BOOK REVIEW: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Learn to fly with Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, and savour every moment of his flight, if the notion of spiritualist enlightenment appeals to you.

Jonathan Livingston

In essence: Jonathan Livingston Seagull

This is the tale of a seagull, who, as an adolescent, is cast out of his flock for breaking the law. The Law of the Flock forbids doing anything that isn’t towards the continuation of the Flock. Jonathan doesn’t care about eating; only about flying. He is slung out after he hits the Flock at two hundred twelve miles per hour.

Alone and Outcast but free, with each epiphany, Jonathan rises a little. He flies faster, makes better turns, and never stops learning that he can break his limitations. He learns inner control and with that reaches new heights and new understandings.

“Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull’s life is so short, and with these gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.”

Not the end of the book, but the last sentence of Part One.

Part Two sees him transcend to ‘heaven’ – except that it isn’t heaven, it’s just the next part of the journey, where thoughts can manifest instantly, because there are no limitations. The spiritual message is brought home to roost.

Jonathan’s heaven is just a better, friendlier training ground for his flight obsession, and with the help of an Elder gull, Chiang, he makes his breakthrough, and decides to return to the Flock because he wants to help anyone who happens to be trying the same route.

Part Three delivers his progress there, his students, and the effect they have on the Flock when they all return from being ‘Outcast’.

Jonathan’s message

This little book is written simply, for a reason. It imparts a message that Richard Bach tried to deliver in most of his books, but with the heavy metaphor and easy vocabulary, he succeeds more succinctly than in any of his novels. The simplicity may irritate those who don’t get the book … that’s just tough. Those that do get it – where the truths hit the solar plexus and make light particles jump in the belly – may appreciate not having to think about the words themselves; only the meaning has importance.

With it being shorter and easy to understand on different levels, it possibly had a better chance of reaching a much larger audience than his novels. I imagine Richard Bach wrote it that way for marketing purposes. It was clearly important for him to get his message out, and at least there are no typos, or spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors. It isn’t poorly written, by any means (despite the crazy reviews on Goodreads).

Will you like it?

For those not yet on the path of spiritual ascension, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach is a ham-fisted, cliché-ridden short story about a seagull who learns to fly for perfection. Compare thyselves with the Flock.

For readers who are prepared to appreciate the metaphor only according to their own understanding, it’s a tale about Jesus, told through a flock of anthropomorphic seagulls. Think of those gulls who claim that Jonathan is the Son of the Great Gull.

But if you’re standing on the brink of enlightenment, this is a book for you; an elixir to send you on your way. A nod that says you are on the right track.

The only way you’ll know which you are is to read it. And in a few years, read it again. Just keep doing it until maybe one day it will make the tears prick at the back of your eyes.

“Forget about faith!” Chiang said it time and again. “You didn’t need faith to fly, you needed to understand flying. This is just the same. Now try again …”

There is nothing to be afraid of (not even boredom), as long as you learn to fly.

Affiliate links

Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A story – Amazon UK

Amazon US

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