Book Reviews

The Flight to Freedom

The Story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a bird who defied all the rules, the norms set by others, to live his own life according to his dreams and aspirations. He teaches us how to follow our dreams and reach our goals, no matter what anyone else might think. Jonathan is a seagull who wants to master the art of flying, even though his flock has told him many times that all seagulls should concentrate on is getting food. Jonathan has tried to be a ‘good gull,’ but he cannot quell his urge to fly. By not compromising his higher vision, Jonathan reaches the ultimate: transcendence. Finally, he learns the meaning of love  and kindness.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, written by Richard Bach, is a fable in novella form about a seagull learning about life and flight, and through that reaching self-perfection. Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull inspired the production of a motion picture of the same title, with a soundtrack by Neil Diamond. Richard Bach’s simple story has inspired many while Russell Munson’s photos have touched hearts for decades.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull can be enjoyed by young children as a traditional animal fable, and also be seen as part of the self-help and positive thinking culture. First published in 1970 as ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull — a story’, it became a favorite throughout the world. This especially engaging parable for adolescents is a spirituality classic. This small book has touched our lives in many ways. It has taught us to fly, has given a new meaning to our lives, made us young at hearts; it has inspired each new generation to follow their dreams beyond all odds.

‘Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight - how to get from shore to food and back again,’ writes author Richard Bach in this allegory about a unique bird named Jonathan Livingston Seagull. ‘For most gulls it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.’ Through the metaphor of Flight the story speaks about the importance of seeking a higher purpose in life, even if your flock, tribe, or neighborhood finds your ambition threatening.

The novel tells the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a seagull who is bored and frustrated with the meaningless daily squabbles over food and seized by a passion for flight. He pushes himself, learning everything he can about flying, until finally his unwillingness to conform to the limited seagull life results in his conflict with his flock, and they turn their backs on him. He becomes an outcast. Not deterred by this, he continues to learn, becoming increasingly pleased with his abilities as he leads an idyllic life. His soul soars as he experiments with exhilarating triumphs of daring and triumphant aerial  feats. Jonathan continues his efforts to reach higher and higher flight goals, finding he is often successful but eventually he can fly no higher.

One day, Jonathan is met by two radiant, loving seagulls who take him to a "higher plane of existence", where he meets other gulls who love to fly. Unlike his own community bent only on food, here all the gulls enjoy flying. In this other society, real respect emerges in contrast to the force that was keeping the former "Breakfast Flock" together. He discovers that his sheer tenacity and desire to learn make him "a gull in a million". Jonathan becomes friends with the wisest gull in this new place, named Chiang, who explain to him that he has learned much, and teach him how to move instantaneously to anywhere in the universe. The secret, Chiang says, is to ‘begin by knowing that you have already arrived’. He realizes that you have to be true to yourself and understand that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom.

Not satisfied with his idyllic new life, armed with his newly discovered ideals and experience, ready for the difficult fight against the current rules of that society, Jonathan returns to Earth to find others like him, to bring them his learning and to spread his love for flight. His mission is successful, gathering around him others who have also been outlawed for not conforming. Jonathan understands that the spirit cannot be really free without the ability to forgive, and the way to progress leads through becoming a teacher who can ‘keep working on love’ and not just through working hard as a student.

In the learning process, linking the highly experienced teacher and the diligent student, the ability to forgive is mandatory “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 Fletcher Lynd Seagull who becomes a teacher in his own right. The idea that the stronger can reach more by leaving the weaker friends behind seems totally rejected. Hence love, respect, and forgiveness are equally important as is freedom from pressure to obey the rules.

Microsoft Encarta Reference Library;

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More by :  Dr. Sutapa Chaudhuri

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