To the real Jonathan Seagull,
                                             who lives within us all.

     It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a
gentle sea. A mile from shore a fishing boat chummed the  water.  and  the
word for Breakfast Flock flashed through  the  air,  till  a  crowd  of  a
thousand seagulls came to dodge and fight for bits of food. It was another
busy day beginning.
     But way off alone, out by himself beyond  boat  and  shore,  Jonathan
Livingston Seagull was practicing. A hundred feet in the  sky  he  lowered
his webbed feet, lifted his beak, and strained  to  hold  a  painful  hard
twisting curve through his wings.  The  curve  meant  that  he  would  fly
slowly, and now he slowed until the wind was a whisper in his face,  until
the ocean stood  still  beneath  him.  He  narrowed  his  eyes  in  fierce
concentration, held his breath, forced one...  single...  more...  inch...
of... curve... Then his featliers ruffled, he stalled and fell.
     Seagulls, as you know, never falter, never stall. To stall in the air
is for them disgrace and it is dishonor.
     But Jonathan Livingston  Seagull,  unashamed,  stretching  his  wings
again in that trembling hard curve - slowing, slowing, and  stalling  once
more - was no ordinary bird.
     Most gulls don't bother to learn more  than  the  simplest  facts  of
flight - how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls,  it
is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was  not
eating that mattered,  but  flight.  More  than  anything  else.  Jonathan
Livingston Seagull loved to fly.
     This kind of thinking, he found, is not the way to  make  one's  self
popular with other birds. Even his parents were dismayed as Jonathan spent
whole days alone, making hundreds of low-level glides, experimenting.

     He didn't know why, for instance, but when he flew at altitudes  less
than half his wingspan above the water, he could stay in the  air  longer,
with less effort. His glides ended not with  the  usual  feet-down  splash
into the sea, but with a long flat wake as he touched the surface with his
feet tightly streamlined against his body. When he  began  sliding  in  to
feet-up landings on the beach, then pacing the length of his slide in  the
sand, his parents were very much dismayed indeed.
     "Why, Jon, why?" his mother asked. "Why is it so hard to be like  the
rest of the flock, Jon? Why can't you leave low flying  to  the  pelicans,
the alhatross? Why don't you eat? Son, you're bone and feathers!"
     "I don't mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I
can do in the air and what I can't, that's all. I just want to know."
     "See here Jonathan " said his father not unkindly. "Winter isn't  far
away. Boats will be few and the surface fish will be swimming deep. If you
must study, then study food, and how to get it. This  flying  business  is
all very well, but you can't eat a glide, you know. Don't you forget  that
the reason you fly is to eat."
     Jonathan nodded obediently. For the next few days he tried to  behave
like the other gulls; he really tried, screeching and  fighting  with  the
flock around the piers and fishing boats, diving on  scraps  of  fish  and
bread. But he couldn't make it work.
     It's all so pointless, he thought, deliberately dropping  a  hard-won
anchovy to a hungry old gull chasing him. I could  be  spending  all  this
time learning to fly. There's so much to learn!

     It wasn't long before Jonathan Gull was off by himself again, far out
at sea, hungry, happy, learning.
     The subject was speed, and in a week's practice he learned more about
speed than the fastest gull alive.
     From a thousand feet, flapping his wings as  hard  as  he  could,  he
pushed over into a blazing steep dive toward the waves,  and  learned  why
seagulls don't make blazing steep pewer-dives. In just six seconds he  was
moving seventy miles per hour, the speed at which one's wing goes unstable
on the upstroke.
     Time after time it happened. Careful as he was, working at  the  very
peak of his ability, he lost control at high speed.
     Climb to a thousand feet. Full power straight ahead first, then  push
over, flapping, to a vertical  dive.  Then,  every  time,  his  left  wing
stalled on an upstroke, he'd roll violently left,  stall  his  right  wing
recovering, and flick like fire into a wild tumbling spin to the right.
     He couldn't be careful enough on that upstroke. Ten times  he  tried,
and all ten times, as he passed through seventy miles per hour,  he  burst
into a churning mass of feathers, out of control, crashing down  into  the
     The key, he thought at last, dripping wet, must be to hold the  wings
still at high speeds - to flap up to fifty and then hold the wings still.
     From two thousand feet he tried again, rolling into  his  dive,  beak
straight down, wings full out and stable from the moment he  passed  fifty
miles per hour. It took tremendous strength, but it worked. In ten seconds
he had blurred through ninety miles per hour. Jonathan  had  set  a  world
speed record for seagulls!
     But victory was short-lived. The instant he began  his  pullout,  the
instant he changed the angle of his  wings,  he  snapped  into  that  same
terrible uncontrolled disaster, and at ninety miles per hour  it  hit  him
like dynamite. Jonathan Seagull exploded in midair and smashed down into a
brickhard sea.
     When he came to, it was well after dark, and he floated in  moonlight
on the surface of the ocean. His wings were ragged bars of lead,  but  the
weight of failure was even heavier on his back. He  wished,  feebly,  that
the weight could be just enough to drug him gently down to the bottom, and
end it all.
     As he sank low in the water, a strange hollow  voice  sounded  within
him. There's no way around it. I am a seagull. I am limited by my  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, and live
on mice instead  of  fish.  My  father  was  right.  I  must  forget  this
foolishness. I must fly home to the Flock and be content as  I  am,  as  a
poor limited seagull.
     The voice faded, and Jonathan agreed. The  place  for  a  seagull  at
night is on shore, and from this moment forth, he vowed,  he  would  be  a
normal gull. It would make everyone happier.
