Saturday, February 21, 2015

Jonathan Livingston Seagull - A Book Review

Hello friends!
How're you doing today? 
I'm doing pretty well, thanks. 
Okay so today I'm going to be reviewing a book called Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. It was published in 1970 and became a national best seller (#1 on the New York Times list for 38 weeks) and a cultural icon. I mean, it's about seagulls, but it's cool.


Part One: Jonathan Livingston Seagull loves to fly. Unlike most seagulls who believe their sole purpose on earth is to eat, (this may be a very accurate metaphor for teenagers) he spends days out at sea, practicing flight. He practices glides, dives, aerobatics, and invents new ways to go faster, higher in more control. However, one day his tricks get out of control, and Jonathan accidentally tears through a crowd of feeding gulls, leading to his exile from the flock. Alone, he continues his studies until old age and two mysterious angel-like birds take him through a short, surreal experience to a new flock of gulls.

Part Two: In this new homeland, Jonathan is surrounded by others who understand his desire to fly. Here, he meets his instructor, Sullivan, and the elder of this flock, Chiang. Jonathan continues to build his knowledge of flight, but also his knowledge of his being and existence. Eventually, Chiang, teaches him a new type of flight, in which you just disappear and reappear somewhere else. "The trick was to know that his true nature lived, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time." Jonathan masters this art, but begins to think of those back in his old flock, wondering if there are any like him, who also want to fly.

Part Three: In this section, Chiang moves onto his next life. His parting words to Jonathan are, "Keep working on love." Jonathan now passes from student to teacher, returning to his home flock to find students in the outcasts. Jonathan and his students return to the obstinate flock and demonstrate their abilities. Though rejected at first, the other gulls can't help but be amazed by their talents. Finally, as the flock is finally accepting them again, Jonathan's age catches up to him again and he leaves his principal student, Fletcher Lynd Seagull to become a teacher himself.

Alright, so I read this book last year and I didn't really get it but after being inspired again last night by looking though my dad's hippie yearbook, I read it again this morning. It's really short, about 120 pages but with very little text and five pages of pictures spaced about every ten pages apart. This time, I can see why it was such a hit in the 70's. It's all a metaphor about spirituality, what we learn, how we perceive ourselves and our surroundings. Precision flight, for the seagulls, is a gateway to perfection, not by breaking speed limits or creating new tricks, but by reaching heaven, perfection, perfect speed. "'Perfect speed, my son, is being there." It's sort of like Harry Potter's apparation, for my potterheads out there. If you concentrate enough on being an idea instead of a thing, and being in the place you wish to be, you will be. "Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now." And once you've overcome those, you can work on love and kindness and compassion. Seeing everyone (everybird) for the goodness in each and everyone of them. So, as you can tell, it's a pretty hippie book. Although it could be called light reading, it's not really light on the whole easy-to-understand thing. But if you're up for a surreal, feathery experience, you might want to live it a whirl.

Image credits to: Aamilsyed

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