One of my favourite all time books is Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I read it a long time ago, yet it continues to inspire me with the desire to be the best I can be; to not be afraid of being different and to ‘go for it’.
As per Wikipedia.org: “The book tells the story of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a seagull who is bored with the daily squabbles over food. Seized by a passion for flight, he pushes himself, learning everything he can about flying, until finally his unwillingness to conform results in his expulsion from his flock. An outcast, he continues to learn, becoming increasingly pleased with his abilities as he leads a peaceful and happy life.
One day, Jonathan is met by two gulls who take him to a “higher plane of existence” in that there is no heaven but a better world found through perfection of knowledge, where he meets other gulls who love to fly. He discovers that his sheer tenacity and desire to learn make him “pretty well a one-in-a-million bird.” In this new place, Jonathan befriends the wisest gull, Chiang, who takes him beyond his previous learning, teaching him how to move instantaneously to anywhere else in the Universe. The secret, Chiang says, is to “begin by knowing that you have already arrived.” Not satisfied with his new life, Jonathan returns to Earth to find others like him, to bring them his learning and to spread his love for flight. His mission is successful, gathering around him others who have been outlawed for not conforming. Ultimately, the very first of his students, Fletcher Lynd Seagull, becomes a teacher in his own right and Jonathan leaves to teach other flocks.”
The book is incredibly simple in structure and ‘read-ability’ which has often inspired criticism but I think the structure reinforces the message. We’ve heard it since childhood: ‘do your best’ but it’s a message we seem to forget as we grow older. We’d rather walk than run. We’d sooner ‘settle’ than strive for the ideal. J.L. Seagull reminds me to continue to learn and grow.