     He pushed wearily away from the dark water and flew toward the  land,
grateful for what he had learned about work-saving low-altitude flying.
     But no, he thought. I am done with the way I  was,  I  am  done  with
everything I learned. I am a seagull like every other seagull, and I  will
fly like one. So he climbed painfully to a hundred feet  and  flapped  his
wings harder, pressing for shore.
     He felt better for his decision to be just another one of the  Flock.
There would be no ties now to the force that  had  driven  him  to  learn,
there would be no more challenge and no more failure. And it  was  pretty,
just to stop thinking, and fly through the dark, toward the  lights  above
the beach.
     Dark! The hollow voice cracked in alarm. Seagulls never  fly  in  the
     Jonathan was not alert to listen. It's pretty, he thought.  The  moon
and the lights twinkling on the water, throwing out  little  beacon-trails
through the night, and all so peaceful and still...
     Get down! Seagulls never fly in the dark! If you were meant to fly in
the dark, you'd have the eyes of an owl! You'd  have  charts  for  brains!
You'd have a falcon's short wings!
     There in the night, a hundred feet in the  air,  Jonathan  Livingston
Seagull - blinked. His pain, his resolutions, vanished.
     Short wings. A falcon's short wings!
     That's the answer! What a fool I've been! All I need is a tiny little
wing, all I need is to fold most of my wings and  fly  on  just  the  tips
alone! Short wings!
     He climbed two thousand feet above  the  black  sea,  and  without  a
moment for thought of failure and death, he brought his forewings  tightly
in to his body, left  only  the  narrow  swept  daggers  of  his  wingtips
extended into the wind, and fell into a vertical dive.
     The wind was a monster roar at his  head.  Seventy  miles  per  hour,
ninety, a hundred and twenty and faster still. The wing-strain  now  at  a
hundred and forty miles per hour wasn't nearly as  hard  as  it  had  been
before at seventy, and with the faintest twist of his  wingtips  he  eased
out of the dive and shot above the waves,  a  gray  cannonball  under  the
     He closed his eyes to slits against the wind and rejoiced. A  hundred
forty miles per hour! And under control! If I dive from five thousand feet
instead of two thousand, I wonder how fast..
     His vows of a moment before were forgotten, swept away in that  great
swift wind. Yet he felt guiltless,  breaking  the  promises  he  had  made
himself. Such promises are only for the gulls that  accept  the  ordinary.
One who has touched excellence in his learning has no need of that kind of
     By sunup, Jonathan Gull was practicing again. From five thousand feet
the fishing boats were specks in the flat blue water, Breakfast Flock  was
a faint cloud of dust motes, circling.
     He was alive, trembling ever so slightly with delight, proud that his
fear was under control. Then without ceremony he hugged in his  forewings,
extended his short, angled wingtips, and plunged direcfly toward the  sea.
By the time he passed four thousand feet he had reached terminal velocity,
the wind was a solid beating wall of sound against which he could move  no
faster. He was flying now straight down, at two hundred fourteen miles per
hour. He swallowed, knowing that if his wings unfolded at that speed  be'd
be blown into a million tiny shreds of seagull. But the speed  was  power,
and the speed was joy, and the speed was pure beauty.
     He began his pullout  at  a  thousand  feet,  wingtips  thudding  and
blurring in that gigatitic wind, the boat and the crowd of  gulls  tilting
and growing meteor-fast, directly in his path.
     He couldn't stop; he didn't know yet even how to turn at that speed.
     Collision would be instant death.
     And so he shut his eyes.
     It happened that morning, then, just  after  sunrise,  that  Ionathan
Livingston Seagull fired directly through the center of  Breakfast  Flock,
ticking off two hundred twelve miles per hour, eyes  closed,  in  a  great
roaring shriek of wind and feathers. The Gull of Fortune smiled  upon  him
this once, and no one was killed.
     By the time he had pulled his beak straight up into the  sky  he  was
still scorching along at a hundred and sixty miles per hour. When  he  had
slowed to twenty and stretched his wings again at last,  the  boat  was  a
crumb on the sea, four thousand feet below.
     His thought was triumph. Terminal velocity! A seagull at two  hundred
fourteen miles per hour! It was a breakthrough, the greatest single moment
in the history of the Flock, and in that  moment  a  new  age  opened  for
Jonathan Gull. Flying out to his lonely practice area, folding  his  wings
for a dive from eight thousand feet, he set himself at  once  to  discover
how to turn.
     A single wingtip feather, he found, moved  a  fraction  of  an  inch,
gives a smooth sweeping curve at tremendous speed. Before he learned this,
however, he found that moving more than one feather  at  that  speed  will
spin you like a ritIe ball... and Jonathan had flown the first  aerobatics
of any seagull on earth.
     He spared no time that day for talk with other  gulls,  but  flew  on
past sunset. He discovered the loop, the slow roll, the  point  roll,  the
inverted spin, the gull bunt, the pinwheel.

     When Jonathan Seagull joined the Flock on  the  beach,  it  was  full
night. He was dizzy and terribly tired. Yet in delight he flew a  loop  to
landing, with a snap roll just before touchdown. When they hear of it,  he
thought, of the Breakthrough, they'll be wild  with  joy.  How  much  more
there is now to living! Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the
fishing boats, there's a reason to life! We  can  lift  ourselves  out  of
ignorance,  we  can  find  ourselves  as  creatures  of   excellence   and
intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn to fly!
     The years ahead hummed and glowed with promise.
