If I had to pick one book that “says it all” I would pick Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that beautiful spiritual parable by Richard Bach. In my view this book was channelled from first to last, a message from beyond, and a light for dark times – two themes of my blog here at Silk Road Visions. Truly It illuminates for us the gifts of solitude, and above all the courage to take – when Life beckons – the solitary path.
Here is one of the most poignant, life-affirming excerpts:
“It happened that morning, then, just after sunrise, that Jonathan Livingston Seagull fired directly through the center of the 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. His thought was triumph. Terminal velocity! A seagull at two hundred fourteen miles per hour! It was a breakthrough, the greatest single moment in the history of the Flock, and in that moment a new age opened for Jonathan Gull.
“Flying out to his lonely practice area, folding his wings for a dive from eight thousand feet, he set himself at once to discover how to turn. A single wingtip feather, he found, moved a fraction of an inch, gives a smooth sweeping curve at tremendous speed. Before he learned this, however, he found that moving more than one feather at that speed will spin you like a rifle ball…and Jonathan had flown the first aerobatics of any seagull on earth. He spared no time that day for talk with other gulls, but flew on past sunset. He discovered the loop, slow roll, the point roll, the inverted spin, the gull bunt, the pinwheel.
When Jonathan Seagull joined the Flock on the beach, it was full night. He was dizzy and terribly tired. Yet in delight he flew a loop to landing, with a snap roll just before touchdown. When they hear of it, he thought, of the Breakthrough, they’ll be wild with joy. How much more there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s a reason to life! We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly! The years ahead hummed and glowed with promise.
The gulls were flocked into the Council Gathering when he landed, and apparently had been so flocked for some time. They were, in fact, waiting. Jonathan Livingston Seagull! Stand to Center! The Elder’s words sounded in a voice of highest ceremony. Stand to Center meant only great shame or great honor. Stand to Center for Honor was the way the gulls’ foremost leaders were marked. Of course, he thought, the Breakfast Flock this morning; they saw the Breakthrough! But I want no honors. I have no wish to be leader. I want only to share what I’ve found, to show those horizons out ahead for us all. He stepped forward.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, said the Elder, Stand to Center for Shame in the sight of your fellow gulls!