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Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull (original 1970; edition 2006)

by Richard Bach

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7,430120472 (3.6)103
Title:Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Authors:Richard Bach
Info:Scribner (2006), Edition: Original, Paperback, 112 pages
Collections:Your library, Read
Tags:Mancave 3.1.L

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (1970)

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English (103)  Italian (5)  Spanish (4)  German (2)  Lithuanian (1)  Norwegian (1)  Czech (1)  Hebrew (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (120)
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Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Books are like people. In order for a person to have a profound affect on your life, you need to meet that person at the right time. Met someone when you're not ready and the whole relationship fizzles.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach is a story I first met too soon. I was maybe 7 or 8 years old as I recall, and I didn't much care for the book or the movie. If I remember correctly, I don't think I even watched the entire movie or read the whole book. It was too weird. Too strange. Too existential. I didn't remotely understand it. Raised in a Roman Catholic gradeschool, I had already been brainwashed by years of lies that Judeo-Christian mythology was historical fact. Programmed by Abrahamic dogma in those formative years to worship a semitic zombie vampire, my psyche had been fed so much imbecilic propaganda, I foolhardily believed in burning bushes which talked to God's Chosen Master Race. But a tale of talking seagulls? That was crazy! I couldn't follow the story at all.

The book is very brief. It hardly qualifies as a novella. At less than 9000 words it's barely a short story. Jonathan Livingston Seagull tells the tale of a seagull who lives with a mundane flock of birds while yearning for a more meaningful life.

During the course of the story, he learns and grows and evolves until he finally returns to his flock and is lauded as a messiah - a label he does not desire nor deserve.

The metaphors and lessons are all very obvious ones:

  • Make your dreams come true.
  • Disobey the flock.
  • Trust your heart.
  • Be careful of what people turn you into.

When I discovered the book again, at the age of 20, my entire perspective had shifted. I finally understood that every single theism on earth was followed by delusional self-righteous jerks who arrogantly presume they alone are the sole purveyors of truth. Now the book spoke to me. Now it made more sense. Now I was old enough to fall in love.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull not only changed my life, it changed the life of the author. Jonathan Livingston Seagull made Richard Bach a multimillionaire and a household name.

Why did it finally speak to me?

There was a day in my life, I recall very clearly, that was a turning point for me.

I went for a hike in the woods at Nelsons Ledges in Ohio when I was about 14 years old. At the time, my mother lived about 2 miles away from the park. During the 2 mile walk back to her house, I had a true existential moment. You know that part in the book Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury, when he realizes he's alive for the first time. That's what happened to me on that walk. That was my first moment of really seeing with clarity how vibrant and alive and astonishing it was to be a sentient soul experiencing the world. I noticed everything that day. The crunch of gravel on the road underfoot. The luminous saturation of color in fields and the sky, everything so vivid it was like awakening from a dream.

And perhaps that metaphor is accurate. Because I finally began to shake off the oppressive mantle of manmade religion on that walk. I finally saw that no human being on the face of this earth has ever possessed any authority to tell me my place in the universe. I came to realize that every person on earth who dared to preach and demand my relationship with God be the same as theirs was a freaking demon. Every religion that zombiefied their zealots into thinking they were better than others, or above others, or chosen in the eyes of God to be somehow superior to others, was a nothing more than a deathcult of pure and unadulterated evil. That's when I realized that all these "believers" were victims of something ghastly. Out there on that road, among those fields, I finally saw the universe for what it was. Beautiful. Idyllic. Flawless. Impassive. The consciousness of all divine light was manifested only through my own sentience. We all stand as the conduits of God. No one has the power to define that for you.

I decided in that moment, that to find my place in the universe, I would spend more time among the country roads and the beaches and the gentle streams of woodlands. For if there were a voice of the universe, that is where it would speak to me. Not through other people or churches or synagogues or clerics or shamans. I would study no religion. I would embrace no philosophy. For I didn't want to be tainted by the beliefs of others. I wanted no one to influence me. The only way to discover this path was to do it on my own.

So I did. I spent many years working out my own philosophy of how the world worked. What felt true to my heart. What my instincts gravitated towards. For if there were a benevolent divine force within nature, then it stands to reason that I would have to find her. Were I to seek her with an open and innocent heart, she wouldn't leave me to flounder in chaos. The only possible destinations were truth or self-deception, but at least the possible delusions would be my own, not the force-fed dogma of others.

In time, I did find my truths, even if they were quantified against nothing more than my own moral compass. I never wrote any of this down. I just kept it in my head. My outlooks. My beliefs. My philosophies.

Then, in a few years, I stumbled into Richard Bach. I was in a bookstore, looking for a birthday present for a friend. She was having a bit of a spiritual crisis in her life and I saw Jonathan Livingston Seagull on the shelf and I vaguely remembered it was supposed to be some uplifting hippie metaphysical hogwash. I figured, since my friend was so distraught, that might be good for her. So I bought it.