     The gulls were flocked into the Council Gathering when he landed, and
apparently had been so flocked for some time. They were, in fact, waiting.
     "Jonathan Livingston Seagull! Stand to  Center!"  The  Elder's  words
sounded in a voice of highest ceremony. Stand to Center meant  only  great
shame or great honor. Stand to Center for Honor was  the  way  the  gulls'
foremost leaders were marked. Of course, he thought, the  Breakfast  Flock
this morning; they saw the Breakthrough! But I want no honors. I  have  no
wish to be leader. I want only to share what I've  found,  to  show  those
horizons out ahead for us all. He stepped forward.
     "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," said the Elder, "Stand to  Center  for
Shame in the sight of your fellow gulls!"
     It felt like being hit  with  a  board.  His  knees  went  weak,  his
feathers sagged, there was  roaring  in  his  ears.  Centered  for  shame?
Impossible!  The  Breakthrough!  They  can't  understand!  They're  wrong,
they're wrong!
     "... for his reckless irresponsibility " the  solemn  voice  intoned,
"violating the dignity and tradition of the Gull Family..."
     To be centered for shame meant that he would  be  cast  out  of  gull
society, banished to a solitary life on the Far Cliffs.
     "... one day  Jonathan  Livingston  Seagull,  you  shall  learn  that
irresponsibility does not pay. Life is the  unknown  and  the  unknowable,
except that we are put into this world to eat, to stay alive as long as we
possibly can."
     A seagull never  speaks  back  to  the  Council  Flock,  but  it  was
Jonathan's voice raised. "Irresponsibility? My brothers!" he  cried.  "Who
is more responsible than a gull who finds and follows a meaning, a  higher
purpose for life? For a thousand years we have scrabbled after fish heads,
but now we have a reason to live - to learn, to discover, to be free! Give
me one chance, let me show you what I've found..."
     The Flock might as well have been stone.
     "The Brotherhood is broken," the gulls intoned together, and with one
accord they solemnly closed their ears and turned their backs upon him.
     Jonathan Seagull spent the rest of his days alone, but  he  flew  way
out beyond the Far Cliffs. His one sorrow was not solituile, it  was  that
other gulls refused to believe the glory of flight that awaited them; they
refused to open their eyes and see. He learned more each day.  He  learned
that a streamlined high-speed dive could bring him to find  the  rare  and
tasty fish that schooled ten feet below the surface of the  ocean:  he  no
longer needed fishing boats and stale bread for survival.  He  learned  to
sleep in the air, setting a course at  night  across  the  offshore  wind,
covering a hundred miles from sunset  to  sunrise.  With  the  same  inner
control, he flew through  heavy  sea-fogs  and  climbed  above  them  into
dazzling clear skies... in the very times when every other gull  stood  on
the ground, knowing nothing but mist and rain. He learned to ride the high
winds far inland, to dine there on delicate insects.
     What he had once hoped for the  Flock,  he  now  gained  for  himself
alone; he learned to fly, and was not sorry for  the  price  that  he  had
paid. Jonathan Scagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are  the
reasons that a gull's life is so short,  and  with  these  gone  from  his
thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.
     They came in the evening, then, and found Ionathan  gliding  peaceful
and alone through his beloved sky. The two  gulls  that  appeared  at  his
wings were pure as starlight, and  the  glow  from  them  was  gentle  and
friendly in the high night air. But most lovely of all was the skill  with
which they flew, their wingtips moving a precise and  constant  inch  from
his own. Without a word, Jonathan put them to his test,  a  test  that  no
gull had ever passed. He twisted his wings, slowed to a  single  mile  per
hour above stall. The two radiant birds slowed with him, smoothly,  locked
in position. They knew about slow flying.
     He folded his wings, rolled and dropped in a dive to a hundred ninety
miles per  hour.  They  dropped  with  him,  streaking  down  in  flawless
     At last he turned  that  speed  straight  up  into  a  long  vertical
slow-roll. They rolled with him, smiling.
     He recovered to level flight and was  quiet  for  a  time  before  he
spoke. "Very well," he said, "who are you?"
     "We're from your Flock, Jonathan. We are your  brothers."  The  words
were strong and calm. "We've come to take you higher, to take you home."
     "Home I have none. Flock I have none. I am Outcast. And we fly now at
the peak of the Great Mountain Wind. Beyond a few hundred feet, I can lift
this old body no higher."
     "But you can Jonathan. For you have learned. One school is  finished,
and the time has come for another to begin."
     As it had shined across him all his life,  so  understanding  lighted
that moment for Jonathan Seagull. They were right. He  could  fly  higher,
and it was time to go home.
     He gave one last look across the sky, across that magnificent  silver
land where he had learned so much.
     "I'm ready " he said at last.
     And Jonathan Livingston Seagull rose with the two starbright gulls to
disappear into a perfect dark sky.

     So this is heaven, he thought, and he had to smile at himself. It was
hardly respectful to analyze heaven in the very moment that one  flies  up
to enter it.
     As he came from Earth now, above the clouds and  in  close  formation
with the two brilliant gulls, he saw that his  own  body  was  growing  as
bright as theirs. True, the same young Jonathan Seagull was there that had
always lived behind his golden eyes, but the outer form had changed.
     It felt like a seagull body, but alreadv it flew far better than  his
old one had ever flown. Why, with half the effort, he  thought,  I'll  get
twice the speed, twice the performance of my best days on Earth!
     His feathers glowed brilliant white now, and his  wings  were  smooth
and perfect as sheets of polished silver. He began, delightedly, to  learn
about them, to press power into these new wings.
