Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach


Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a fictional story about a seagull, Jonathan Livingston, who is the odd bird in his group of seagulls. He likes flying for the sake of flying instead of flying as a means to get food. This sets him on a path of initial failure and misery eventually leading to enlightenment. This short story depicts all phases of someone who breaks the status quo and follows his own path with all consequences of this lifestyle. This review shows all the phases Jonathan experiences throughout the book.


Jonathan Livingston grows up in a group of seagulls where everyone flies for the sole purpose to eat. Jonathon on the other hand has the desire to discover what he’s capable of with his aerobatics. He has a passion for flying while the group and mainly his parents discourage him. They discourage him out of fear that he won’t get enough food to survive. After several failures Jonathan manages a breakthrough in achieving greater speeds of flying. However, the group is not keen on his experiments and the leader of the group decides to bannish him. Though hurt Jonathan leaves the group but with the freedom to experiment further in flying.


Eventually Jonathan meets other seagulls whom are also rejected by their peers and created their own society. This society focuses on achieving transcendence through flying. Jonathan is a quick learner in the eyes of his mentor Sullivan. Though everyone is vastly different they all share one thing in common: Freedom is found in being your true self and nothing stands in your way to be your true self here and now.


The last words of his teacher are “Keep working on love” because through forgiveness transcendence is achieved. Jonathan’s diligence through time helped him to transcend into a limitless seagull. With his insights he returns to his old group and shares his controversial view on flying and life. Through forgiving the group for their judgement, Jonathan manages to slowly teach the group a transcended way of life.


When I read through the lines I can distill the following: If you feel an inner desire to master something despite failure, discouragement and even rejection then it’s only a matter of when before you succeed. There will always be those whom through their limited world view for whatever reason want to keep you at their level. However, that doesn’t make it right or wrong, it’s just how we are wired. But we can change our wiring. Once in a while there’s someone who looks past the exisitng paradigms and explores the unknown. Of this subset of people only a few manage to break through. Failure, fear of humiliation, procrastination are one of the few aspects that keep people with the desire to progress at bay. However, the few that conquer themselves reach enlightenment by mastering paradigm shattering insights.

I find this a powerful book because it is storytelling and descriptive. I recommend this book highly so you can identify for yourselves in which stage you currently are and what the outlook could be!


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