Saturday, August 9, 2014

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

A friend told me that a mutual friend had read Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull and absolutely loved it.  It sounded interesting, so I was going to add it to my to-read list on Goodreads.  But apparently I just put a hold on it at work instead, and the book showed up for me a few days later.  I wasn't really planning on reading it immediately, but after flipping through the book, I decided why not?  It of course helped that the book was short (about 95 pages) and half of those pages were pictures of seagulls (taken by Russel Munson).  So I read it this afternoon, finishing it in maybe one hour (it's short!)

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a story in three parts, following the main character (the seagull of the title).  Jonathan is a seagull quite unlike any other.  Rather than simply chasing after food like the rest of the Flock, Jonathan wants to be the perfect flier.  But after an almost disastrous landing, Jonathan is named Outcast and sent to live out the rest of his days outside of the Flock.  The story is split into three parts: part one is when Jonathan is Outcast, but spends the rest of his days trying to perfect his flying in his physical (and somewhat limited) body.  Part two is when Jonathan goes to the next level, a sort of Heaven-like place where seagulls like Jonathan who have transcended their desire for food go to learn the next level of flying.  Given a more aerodynamic body, Jonathan is finally at home with other seagulls who are like him (and willing to teach him more of flying!)  By the end of this part, Jonathan understands his nature, and is now ready to bring Enlightenment to the seagulls of his old Flock (and in particular, any fellow birds who may have been cast out like he was because they wanted to learn to fly better).  So part three is Jonathan doing just that - he becomes the teacher for seven other outcast birds, then talks them into bringing Enlightenment to the rest of the Flock, before going on to teach birds from other Flocks.

While I was reading, particularly in the last part, Jonathan Livingston Seagull really struck me as a Christ-allegory (although that wasn't really fitting - Jonathan repeatedly said he was nothing special. So I guess it was more of an enlightening/empowering every-man narrative?)  It is a very inspirational narrative, so if you like that sort of thing, you will like Jonathan Livingston Seagull.  Personally I didn't mind the story, but I didn't find it really life-changing (and so feel like it wasn't really meant for me).

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