     At two hundred fifty mlles per hour he felt that he was  nearing  his
level-flight maximum speed. At two hundred seventy-three he  thought  that
he was flying as fast as  he  could  fly,  and  he  was  ever  so  faintly
disappointed. There was a limit to how much the new  body  could  do,  and
though it was much faster than his old level-flight record, it was still a
limit that would take great effort to crack. In heaven, he thought,  there
should be no limits.
     The  clouds  broke  apart,  his  escorts  called,  "Happy   landings,
Jonathan," and vanished into thin air.
     He was flying over a sea, toward  a  jagged  shoreline.  A  very  few
seagulls were working the updrafts on the cliffs. Away off to  the  north,
at the horizon itself, flew a few others. New sights,  new  thoughts,  new
questions. Why so few gulls? Heaven should be flocked with gulls! And  why
am I so tired, all at once? Gulls in  heaven  are  never  supposed  to  be
tired, or to sleep.
     Where had he heard that? The memory of his life on Earth was  falling
away. Earth had been a place where he had learned much, of course, but the
details were blurred -  something  about  fighting  for  food,  and  being
     The dozen gulls by the shoreline came to  meet  him,  none  saying  a
word. He felt only that he was welcome and that this was home. It had been
a bigday for him, a day whose sunrise he no longer remembered.
     He turned to land on the beach, beating his wings to stop an inch  in
the air, then dropping lightly to the sand, The other  gulls  landed  too,
but not one of them so much as flapped a  feather.  They  swung  into  the
wind, bright wings outstretched, then somehow they changed  the  curve  of
their feathers until they had stopped  in  the  same  instant  their  feet
touched the ground. It was beautiful control, but now  Jonathan  was  just
too tired to try it. Standiug there on the beach,  still  without  a  word
spoken, he was asleep.
     In the days that followed, Jonathan saw that there  was  as  much  to
learn about flight in this place as there had been in the life behind him.
But with a difference. Here were gulls who thought as he thought, For each
of them, the most important thing in living was to  reach  out  and  touch
perfection in that which they most loved to do, and that was to fly.  They
were magnificent birds, all of them, and they spent hour after hour  every
day practicing flight, testing advanced aeronautics.
     For a long time Jonathan forgot about the  world  that  he  had  come
from, that place where the Flock lived with its eyes tightly shut  to  the
joy of flight, using its wings as means to the end of finding and fighting
for food. But now and then, just for a moment, he remembered.
     He remembered it one morning when he was  out  with  his  instructor,
while they rested on the beach after a session of folded-wing snap rolls.
     "Where is everybody, Sullivan?" he asked silently, quite at home  now
with the easy telepathy that  these  gulls  used  instead  of  screes  and
gracks. "Why aren't there more of us here? Why, where I  came  from  there
were.. "
     "... thousands and thousands of gulls. I know. " Sullivan  shook  his
head. "The only answer I can see, Jonathan, is that you are pretty well  a
one-in-a-million bird. Most of us came along ever so slowly. We went  from
one world into another that was almost exactly like it,  forgettiug  right
away where we had come from, not caring where we were headed,  living  for
the moment. Do you have any idea how many lives we must have gone  through
before we even gor the first idea that there is more to life than  eating,
or fighting, or power in the Flock? A thousand lives, Jon,  ten  thousand!
And then another hundred lives until we began to learn that there is  such
a thing as perfection, and another hundred again to get the idea that  our
purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth. The  same
rule holds for us now, of course: we choose our next world through what we
learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same  as  this
one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome."
     He stretched his wings and turned to face the wind. "But  you,  Jon,"
he said, "learned so much at one time that you didn't have to go through a
thousand lives to reach this one."
     In a moment they  were  airborne  again,  practicing.  The  formation
point-roils were difficult, for through the inverted half Jonathan had  to
think upside down, reversing the curve  of  his  wing,  and  reversing  it
exactly in harmony with his instructor's.
     "Let's try it again." Sullivan said over  and  over:  "Let's  try  it
again." Then, finally, "Good." And they began practicing outside loops.

     One evening the gulls that were not night-flying  stood  together  on
the sand, thinking. Jonathan took all his courage in hand  and  walked  to
the Elder Gull, who, it was said, was soon to be moving beyond this world.
"Chiang..." he said a little nervously.
     The old seagull looked at him kindly. "Yes, my son?" Instead of being
enfeebled by age, the Elder had been empowered by it; he could outfly  any
gull in the Flock, and he had learned skills that  the  others  were  only
gradually coming to know.
     "Chiang, this world isn't heaven at all, is it?" The Elder smiled  in
the moonlight. "You are learning again, Jonathan Seagull," he said.
     "Well, what happens from here? Where are we going? Is there  no  such
place as heaven?"
     "No, Jonathan, there is no such place. Heaven is not a place, and  it
is not a time. Heaven is being perfect." He was silent for a moment.  "You
are a very fast flier, aren't you?"
     "I... I enjoy speed," Jonathan said, taken aback but proud  that  the
Elder had noticed.
     "You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in  the  moment  that  you
touch perfect speed. And that isn't flying a thousand miles an hour, or  a
million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is  a  limit,
and perfection doesn't have  limits.  Perfect  speed,  my  son,  is  being
     Without warning, Chiang vanished and appeared  at  the  water's  edge
fifty feet away, all in the flicker of an instant. Then he vanished  again
and stood, in the same millisecond, at Jonathan's shoulder. "It's kind  of
fun," he said.

