Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a philosophical fictional novel about a seagull named Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Jonathan is different from the rest of his pack, and truly enjoys the art of flying rather than just using it to fight for food. He is thrown out of the flock of seagulls he belongs to and chooses to learn about flight and different ways of learning. In this manner, he develops a sense of compassion and is later praised as divine. The book teaches important messages in funny and unique ways.
About the author
Richard David Bach is a self-help novelist, producing some of the best novels of the 1970s, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Illusions. He is known for his style of writing deep thoughts in unique and powerful ways. Bach was born in Illinois and took up a career as an aviator, which piqued some of his interests in flight. He wrote his first books purely about aviation and flight.
Soon afterward, Bach wrote the short novella known as Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The book became an instant hit, reaching number one on the bestseller list. He wrote more philosophical books after this massive success. He retired from writing in 2014.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is about Jonathan, a seagull who wishes to be different and learn to fly in new ways. Instead of fighting for food daily against his flock, he moves away from the rowdiness and experiments with new ways to fly. He perfects a fast dive but almost injures members of his flock. For that, Jonathan is exiled and sent away to mountainous regions. He is brought to a special divine land by two seagulls and taught about new ways of flight there. Eventually, he is respected as a god by his flock, who seem to completely forget anything and everything about flight and fall into worthless rituals.
The Main Idea
If you are different, you may be treated as an outcast or a god. Don’t let anything that others say get to you and just be yourself.
Top Learnings from the Book
1. Don’t be afraid of standing out from the crowd. This was an extremely important idea to me because being afraid of standing out is something several people do. They go with the flow when they are meant to be trailblazers and help the world grow. Imagine if Michael Jackson had decided that he would be an engineer and decided not to release any of his albums! He – and several others – were not afraid to be different.
2. Don’t glorify or vilify anyone for their ideas. Anybody can think whatever they wish to think. If a person (or seagull) believes that they should focus on, say, physical fitness most of all, that doesn’t mean that they are right or wrong. It is simply their opinion.
Remember the essence of anything that is said. The essence is one of the most important parts of a discourse or fable. Near the end of the book, Jonathan Seagull’s ideas are accepted by his flock and are eventually turned into meaningless rituals. A more human example of this is the branching out of Christianity. Christianity (and many other religions, for that matter) spread into several branches after bickering about ways of performing several rituals, and eventually, the essence of the religion itself was forgotten by many.
3. People’s opinions are fickle. One moment they will label someone as an outcast, and the next they will say that you are a saint. Just stick with your principles and keep your ideas, and don’t worry about what people say.
My thoughts about this book
This book is an extremely interesting and gripping story and conveys important thoughts in an enjoyable manner. Anybody would enjoy this story – from children wishing to read fiction or adults hoping to learn and contemplate upon the morals of this book. The story provides several interesting details about seagulls and compares the world to a flock of seagulls – constantly fighting over resources and never bothering to step out of the fight and truly see the world for what it is – a treasure trove of opportunity.
In a way, Jonathan Seagull does what everyone should do but nobody truly does – follow your passion. There are a few people who are truly passionate about anything that they do, whether it be art, music, or engineering. Jonathan is passionate about flying, and is so driven that he even gives up his social status and membership of his flock to fly and be happy.
Realistically, the world is a rat race, and we need to move away from it. Like Jonathan, we have to realize that there is more to life. Jonathan is a smart one, but the others view him differently, and in their eyes, he is the crazy rebel.
We have to break free of this craziness, and learn to see everyone as unique and individual. Everyone is different from each other, and we can’t expect that they will be the way you want them to be.
Quotes from this book
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
“He had some crazy ideas that they couldn’t understand, but then he had some good ones that they could.”
“Jonathan sighed. The price of being misunderstood, he thought. They call you devil or they call you god.”
“Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”