Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Why you should read this book
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a best-selling classic. It is a unique story of a seagull who dared to be different and became an inspiration to others. If you want to learn how to be a leader, how to be strong against challenges, or how to rise against discrimination, you should read this book. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is inspiring and memorable.
Who should read this
People who feel discouraged; Those who experience criticism and judgment; People who need hope and faith in their self
About the author
Richard Bach is an aviator and best-selling author. His experiences in flying are often the subjects of his books. Jonathan Livingston Seagull was on the New York Times Bestseller list for two years. Bach has touched many people through his books on philosophy, wisdom, and inspiration.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Does heaven exist? Is it possible to go from one place to another in the blink of an eye? Is there such a thing as perfection or a world without limits? Jonathan Livingston is a seagull who loves to fly. His story has inspired many people. This bestseller will teach you many things about love, perfection, and hardships. Most of all, this book will teach you how to fly.
Jonathan Livingston was not an ordinary seagull. While the rest of the flock was busy looking for food, Jonathan was busy learning how to fly. The other seagulls just flew to look for food every day. But Jonathan wanted to reach higher. He wanted to know how far he could get. He always went to practice far from the shore. Because of that, Jonathan was always alone. He was alone with his thoughts and his dreams to fly. One day, his mother asked him, “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why don’t you eat? You’re feathers and bone!”Jonathan answered, “I don’t mind being feathers and bone, mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all.”His father told him, “Winter isn’t far away. Boats will be few and the surface fish will be swimming deep. Don’t you forget that the reason you fly is to eat?”
Jonathan obeyed his parents. For a few days, he did what all the other seagulls did. Jonathan searched the pier and fishing boats for scraps. He screeched and fought for food like everybody else. But Jonathan realized that this was not really what he wanted. He felt like he was wasting his time. Jonathan flew far off to the sea. He was not fat like the other seagulls. But he was happy and excited. He learned about his speed. Jonathan flew 1000 feet in the air and took a deep dive. He was plunging at 70 miles per hour. Jonathan Livingston could have been the fastest seagull alive. But then at some point, he would lose control over his wings. He tried and tried again. He flew to a thousand feet and dived. But, just a small change in the angle of his wings and the wind would send him crashing down to the sea.
Jonathan hit the surface hard. When he woke up, he was floating under the big bright moon. He was very tired. His wings were very heavy. He heard a voice inside him saying, “There’s no way around it. I am a seagull. If I were meant to fly at speed, I’d have a falcon’s short wings. My father was right. I must forget this foolishness.”Jonathan flew back to the shore. Everywhere, all he could see was darkness.“Get down!” The voice inside him spoke again.“Seagulls never fly in the dark! If you were meant to fly in the dark, you’d have the eyes of an owl! You’d have a falcon’s short wings! ”At that moment, Jonathan Livingston Seagull had a eureka moment. The pain and sadness that he felt went away.“Short wings! The short wings of a falcon!” he thought to himself.“I can fold half of my wings and fly with the tips of my feathers. That way, I can fly faster!”
Jonathan flapped his wings once again. He didn’t stop until he was 2000 feet in the air. He knew it was dangerous, but he was determined. Jonathan kept his forewings close to his body and let the tips of his wings feel the air. The brave seagull took the vertical dive. He was falling fast at 70 miles to 90 miles and then 120 miles per hour. Jonathan even went to 140. When he was above the sea, he moved his wings carefully and everything was under control. As Jonathan flew smoothly over the water, he thought “140! If I fly up to 5000 feet, how much faster can I dive?” He had been about to quit, but now Jonathan knows that he can never accept the ordinary. He was meant for something else.
Jonathan kept on practicing. He felt so alive. For the first time in his life, he felt in control. From 5000 feet above, his home looked like a speck. Jonathan folded his wings once again and took the plunge. The most amazing thing happened. His speed reached 240 miles per hour. Not one seagull from his flock had flown that fast. If he had spread his wings, it would have been the end for Jonathan. But, he had learned to move his wingtips ever so slightly. Jonathan was able to do beautiful acrobatics up in the air. He did the loop, the slow roll, the pinwheel, and all the other moves he named. Speed was power, speed was joy, and speed was pure beauty. Jonathan knew that his flock would be proud of him. He kept on flying past sunset. When he went home, the stars were shining in the clear night sky. Jonathan felt tired but happy.