     Jonathan was dazzled. He forgot to ask about heaven. "How do  you  do
that? What does it feel like? How far can you go?"
     "You can go to any place and to any time that you wish  to  go,"  the
Elder said. "I've gone everywhere and everywhen I can think of." He looked
across the sea. "It's strange. The gulls who scorn perfection for the sake
of travel go nowhere, slowly. Those who put aside travel for the  sake  of
perfection go anywhere, instantly.  Remember,  Jonathan,  heaven  isn't  a
place or a time, because place and time are so  very  meaningless.  Heaven
     "Can you teach me to fly like that?"  Jonathan  Seagull  trembled  to
conquer another unknown.
     "Of course if you wish to learn."
     "I wish. When can we start?".
     "We could start now if you'd like."
     "I want to learn to fly like that," Jonathan said and a strange light
glowed in his eyes. "Tell me what to do,"
     Chiang spoke slowly and watched the younger gull ever  so  carefully.
"To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is," he said, "you must begin
by knowing that you have already arrived ..."
     The trick, according to Chiang,  was  for  Jonathan  to  stop  seeing
himself as trapped inside  a  limited  body  that  had  a  forty-two  inch
wingspan and performance that could be plotted on a chart. The  trick  was
to know that his true nature lived, as perfect  as  an  unwritten  number,
everywhere at once across space and time.

     Jonathan kept at it, fiercely, day after  day,  from  before  sunrise
till past midnight. And for all his effort he moved not  a  feather  width
from his spot.
     "Forget about faith!" Chiang said it time and again. "You didn't need
faith to fly, you needed to understand flying.This is jast the  same.  Now
try again ..."
     Then one day Jonathan, standing  on  the  shore,  closing  his  eyes,
concentrating, all in a flash knew what Chiang had been telling him. "Why,
that's true! I am a perfect, unlimited gull!" He felt  a  great  shock  of
     "Good!" said Chiang and there was victory in his voice.
     Jonathan opened his eyes. He stood alone with the Elder on a  totally
different seashore - trees down to the  water's  edge,  twin  yellow  suns
turning overhead.
     "At last you've got the idea," Chiang said, "but your control needs a
little work... "
     Jonathan was stunned. "Where are we?"
     Utterly unimpressed with the strange surroundings, the Elder  brushed
the question aside. "We're on some planet, obviously, with a green sky and
a double star for a sun."
     Jonathan made a scree of delight, the first sound he had  made  since
he had left Earth. "IT WORKS!"
     "Well, of course, it works, Jon." said Chiang. "It always works, when
you know what you're doing. Now about your control..."
     By the time they returned, it was dark. The  other  gulls  looked  at
Jonathan with awe in their golden eyes, for they had  seen  him  disappear
from where he had been rooted for so long.
     He stood their congratulations for  less  than  a  minute.  "I'm  the
newcomer here! I'm just beginning! It is I who must learn from you!"
     "I wonder about that, Jon," said Sullivan standing  near.  "You  have
less fear of learning than any gull I've seen in ten thousand years.  "The
Flock fell silent, and Jonathan fidgeted in embarrassment.
     "We can start working with time if you wish," Chiang said, "till  you
can fly the past and the future. And then you will be ready to  begin  the
most difficult, the most powerful, the most fun of all. You will be  ready
to begin to fly up and know the meaning of kindness and of love."
     A month went by, or something that  felt  about  like  a  month,  and
Jonathan learned at a tremendous rate. He always had learned quickly  from
ordinary experience, and now, the special student of the Elder Himself, he
took in new ideas like a streamlined feathered computer.
     But then the day came that  Chiang  vanished.  He  had  been  talking
quietly with them all, exhorting them never to  stop  their  learning  and
their practicing and their striving to  understand  more  of  the  perfect
invisible principle of all life. Then, as  he  spoke,  his  feathers  went
brighter and brighter and at last turned so brilliant that no  gull  could
look upon him.
     "Jonathan," he said, and these were the last  words  that  he  spoke,
"keep working on love."
     When they could see again, Chiang was gone.
     As the days went past, Jonathan found himself thinking time and again
of the Earth from which he had come. If he had known there just  a  tenth,
just a hundredth, of what he knew here, how  much  more  life  would  have
meant! He stood on the sand and fell to wondering if there was a gull back
there who might be struggling to break out  of  his  limits,  to  see  the
meaning of flight beyond a way of  travel  to  get  a  breadcrumb  from  a
rowboat. Perhaps there might even have been one made Outcast for  speaking
his truth in the face of the Flock. And the more  Jonathan  practiced  his
kindness lessons, and the more he worked to know the nature of  love,  the
more he wanted to go back to Earth. For  in  spite  of  his  lonely  past,
Jonathan Seagull was born  to  be  an  instructor,  and  his  own  way  of
demonstrating love was to give something of the truth that he had seen  to
a gull who asked only a chance to see truth for himself.
     Sullivan, adept now at thought-speed flight and helping the others to
learn, was doubrful.
     "Jon, you were Outcast once. Why do you think that any of  the  gulls
in your old time would listen to you now? You know the proverb,  and  it's
true: The gull sees farthest who flies highest. Those gulls where you came
from are standing on the ground, squawking and fighting among  themselves.
They're a thousand miles from heaven - and you say you want to  show  them
heaven from where they stand! Jon, they can't see their own wingtips! Stay
here. Help the new gulls here, the ones who are high enough  to  see  what
you have to tell them." He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, "What
if Chiang had gone back to his old  worlds?  Where  would  you  have  been
     The last point was the telling one, and Sullivan was right  The  gull
sees farthest who flies highest.
