Dec 29, 2009

Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A review

"The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other."

Seeing this Richard Bach's existential novella among the top British fictions of all time finally convinced me that, maybe there is substance to all the praises and acclaim this book has been garnering all these years and I must read it! Hadn't known the book was so short. Finished it in one reading and in less than an hour and loved it!

"Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight--how to get from shore to food and back again," and hence ordinary and that's why the novella is not about them. It about a seagull among them called "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" who aims not to be the ordinary, but to be the ordinary extraordinary. Jonathan is plagued by the existential question of meaning of life and he is bored with the daily squabbles over food. He is dissatisfied with the restricted norm of life of his comrades, for whom it is not flying that matters, but eating. And that's all they care about in life. But Jonathan is different as flying matters more to him than eating. Seized by the passion for flying, he pushes himself, learning everything he can about flying, and keeps mastering the higher levels of the art of flying. His unwillingness to confirm to the social norm that seagulls don't fly and shouldn't care about flying eventually gets him banished from his flock. Being an outcast, Jonathan keeps yearning towards perfection. There is more to the story but I wouldn't want to spoil your fun…

Ultimately, the novella is about finding a higher purpose in life even if it doesn't confirm to the views of your friends, family or neighborhoods. I liked the simplicity of the novella. It's as simple as a story can be and yet quite inspiring and offering convincing explanations to questions of life and its meaning. Like the author says in the beginning that the book is to the real Jonathan living within us, it does force you to introspect. Limiting yourself is can be one of the worst you can do. The book inspires the readers to break the limits imposed upon them by the society, social norms and by themselves as well. It urges you to come out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself which as the author describes leads to perfection. And finding perfection is the best thing anyone can make out of their existence in this absurd and indifferent universe!

"Remember Jonathan heaven is not a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless.", "Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is now." Bach's simplicity hasn't failed to convey the existential themes to the readers convincingly.

"It is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form." "The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other." Richard Bach emphasizes the importance of individual freedom. And of course, freedom I believe is the most basic of the fundamental rights any individual has. And freedom is what makes existence worth having, I believe.

A highly recommended reading! In some reviews you'll find the book being appreciated or criticized for bearing resemblance to Christianity though. Just ignore the BS, who cares anyway?

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