The flock was still the same, but Jonathan had changed. He now knew that there was more to life than this. There was more to life than flying over fishing boats and looking for scraps. Jonathan wanted to shout, “There’s a reason to live! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance. We can make ourselves full of excellence, intelligence, and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!”Finally, his webbed feet touched the shore. Jonathan saw that there was a Council Gathering of the seagulls. The Elders and the rest of the flock were silently waiting.“Jonathan Livingston Seagull! Stand to Center!” one of the Elders announced. When a seagull was called to Stand to Center, it could only mean great honor or great shame. Maybe the Elders had seen the breakthrough he had made. Maybe they saw him fit to be a leader.
But Jonathan wanted no high recognition. He just wanted to share what he had learned. He wanted the flock to see what he had seen. Jonathan slowly stepped forward.“Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” the Elder declared, “Stand to Center for Shame!” The Elder’s voice rang in his ears. He could not believe it.“Stand to Center for Shame? Impossible! What about the breakthrough? It can’t be!” Jonathan thought to himself. But then the Elder continued, “For his reckless irresponsibility…for violating the dignity and tradition of the Gull Family…”Stand to Center for Shame meant that he would be banished from the flock. He would be cast out. Jonathan would live alone in exile to the Far Cliffs where no seagull could see him.
“…one day, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, you shall learn that irresponsibility does not pay. Life is unknowable, except that we are put into this world to eat and to stay alive as long as we can.”Irresponsibility? My brothers,” Jonathan pleaded, “for a thousand years we have scrabbled after fish heads, but now we have a reason to live, to learn, to discover, to be free! Give me one chance. Let me show you what I’ve found…”But Jonathan’s words fell on deaf ears. The Elders turned their backs and broke up the gathering. All the other seagulls left. Jonathan looked up to the sky and flew away. He reached beyond the Far Cliffs. Jonathan made good use of his exile. He learned so much more. Jonathan learned to sleep in the air. He learned to fly at night. More importantly, Jonathan learned that if he high-speed dived into the ocean, he could catch fish ten feet below the surface. There was no need for fishing boats.
Jonathan never regretted what he did. He realized that boredom, fear, and anger had made his life short. He put away all these negative feelings and saw a long happy life ahead of him. The night was peaceful as always when suddenly, the sky opened. Two shining seagulls flew down from the clouds. Jonathan couldn’t help but notice the graceful flap of their wings. Each move of the feather was calculated. The shining seagulls flew in the way that Jonathan flew, but so much better.“Who are you?” he asked. “We’re from your flock, Jonathan. We’re your brothers. We’ve come to take you higher, to take you home,” the shining seagulls replied in a calm voice.“I have no home anymore. I’m an Outcast. Is there a peak higher than the Great Mountain Wind?”
“Jonathan, when one school is finished, it’s time to look for a new one.” With that, Jonathan understood. He looked around the endless sky which had taught him so much. He took a deep breath of the cold breeze. “I’m ready,” Jonathan said. The three of them disappeared into the clouds.
“This must be heaven,” Jonathan thought to himself. He saw his feathers change from pure white to polished silver. His wings shone ever so brightly. Jonathan felt his body change as well. He felt so light. He could easily fly at 250 miles per hour and reach even 270. The clouds parted, and he saw the two seagulls who took him up.“Happy landings, Jonathan,” they said, and they both vanished into thin air. Jonathan saw a clear blue sea below. Way ahead, a few seagulls were flying over the cliff. Jonathan thought, “Why are there so few seagulls? Isn’t heaven supposed to be flocked by happy seagulls?” He heard about that somewhere. His memories of Earth were fading away. Jonathan vaguely remembered scrambling for food and being an outcast. Down by the shore, a dozen seagulls came to meet him. Though they didn’t say a word, he felt that he was welcome.