     Jonathan stayed and worked with the new birds coming in, who were all
very bright and quick with their lessons. But the old feeling  came  back,
and he couldn't help but think that there might be one or two  gulls  back
on Earth who would be able to learn, too. How  much  more  would  he  have
known by now if Chiang had come to him on the day that he was Outcast!
     "Sully, I must go back " he said at last  "Your  students  are  doing
well. They can help you bring the newcomers along."
     Sullivan sighed, but he did  not  argue.  "I  think  I'll  miss  you,
Jonathan," was all he said.
     "Sully, for shame!" Jonathan said in reproach, "and don't be foolish!
What are we trying to practice every day? If  our  friendship  depends  on
things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and  time,
we've destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all  we  have
left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have  left  is  Now.  And  in  the
middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other  once
or twice?"
     Sullivan Seagull laughed in spite of himself. "You  crazy  bird,"  he
said kindly. "If anybody can show someone on  the  ground  how  to  see  a
thousand miles, it will be Jonathan Livingston Seagull." He looked at  the
sand. "Good-bye, Jon, my friend."
     "Good bye, Sully. We'll meet again." And with that, Jonathan held  in
thought an image of the great gull flocks on the shore  of  another  time,
and he knew with practiced ease that he was not bone  and  feather  but  a
perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all.

     Fletcher Lynd Seagull was still quite young, but already he knew that
no bird had ever been so harshly treated by any Flock,  or  with  so  much
     "I don't care what they say," he thought  fiercely,  and  his  vision
blurred as he flew out toward the Far Cliffs. "There's  so  much  more  to
flying than just flapping around from place to place! A...  a...  mosquito
does that! One little barrel roll around the Elder Gull, just for fun, and
I'm Outcast! Are they blind? Can't they see? Can't they think of the glory
that it'll be when we really learn to fly?
     "I don't care what they think. I'll show them what flying is! I'll be
pure Outlaw, if that's the way  they  want  it.  And  I'll  make  them  so
     The voice came inside his own head, and though it was very gentle, it
startled him so much that he faltered and stumbled in the air.
     "Don't be harsh on them, Fletcher Seagull. In casting  you  out,  the
other gulls have only hurt themselves, and one day they  will  know  this,
and one day they will see what you see. Forgive them,  and  help  them  to
     An inch from his right wingtip flew the most brilliant white gull  in
all the world, gliding effortlessly along, not moving a feather,  at  what
was very nearly Fletcher's top speed.
     There was a moment of chaos in the young bird. "What's going on? Am I
mad? Am I dead? What is this?"
     Low and calm, the voice went on  within  his  thought,  demanding  an
answer. "Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly?"
     "YES, I WANT TO FLY!".
     "Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly  so  much  that  you  will
forgive the Flock, and learn, and go back to them one day and work to help
them know?"
     There was no lying to this magniflcent skillful being, no matter  how
proud or how hurt a bird was Fletcher Seagull.
     "I do " he said softly.
     "Then, Fletch," that bright creature said to him, and the  voice  was
very kind, "let's begin with Level Flight...."

     Jonathan circled slowly over the Far  Cliffs,  watching.  This  rough
young Fletcher Gull was very  nearly  a  perfect  flight-student.  He  was
strong and light and quick in the air, but far and away more important, he
had a blazing drive to learn to fly.
     Here he came this minute, a blurred gray shape roaring out of a dive,
flashing one hundred fifty miles per hour past his instructor.  He  pulled
abruptly into another try at a sixteen point vertical slow  roll,  calling
the points out loud.
     "...eight... nine... ten... see-Jonathan-l'm-running-out-ofairspeed..
eleven...      I-want-good-sharp-stops-like       yours...       twelve...
but-blast-it-Ijust-can't-make... -  thirteen...  theselast-three-points...
without... fourtee ...aaakk!"
     Fletcher's whipstall at the top was all the worse for  his  rage  and
fury at failing. He fell  backward,  tumbled,  slammed  savagely  into  an
inverted spin, and recovered at last, panting, a hundred  feet  below  his
instructor's level.
     "You're wasting your time with me, Jonathan! I'm too  dumb!  I'm  too
stupid! I try and try, but I'll never get it!"
     Jonathan Seagull looked down at him and nodded. "You'll never get  it
for sure as long as you make that pullup so hard. Fletcher, you lost forty
miles an hour in the entry! You  have  to  be  smooth!  Firm  but  smooth,
     He dropped down to the  level  of  the  younger  gull."Let's  try  it
together now, in formation. And pay  attention  to  that  pullup.  It's  a
smooth, easy entry."

     By the end of three months Jonathan had six other students,  Outcasts
all, yet curious about this strange new idea of  flight  for  the  joy  of
     Still, it was easier for them to practice high  performance  than  it
was to understand the reason behindit.
     "Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited  idea
of freedom," Jonathan would  say  in  the  evenings  on  the  beach,  "and
precision flying is a step toward expressing  our  real  nature.Everything
that limits us we have to  put  aside.  That's  why  all  this  high-speed
practice, and low speed, and aerobatics...."
     ...and his students would be asleep, exhausted from the day's flying.
They liked the practice, because it was fast and exciting  and  it  fed  a
hunger for learning that grew with every lesson. But not one of them,  not
even Fletcher Lynd Gull, had come to believe  that  the  flight  of  ideas
could possibly be as real as the flight of wind and feather.
