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Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story
(823 customer reviews)
Book by Atton, W
- Amazon Sales Rank: #1535450 in Books
- Brand: Unknown
- Published on: 1972-10-05
- Ingredients: Example Ingredients
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Binding: Hardcover
- 104 pages
- Used Book in Good Condition
Most helpful customer reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful.
Never give up
By V. Berk
I came by Jonathan Livingston Seagull by means of my father who often spoke highly of the book and how it had left a great impact on him in high school. Despite these frequent references to the text I never sought out a copy of the book until now. Recently I (age 20) went to the beach with my father where upon looking at the gulls he began reminiscing on the text one more. This time when he brought the book up something inside me ticked and that was all the motivation I needed to pick up my own copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
The novella tells the story of Jonathan Livingston, a young, brash seagull who constantly defies his flock's traditions in a quest to become the fastest seagull who ever lived. He is expelled from the flock for his behavior, but this doesn't break his spirits. Jonathan ascends to a higher state of being to join the few other gulls who sought speed same as he did. From here Jonathan returns to the gulls yet to achieve this state of nirvana and helps guide them on the path to self-perfection. Keep in mind that all of this happens over the course of a mere 111 pages (a good portion of which happen to be pictures).
From the moment I opened the book I was in love. As a college student I can see why Bach's novel took the world by storm when it was first published. The story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull is contagiously inspirational, easily winning me over. It is a fable for the modern era that overwhelms the senses with its high-soaring optimism and the idea that any barrier --even death-- is only one imagined by the individual on the road to self-perfection. So profound was the impact of this short little novella that when I finished the text I set it down and thought. For almost an hour I just sat on my bed and thought over the ideas I'd just been presented to; how the tale of a seagull had touched something deep within me. It was pure magic the likes of which few books have kindled within me. Reading the book once turned out not to be enough, and I found myself downloading a copy to my Kindle so that I'd have continued access to it on-the-go.
I sincerely believe everyone could learn from this modern fable. Same as with most books that can be categorized as spiritual or inspirational not everyone will likely be impacted the same way. Some may write it off as childish, but If you strive for more, and constantly wish to break your limits than the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull will no doubt touch you.
If you allow yourself to be carried away by the high-flying optimism of Jonathan Livingston Seagull you're in for a magical journey of heart and mind.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
For a person who has lost a close loved one this book is a light hearted look into ...
For a person who has lost a close loved one this book is a light hearted look into a very hard subject. For a parent who wants young kids to understand death in a way they can grasp, it is a Godsend. I am a person of faith, however this author never mentions his faith. Death is a realm the living have no true facts about and I believe there is a much greater life beyond this one. Even if you don't agree this book will be a very pleasant inspiration and make you think. Great read. I bought it for a lady going through the loss of her husband.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful.
Are we free or doomed from birth?
By Wu Wei
This is my all-time favorite book. It contains the most important truths I have ever learned.
This book certainly could be viewed as Eastern Religion / New Age, and considering Bach's other books perhaps that is his main meaning.
However, JLS also contains important non-religious truths which apply to everyday life. For example, based on one of the most quoted parts of the book, "Jonathan" might answer everyday questions like this:
Are you saying I can lose weight and be thin, even though I've been fat my whole life?
I say you are free.
Are you saying that even though I finished near the bottom this year, with hard work I could finish near the top 3 or 4 years from now?
I say you are free.
Are you saying that even though the aptitude test showed I'm bad in math, that I could be successful in my dream job, engineering, if I try hard enough?
I say you are free.
Those answers are very, very different from the prevailing paradigm / meme within our society, which says that nearly everything is determined at birth, so that we are born either "fat" or "thin" people, born "smart" or "bad at math", born as "great athletes" or "losers". Society then tells us that we shouldn't try to change anything about ourselves (since it supposedly won't work), but should spend our lives happy or bitter because of the gifts that were handed out at the birth lottery. A key turning point is when Jonathan rejects the "strange hollow voice" in his mind which tells him:
"There's no way around it. I am a seagull. I am limited by nature. If I were meant to learn so much about flying, I'd have charts for brains. If I were meant to fly at speed, I'd have a falcon's short wings... I must... be content as I am, as a poor limited seagull."
Jonathan rejects this when he realizes that by tucking his wings close to his body he can simulate the falcon's short wings and fly fast even though he wasn't born with short wings. After he tries this and is able to fly faster than any gull could with extended wings, Jonathan realizes: "We can be free! We can learn to fly!"
JLS says that mental restrictions are the biggest factor keeping us from reaching our potential. Some of those restrictions come from society, and some are self-created mental straitjackets. All of those mental limits are false and unnecessary. The truth according to Jonathan is:
"Your whole body... is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your mind, and you break the chains of your body, too..."
(That can be seen as a totally non-religious statement. Our bodies today are the result of how hard we worked in the past and the mental limitations we didn't shed, and "our thought" = our mind is what determined that.)
This leads Jonathan to answer these questions very differently from society: Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Should I be egotistical?
Society tells us that we should conform, and we specifically are what the birth lottery gave us, like someone might be "heavy set, average intelligence but good in math". Society says that we should be immensely proud of everything we (supposedly) were born with, and of every victory, and should be intensely ashamed of anything we were born without, and of every defeat.
Jonathan however, believing we are not limited by birth, sees each of us as being unique and of unlimited potential. Our goal and purpose in life is simply to be ourselves. This is not the limited self we are at the start of adult life, but everything which hard work could make us:
"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."
"Each of us in truth is an idea... , an unlimited idea of freedom, and precision flying is a step towards expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside."
This means that ego is meaningless, because what we are today is simply the result of yesterday's hard work, and whatever races we lose today could be won in the future if we work hard enough. Today's ranking and abilities are just the starting point for the rest of our lives, not something to get egotistical about. As one of Jonathan's students thought with a smile once he began teaching his own students, "No limits, Jonathan? Well, then, the time's not too distant when I'm going to appear out of thin air on YOUR beach, and show you a thing or two about flying!..."
The reason why I discussed this in length is to disagree with reviews which say that JLS must be seen as a religious book, and that it teaches only "common sense" truths. It is rare, not common, to meet anyone who believes what JLS teaches.