He saw the way that these seagulls flew. They took so little effort to fly high and they danced so gracefully in the wind. Jonathan wanted to fly with them, but he was too tired. There on the shore, he fell into a deep sleep. In the following days, he realized that there was also much to learn about flying in this new place. The seagulls here are just like him. They spent hours every day learning to fly. They want nothing more in life than to take flight. One day, Jonathan asked his flying mentor, “Where is everybody, Sullivan? Why aren’t there more of us here? Where I came from there were…”…thousands and thousands of seagulls. I know,” Sullivan said.“You are not an ordinary bird, Jonathan.
All of us here came from different places, from different times. We went through a lot to realize that there is more to life than eating. Remember this Jonathan. Learn nothing, and the next world is just the same as this one, with all the same limitations and hardships to overcome.” After a while, they began practicing again. Sullivan pushed Jonathan further. “Let’s try again,” he would always say. When Jonathan had perfected a move, they would begin with the next one. There was a calm night when all the seagulls are gathered on the sand. All of them were silent and lost in thought. Jonathan took all his courage to approach the Elder Gull.“Chiang?” he asked nervously. “Yes, my son?” the Elder said.“This world isn’t heaven at all, is it?”
The Elder smiled.“You are learning again, Jonathan Livingston.”Well, what happens from here? Is there no such place as heaven?”No, Jonathan, there is no such place. Heaven is not a place. It is not a time. Heaven is being perfect.”The Elder let his words float in the air. Then he continued, “You like to fly fast, don’t you Jonathan?”Yes, I enjoy speed.” “You will touch heaven, my son, at the moment that you touch perfect speed. That isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”The next thing Jonathan knew, Chiang was out of sight. He looked around and saw the Elder appear 50 feet away. In the blink of an eye, Chiang vanished again and reappeared right by Jonathan’s shoulder. “It’s kind of fun,” the Elder said.
Jonathan was surprised. He forgot all about heaven.“How do you do that? What does it feel like? How far can you go?”You can go to any place and to any time that you wish to go,” Chiang said.“I’ve gone everywhere and everywhere you can think of.” He looked across the horizon. “It’s strange. The gulls that choose traveling over perfection go nowhere. But those who choose perfection over traveling go anywhere.” “Chiang, can you teach me how to vanish like that?”Jonathan asked.“Of course, if you wish to learn.”Please tell me what to do.” “To fly as fast as thought, you need to stop seeing yourself as someone trapped inside a limited body. See yourself everywhere at once, across space and time.”
It was all that Jonathan did day and night. He concentrated fiercely. Chiang was always behind him as Jonathan explored with his mind. Then one morning, it dawned on him. Jonathan suddenly opened his eyes. “I see it now! I am a perfect unlimited seagull!” He felt truly happy.“Good!” the Elder said. At first, Jonathan and Chiang were at the shore. Then, they vanished and reappeared at the top of the cliff. It was already dark when Chiang and Jonathan returned to the flock. Sullivan and the other seagulls congratulated Jonathan for learning so fast.
“We can start working with time if you wish,” Chiang said, ‘until you can fly the past and the future. And then, you will learn the most powerful lesson of all. You will know the meaning of kindness and love.”Jonathan trained with Chiang every day. The Elder took him as a special student. Jonathan absorbed it all. He made the most out of his time with Chiang. The day came when Chiang vanished for the last time. His feathers shined so bright that the seagulls had to cover their eyes. And then, Chiang was gone. The last words that he said to Jonathan were, “Keep working on love.”The days went by. Jonathan thought about the young seagulls on Earth. There might be some of them who were asking the same questions he did.
There might be some of them who wondered if there was more to life. Jonathan thought that this is how he could show love. He could do it by sharing what he had learned. He could show love by helping others find meaning. Now more than ever, Jonathan knew that he was born to be a mentor. He said goodbye to his friend Sullivan and left. Meanwhile, there was a young seagull named Fletcher Lynd who was on his way to the Far Cliffs. He flew around the Elder Gull once. Because of that, he was made to Stand to Center for Shame.“I don’t care what they say,” Fletcher Lynd said.“There’s so much more to flying than just flapping around from place to place! A mosquito does that! Can’t they see? Can’t they think of the glory that will be when we learn to fly?”