     "Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip," Jonathan would say, other
times, "is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you  can  see.
Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of  your  body,
too..." But no matter how he said it, it sounded  like  pleasant  fiction,
and they needed more to sleep.
     It was only a month later that Jonathan said the  time  had  come  to
return to the Flock.
     "We're not ready!" said Henry Calvin Gull. "We're not welcome!  We're
Outcast! We can't force ourselves to go where we're not welcome, can we?"
     "We're free to go where we wish and to  be  what  we  are,"  Jonathan
answered, and he lifted from the sand and turned  east,  toward  the  home
grounds of the Flock.
     There was brief anguish among his students, for it is the Law of  the
Flock that an Outcast never returns, and the Law had not been broken  once
in ten thousand years. The Law said stay; Jonathan said go; and by now  he
was a mile across the water. If they waited much longer, he would reach  a
hostile Flock alone.
     "Well, we don't have to obey the law if  we're  not  a  part  of  the
Flock, do  we?"  Fletcher  said,  rather  self-consciously.  "Besides,  if
there's a fight we'll be a lot more help there than here."'
     And so they flew in from the west that morning, eight of  them  in  a
double-diamond formation, wingtips almost overlapping.  They  came  across
the Flock's Council  Beach  at  a  hundred  thirty-five  miles  per  hour,
Jonathan in the lead. Fletcher smoothly at his right  wing,  Henry  Calvin
struggling gamely at his left. Then the whole formation rolled  slowly  to
the right, as one bird... level... to... inverted... to... level, the wind
whipping over them all.
     The squawks and grockles of everyday life in the Flock were  cut  off
as though the formation were a giant knife, and eight  thousand  gull-eyes
watched, without a single blink. One by  one,  each  of  the  eight  birds
pulled sharply upward into a full loop and flew all the way  around  to  a
dead-slow stand-up landing on the sand. Then as though this sort of  thing
happened every day, Jonathan Seagull began his critique of the flight.
     "To begin with," he said with a wry smile, "you were all a  bit  late
on the join-up..."
     It went like lightning through the Flock. Those  birds  are  Outcast!
And  they  have  returned!  And  that...  that  can't  happen!  Fletcher's
predictions of battle melted in the Flock's confusion.
     "Well sure, O.K. they're Outcast," said some of  the  younger  gulls,
"but hey, man, where did they learn to fly like that?"
     It took almost an hour for the Word of the Elder to pass through  the
Flock: Ignore them. The gull who speaks to an Outcast is himself  Outcast.
The gull  who  looks  upon  an  Outcast  breaks  the  Law  of  the  Flock,
Gray-feathered backs were turned upon Jonathan from  that  moment  onward,
but he didn't appear to notice. He held  his  practice  sessions  directly
over the Council Beach and for the first time began pressing his  students
to the limit of their ability.
     "Martin Gull!" he shouted across the sky. "You say you know low-speed
flying. You know nothing till you prove it! FLY!"
     So quiet little Martin William Seagull, startled to be  caught  under
his instructor's fire, surprised  himself  and  became  a  wizard  of  low
speeds. In the lightest breeze he could curve his feathers to lift himself
without a single flap of wing from sand to cloud and down again.
     Likewise  Charles-Roland  Gull  flew  the  Great  Mountain  Wind   to
twenty-four thousand feet, came down blue from the cold thin  air,  amazed
and happy, determined to go still higher tomorrow.
     Fletcher Seagull, who loved aerobatics like no  one  else,  conquered
his sixteen point vertical slow roll and the next day topped it off with a
triple cartwheel, his feathers flashing white sunlight  to  a  beach  from
which more than one furtive eye watched.
     Every hour Jonathan was there at the side of each  of  his  students,
demonstrating, suggesting, pressuring, guiding. He flew with them  through
night and cloud and storm, for the sport of it, while  the  Flock  huddled
miserably on the ground.
     When the flying was done, the students relaxed in the  sand,  and  in
time they listened more closely to Jonathan. He had some crazy ideas  that
they couldn't understand, but then he had some good ones that they could.
     Gradually, in the night, another circle formed around the  circle  of
students a circle of curious gulls listening in the darkness for hours  on
end, not wishing to see or be seen of  one  another,  fading  away  before
     It was a month after the Return that the  first  gull  of  the  Flock
crossed the line and asked to learn how to fly. In  his  asking,  Terrence
Lowell Gull became a condemned bird, labeled Outcast; and  the  eighth  of
Jonathan's students.
     The next night from the Flock came Kirk Maynard Gull, wobbling across
the sand, dragging his leftwing,to collapse at Jonathan's feet. "Help me,"
he said very quietly, speaking in the way that the dying speak. "I want to
fly more than anything else in the world..."
     "Come along then." said  Jonathan.  "Climb  with  me  away  from  the
ground, and we'll begin."
     "You don't understand My wing. I can't move my wing."
     "Maynard Gull, you have the freedom to be yourself, your  true  self,
here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.It is the Law of the Great
Gull, the Law that Is."
     "Are you saying I can fly?"
     "I say you are free."
     As simply and as quickly as that, Kirk Maynard Gull spread his wings,
effortlessly, and lifted into the dark night air.  The  Flock  was  roused
from sleep by his cry, as loud as he could scream it,  from  five  hundred
feet up: "I can fly! Listen! I CAN FLY!"
     By sunrise there were nearly a thousand birds  standing  outside  the
circle of students, looking curiously at Maynard. They didn't care whether
they were seen or not, and they listened, trying  to  understand  Jonathan
     He spoke of very simple things - that it is right for a guil 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.