When I got it home, I read it for myself and finished it in about 30 minutes. Immediately after I finished reading, I went right back to the bookstore and bought another copy for myself.

I was astonished. Here was a book that articulated the spiritual sensibilities I had already discovered. All these weird and crazy ideas I had, things I never heard anyone else talk about, were all in that book. Up until that point, I thought I was all alone. I had no idea that anyone else in the world had started to view life the way I saw it.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull helped to validate many of my opinions about the nature of the human spirit.

Perhaps everything I believe is completely wrong. Perhaps I'm entirely off base and the outlook of Jonathan Livingston Seagull really is a load of crap.

When all is said and done, and our brief time here is over, discovering the truth doesn't really make any difference.

Soaring on seagull wings you finally see that the Goddess herself is free to be an agnostic, because nothing else matters beyond the simple glory of love and living. The overwhelming beauty and awe of the now can never be diminished. Within that thrill of knowing you are alive, of feeling it to your very core, being more awake and cognizant than you have ever been, you are living in Heaven on earth. You soar with angel wings to transcend all the deception.

In the instant of knowing I was truly alive, in that realization of our transient spark shining and extinguishing, suspended in that second is where I found everlasting life.

Reading a book like Jonathan Livingston Seagull will remind you of that moment everytime you pick it up.

“Richard Bach with this book does two things. He gives me flight. He makes me young.”
- Ray Bradbury ( )
  EricMuss-Barnes | Mar 22, 2015 |
Read during my most impressionable years, in high school, along with many other Richard Bach books. I'm sure it will probably seem a bit naive to this old cynic now. ( )
  sturlington | Feb 16, 2015 |
Thankfully it was short—yet far too sweet—or the time taken would have felt like a great waste. Sentimental claptrap. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
Thankfully it was short—yet far too sweet—or the time taken would have felt like a great waste. Sentimental claptrap. ( )
  AntT | Jan 24, 2015 |
This book was my Bible growing up. Not literally of course, but I kind of wish it was... ( )
  LadyLiz | Nov 25, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (98 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Bachprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bean, TomCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kauppi, KaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Munson, RusselPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paolini, Pier FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Italian Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
“Con questo suo libro Richard Bach mi ha procurato due gioie: mi ha fatto volare, mi ha fatto sentir giovane. Per entrambe gli sono profondamente grato.”
To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all
First words
It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea.
By sunup, Jonathan Gull was practicing again. From five thousand feet the fishing boats were specks in the flat blue water, Breakfast Flock was a faint cloud of dust motes, circling. He was alive, trembling ever so slightly with delight, proud that his fear was under control. Then without ceremony he hugged in his forewings, extended his short, angled wingtips, and plunged directly toward the sea. By the time he passed four thousand feet he had reached terminal velocity, the wind was a solid beating wall of sound against which he could move no faster. He was flying now straight down, at two hundred fourteen miles per hour. He swallowed, knowing that if his wings unfolded at that speed he’d be blown into a million tiny shreds of seagull. But the speed was power, and the speed was joy, and the speed was pure beauty. He began his pullout at a thousand feet, wingtips thudding and blurring in that gigantic wind, the boat and the crowd of gulls tilting and growing meteor-fast, directly in his path. He couldn’t stop; he didn’t know yet even how to turn at that speed. Collision would be instant death. And so he shut his eyes. It happened that morning, then, just after sunrise, that Jonathan Livingston Seagull fired directly through the center of Breakfast Flock, ticking off two hundred twelve miles per hour, eyes closed, in a great roaring shriek of wind and feathers. The Gull of Fortune smiled upon him this once, and no one was killed. By the time he had pulled his beak straight up into the sky he was still scorching along at a hundred and sixty miles per hour. When he had slowed to twenty and stretched his wings again at last, the boat was a crumb on the sea, four thousand feet below.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743278909, Paperback)

"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." Flight is indeed the metaphor that makes the story soar. Ultimately this is a fable about the importance of seeking a higher purpose in life, even if your flock, tribe, or neighborhood finds your ambition threatening. (At one point our beloved gull is even banished from his flock.) By not compromising his higher vision, Jonathan gets the ultimate payoff: transcendence. Ultimately, he learns the meaning of love and kindness. The dreamy seagull photographs by Russell Munson provide just the right illustrations--although the overall packaging does seem a bit dated (keep in mind that it was first published in 1970). Nonetheless, this is a spirituality classic, and an especially engaging parable for adolescents. --Gail Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:56 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

An unusual seagull becomes an outcast from his flock because of his search for a higher purpose in life and his quest for more freedom.

(summary from another edition)

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