And then, Fletcher heard a voice from the clouds. “Don’t be harsh on them, Fletcher Lynd Seagull. One day, they will see what you see. Forgive them, and help them to understand.”A brilliant white seagull suddenly appeared by his side. The shining seagull was floating so effortlessly. He was not moving a feather and yet he was flying so fast.“What’s going on? Am I dead? What is this?”The voice was soft and calm. “Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly?”Yes, I want to fly!”Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly so much that you will forgive the Flock, learn, and go back to help them one day?”I do,” he answered.“Then let’s begin.”
Fletcher Lynd was a good student. He was quick and light in the air. But more importantly, he was very eager to learn. Fletcher tried another 16-point vertical slow roll. He counted the points as he did.“…eight…nine…ten…see Jonathan I’m running out of airspeed…eleven…I want good sharp stops like yours…twelve…but blast it I just can’t make…thirteen…these last three points…without…fourteen…aaa!”The young seagull fell backward. He stumbled and slammed into the cliff.“You’re wasting your time with me, Jonathan! I’m too dumb! I’m too stupid! I’ll never get it!”But Jonathan was ever so patient.“You’ll never get it as long as you make that pull-up so hard. Fletcher, you have to be smooth! Firm but smooth, remember?”Three months passed and Jonathan gained six more students. All of them were outcasts. They wanted to fly like Jonathan. They wanted to learn how to fly for joy.
However, they were more excited about the flying exercises than Jonathan’s lectures. They couldn’t believe that ideas could fly as far as their wings. Jonathan would explain the reason behind this high-performance flying, and they would only fall to sleep.“Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited idea of freedom. Precision flying is a step toward expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside. Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip, is nothing more than your thought itself. Break the chains of your thought and you break the chains of your body.”Even Fletcher Lynd fell asleep at his lectures. But Jonathan didn’t give up on his students. One early morning, Jonathan announced that the time had come to go back to the flock.“We’re not ready!” said Henry Calvin Seagull.“We’re not welcome! We’re Outcast!”
“We’re free to go where we wish and to be what we are,” Jonathan explained. With that, he lifted himself from the sand and flew towards the direction of the Flock. The students are still hesitant. No one had broken the law. No outcast had returned for 10,000 years. But they were worried about Jonathan. He might be facing the Elders alone.
So, the students formed a double diamond in the air. As they neared the shore, they flipped their wings one by one and changed to another formation.8000 seagulls watched them. Jonathan and his students kept on doing their amazing loops.“To begin with,” Jonathan said with a smile, “you were all a bit late.”The Flock was as if struck by lightning. The older seagulls said, “Those birds are Outcast! And they have returned! And that… that can’t happen!”The younger seagulls commented, “Well sure, they’re Outcast, but hey, man, where did they learn to fly like that?”The Elders were quick to pass their orders. “Ignore them. The gull who speaks to an Outcast is himself an Outcast. The gull who looks upon an Outcast breaks the Law of the Flock.”
The seagulls turned their backs on the group but Jonathan continued with the exercises. Martin Seagull performed low-speed flying while Charles Roland Seagull flew up to the Great Mountain Wind. Fletcher Lynd did a triple cartwheel. After practice, the outcasts touched their feet on the shore. Jonathan began with his lecture. In time, Fletcher and the others listened more closely to him. There were some crazy ideas that they found hard to understand. But there were some good ones that they appreciated. One night, Jonathan noticed some younger seagulls listening to his lectures. They stayed in the dark and just silently waited for his words. When the sun was about to rise, they flew off one by one. A month after the outcasts returned, one young seagull finally crossed the line. Terrence Lowell Seagull asked Jonathan to teach him how to fly. Not long after, he was condemned.
Another young seagull approached Jonathan. Kirk Maynard Seagull had a limp wing. He dragged himself along the shore. “Help me. I want to fly more than anything else in the world.”Come along then,” Jonathan said.“Climb away with me and we’ll begin.”You don’t understand. My wing, I can’t move my wing.”Kirk Maynard Seagull, you have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.”Are you saying I can fly?”I say you are free.”As simple as that, Kirk spread his wings and he was able to lift himself. He shouted out loud from 5000 feet in the air. “I can fly! Listen! I can fly!” All of the seagulls were awakened from their nap.
