Jonathan Livingston Seagull – Book Review
Buy the Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull
The Book in Three Sentences
If you want to be great, expect to stand out from the ground by default. When you stand out from the crowd, you will feel like and outsider and loner, but that’s okay because you love what you do and care more about greatness than social acceptance. At some point, you will need to return to society to show others how to be great.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull Summary
This is my book summary of Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. My notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.
- Reaching for perfection gives you freedom in space and time, not the other way around (freedom in space and time does not make you perfect)
- Jonathan starts out with a vision of greatness… he is more compelled by reaching for perfection than he is by avoiding the mundane beach existence of the other gulls
- [ But we see later, with his first student, that some gulls are compelled to avoid fear (rather than strive for perfection)]
- He starts life by trying things… the first social pressure he needs to overcome are his friends, who are all hanging out and doing the same thing. He does this pretty easily…
- The next social pressure he has to overcome is his parents: Mom says, “just do what the other gulls are doing.” Dad says, “just learn the ways of getting food… after all, that’s what the purpose of a gull is anyway — to find and acquire food.”
- The next social pressure he has to overcome is society itself, aka the council of gulls: “you cannot learn these things and fly so high.” Eventually, he is banished by the society of gulls.
- Nevertheless, he holds on to his vision of perfection… what a gull can and should be… because he enjoys the simple act of flying.
- He becomes very lonely, with no one else to hang out with… he is the only gull flying so fast and so high. He starts to give up on life, when…
- Two gulls come meet him, and fly him away.
- He thinks he is going to heaven… they fly higher and higher… eventually he decides he is in heaven
- But then, they reach a white sandy shore. There, it is full of other gulls just like Jonathan, all of whom want to learn to fly high and fast.
- He meets a teacher, who teaches him how to fly incredibly fast, almost as if he is teleporting from place to place.
- The teacher eventually teaches him also how to “move through time”, aka past and present.
- Eventually his teacher dies, and Jonathan feels the urge to return home. He realizes that there are other seagulls in his old flock that may have his passion for flight, and need guidance.
- Against the advice of some of the awesome gulls, he returns back with a few select students.
- He is not welcome; the gull “council” rejects Jonathan and his students.
- He pushes forward, landing on a beach at night and talking about his ideas.
- Eventually, other gulls gather out of curiosity and question Jonathan.
- Slowly, the crowd of gulls swells to thousands.
- In the end, Jonathan’s ideal vision of seagulls as a high-flying, free bird takes hold in the group and the gull society is transformed.
This is a list of authors, books, and concepts related to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which might be useful for future reading.