Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is an allegory about life, learning, passion and dreams. The novel tells the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull whose passion is to fly. He does not want to be like other seagulls who want to use their power of flying just to feed themselves. Flying does not matter to them but for Jonathan it is the flying that matters most to him. He wants to achieve greater heights in life and experience that thrill on fulfilling his quest for perfection. But his parents and other seagulls don't share this passion for flying with him. In fact his parents discouraged him and wanted Jonathan to be like an ordinary seagull. But Jonathan was different from the flock. He always set higher goals for himself and made efforts to achieve them. Jonathan did not believe in limitations. He believed one can overcome one's shortcomings by hard work. Nothing was impossible for him. He tried to give up his ambitions for his parents happiness and be like one of the flock but the spirit inside him refused to give up. He broke the promises that he had made to himself and felt guiltless on breaking such promises because he thought that they were only for the gulls that accept the ordinary not for those who have touched excellence in his learning's. He practiced hard and pushed against his limitations and took risks. He kept raising his challenges and broke many records and touched new horizons. He learnt new techniques of flying and was excited to teach them to others. But his elders instead of honouring him, removed him from the seagull brotherhood. Said the elder, "Life is the unknown & the unknownable, except that we are put into this world to eat, to stay alive as long as we possibly can." He was disgraced on his achievements and for having a higher purpose in life. Jonathan was sad, not for his solitude but for the reason that other gulls refused to believe the glory of filght that awited them.
Jonathan spent t
he rest of his days in deeper learning and made new discoveries. He realized that boredom, fear and anger are the reasons that a gull's life is so short and with these gone from his mind, he lived a long fine life indeed.
One day, Jonathan comes across two seagulls who take him to a "higher plane of existence", where he meets other gulls who love to fly. He feels like he is in heaven. He believed that there should no limits in heaven. He discovers that his thirst for knowledge, desire for perfection and strong passion for flying makes him feel like "one in a million". Jonathan befriends the wisest gull in this new place, named Chiang, who takes him beyond his previous learning, teaching him how to move instantaneously to anywhere else in the universe. "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." The secret, Chiang says, is to "begin by knowing that you have already arrived". Jonathan felt closer to God. He felt very happy and divine. "The gull sees farthest who flies highest."
Jonathan started feeling the urge to get back to earth so that he could teach all that he had learned to those who wanted to learn to fly high. He wanted to share his experiences with those on earth. He was ready to forgive them for that they had done to him. "Do you want to fly so much that you will forgive the Flock, and learn, and go back to them one day and work to help them know?" Jonathan asks his first student before getting into any further talks. The idea that the stronger can reach more by leaving the weaker friends behind seems totally rejected. .His mission is successful, gathering around him others who have been outlawed for not conforming. Ultimately, one of his students, Fletcher Lynd Seagull, becomes a teacher in his own right and Jonathan leaves to continue his learning.
Believing in one self, being true to one self, never ending learning, overcoming limitations that exist only in one's mind , passion, love, respect, hardwork, willingness to improve, aiming big, fulfilling one's dreams, forgiveness - these are the attitudes that Richard Bach is trying to convey through this parable.

About the Author

Richard David Bach (b. June 23, 1936, Oak Park, Illinois) is an American writer. He is widely known as the author of the best-selling novel, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and the 1973 movie based on the book along with "Illusions, The Adventures Of A Reluctant Messiah", plus others. He claims to be a direct descendant of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is noted for his love of flying and for his books related to air flight and flying in a metaphorical context. He has pursued flying as a hobby since the age of 17.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is also one of my favorite books. Many of us have dreams but we do not pursue them with tenacity and verve, which is essential to fly high like Jonathan. This book shows that if one dreams big, there are virtually no limits to what one might achieve. It also shows the limitations of following society and its demands blindly. It is societal pressure that keeps one from achieving one'a dreams, whatever they may be or whoever you are, even if you are a strange seagull who wouldn't listen to your flock.

Sav's Book Club