except that he took the
risk to learn. Soon, it was time for Jonathan to move on to
the other world, but he left his work with Fletcher Seagull to
this wonderful story of triumph and love, Jonathan Livingston
Seagull was able to find his own inner strength through
teaching others about the gifts that they had inside. He
became enlightened in the process of enlightening others. In
this delightful novel, the reader has flown into the world of
the birds and shall come out transformed through a myriad of
inspiration, wisdom and literary excellence.
by Sangeeta Kumar
of San Diego, USA.)