At night, Jonathan went on with his lectures. His small group was now surrounded by hundreds of young seagulls. They were not afraid anymore to get caught. They just wanted to listen to Jonathan’s words.“It is right for a seagull to fly. Freedom is in your nature. Whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside.” Even if it’s the Law of the Flock?” some of them asked.“The only true law is that which leads to freedom.”
“How do you expect us to fly as you fly? You are special, gifted, and divine.”Look at Fletcher Lynd! Terrence Lowell! Charles Roland! Judy Lee! Are they also special, gifted, and divine? They are just like you. The only difference is that they have begun to understand what they are and they have begun to practice it.”The crowd became larger and larger every day. Some of them came to idolize Jonathan and ask questions. Some of them came to scorn.
Fletcher told his mentor about it one day. “They say that you are not the Son of the Great Gull Himself, that you are 1000 years ahead of your time. They either call you devil or they call you god.”Jonathan sighed. This was the price he had to pay. “What do you think, Fletch? Are we ahead of our time?”Well, this kind of flying has always been here for anybody who wanted to discover it. That’s got nothing to do with time. Maybe we’re just ahead of the fashion, ahead of the way that most seagulls fly.”That’s something, Fletch. That’s as bad as being ahead of our time.”
Soon, Fletcher had his class of young seagulls. He was teaching them high-speed flying one day. He performed a seven-foot dive and glided a few inches above the water. Then all of a sudden, a little seagull appeared on his path. The young one was crying and looking for his mother. Fletcher snapped hard to the right to avoid colliding with him. He lost control and hit his head hard on a big rock. All he could see was black. Fletcher was sad and afraid. He felt sorry.
He stayed this way for what seemed like an eternity. Then, he heard a voice just like the day he met Jonathan.“Didn’t I die?” Fletcher asked.“It’s your choice now. You can stay here or you can go back and keep working with the Flock,” the voice said.“I want to go back to the Flock, of course. I’ve barely begun with the new group!”Very well, Fletcher. Remember what we were saying about one’s body being nothing more than thought itself?”He snapped awake. Fletcher stood up and found himself surrounded by thousands of seagulls. Jonathan was by his side. “He lives! The dead bird lives!” They squawked and screeched.“The Son of the Great Gull brought him to life!”No! He denies it! He’s a devil! A devil! He’s come to break the Flock!”The crowd closed in on them. Thousands of sharp beaks and frightening eyes were ready to devour him at any moment.
And then, they were gone. Fletcher saw an empty beach. The wind was blowing softly as the waves calmly touch the sand.“Why is it that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing?” said Jonathan.“What did you just do? How did we get here? How did you…”Like everything else, Fletcher. Practice.”The next morning, Fletcher still couldn’t help but wonder.“Jonathan, remember what you said a long time ago, about loving the Flock, about returning to it and helping it learn?”Sure.”I don’t understand how you manage to love a mob of birds that just tried to kill you.”Oh, Fletch, you don’t love evil. But you have to see the good in every seagull. In that way, you can help them see it for themselves. That is what I mean by love.”
Jonathan continued, “I remember a fierce young bird. His name was Fletcher. He was full of anger and hatred. Until one day, he found his true nature. He built his heaven and now, he is ready to lead.”Fletcher was caught off guard. “Me leading? What do you mean? You’re the leader here. You couldn’t leave!”Couldn’t I? You don’t need me any longer. You need to keep finding yourself, that real unlimited Fletcher Lynd Seagull. He’s your mentor. You need to understand him and to practice him.”Jonathan’s body began to shine so brightly. He shimmered from head to foot and slowly became transparent.“Don’t let them spread silly rumors about me, or make me a god. Okay, Fletch? I’m just a seagull who loves to fly. Maybe…”
“Jonathan!”The light was gone and so was Jonathan. For a while, Fletcher just stood there and stared. Then he made himself go back. A new group of young seagulls was waiting for him by the shore.“First of all, you’ve got to understand that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom. Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip, is nothing more than your thought itself. Let’s begin.”
You learned about the beautiful story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull. You learned how to fly. You must break free from whatever it is that’s limiting you. Then you can be anywhere and anyone you wanted to be. You can build your heaven and become the best version of yourself. That’s how you become perfect. That’s how you become free.