     "Set aside," came a voice from the multitude, "even if it be the  Law
of the Flock?"
     "The only true law is that which leads to  freedom,"  Jonathan  said.
"There is no other."
     "How do you expect us to fly as you fly?" came  another  voice.  "You
are special and gifted and divine, above other birds."
     "Look at Fletcher! Lowell! Charles-Roland! Judy Lee!  Are  they  also
special and gifted and divine? No more than you are, no more  than  I  am.
The only difference, the very  only  one,  is  that  they  have  begun  to
understand what they really are and have begun to practice it."
     His students, save Fletcher, shifted uneasily. They  hadn't  realized
that this was what they were doing.
     The crowd grew larger every day, coming to question, to  idolize,  to

     "They are saying in the Flock that if you are  not  the  Son  of  the
Great Gull Himself," Fletcher told Jonathan  one  morning  after  Advanced
Speed Practice, "then you are a thousand years ahead of your time."
     Jonathan sighed. The price of being misunderstood, he  thought.  They
call you devil or they call you god. "What do you think,  Fletch?  Are  we
ahead of our time?"
     A long silence. "Well, this kind of flying has always been here to be
learned by anybody who wanted to discover it; that's  got  nothing  to  do
with time. We're ahead of the fashion, maybe, Ahead of the way  that  most
gulls fly."
     "That's something," Jonathan said rolling to  glide  inverted  for  a
while. "That's not half as bad as being ahead of our time."

     It happened  just  a  week  later.  Fletcher  was  demonstrating  the
elements of high-speed flying to a class of  new  students.  He  had  just
pulled out of his dive from seven thousand feet, a long gray streak firing
a few inches above the beach, when a young bird on its first flight glided
directly into his path, calling for its mother. With a tenth of  a  second
to avoid the youngster, Fletcher Lynd Seagull snapped hard to the left, at
something over two hundred miles per hour, into a cliff of solid granite.
     It was, for him, as though the rock  were  a  giant  hard  door  into
another world. A burst of fear and shock and black as he hit, and then  he
was adrift in a strange strange sky, forgetting, remembering,  forgetting;
afraid and sad and sorry, terribly sorry.
     The voice came to him as it had in the first  day  that  he  had  met
Jonathan Livingston Seagull,
     "The trick Fletcher is that we are trying to overcome our limitations
in order, patiently, We don't tackle flying through rock  until  a  little
later in the program."
     "Also known as the Son of the Great Gull " his instructor said dryly,
     "What are you doing here? The cliff! Haven't I didn't I.., die?"
     "Oh, Fletch, come on. Think. If you  are  talking  to  me  now,  then
obviously you didn't die, did you? What you did manage to do was to change
your level of consciousness rather abruptly. It's your choice now. You can
stay here and learn on this level - which is quite a bit higher  than  the
one you left, by the way - or you can go back and keep  working  with  the
Flock. The Elders were hoping for  some  kind  of  disaster,  but  they're
startled that you obliged them so well."
     "I want to go back to the Flock, of course. I've  barely  begun  with
the new group!"
     "Very well, Fletcher. Remember what we were saying about  one's  body
being nothing more than thought itself....?"

     Fletcher shook his head and stretched his wings and opened  his  eyes
at the base of the cliff, in the center  of  the  whole  Flock  assembled.
There was a great clamor of squawks and screes from the crowd  when  first
he moved.
     "He lives! He that was dead lives!"
     "Touched him with a wingtip! Brought him to  life!  The  Son  of  the
Great Gull!"
     "No! He denies it! He's a devil! DEVIL! Come to break the Flock!"
     There were four thousand gulls in the crowd, frightened at  what  had
happened, and the cry DEVIL! went through them like the wind of  an  ocean
storm. Eyes glazed, beaks sharp, they closed in to destroy.
     "Would you feel better if we left, Fletcher?" asked Jonathan.
     "I certainly wouldn't object too much if we did..."
     Instantly they stood together a  half-mile  away,  and  the  flashing
beaks of the mob closed on empty air.
     "Why is it," Jonathan puzzled, "that the hardest thing in  the  world
is to convince a bird that he is free,  and  that  he  can  prove  it  for
himself if he'd just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so
     Fletcher still blinked from the change of scene. "What did  you  just
do? How did we get here?"
     "You did say you wanted to be out of the mob, didn't you?"
     "Yes! But how did you..."
     "Like everything else, Fletcher. Practice." By morning the Flock  had
forgotten its insanity, but Fletcher had not. "Jonathan, remember what you
said a long time ago, about loving the Flock enough to return  to  it  and
help it learn?"
     "I don't understand how you manage to love a mob of  birds  that  has
just tried to kill you."
     "Oh, Fletch, you don't love that! You don't love hatred and evil,  of
course. You have to practice and see the real gull, the good in every  one
of them, and to help them see it in themselves.  That's  what  I  mean  by
love. It's fun, when you get the knack of it.
     "I remember a fierce young bird for instance, Fletcher Lynd  Seagull,
his name. Just been made Outcast, ready to fight the Flock to  the  death,
getting a start on building his own bitter hell out on the Far Cliffs. And
here he is today building his own heaven instead, and  leading  the  whole
Flock in that direction."
     Fletcher turned to his instructor, and there was a moment  of  fright
in his eye. "Me  leading?  What  do  you  mean,  me  leading?  You're  the
instructor here. You couldn't leave!"
     "Couldn't I? Don't you think that there might be other flocks,  other
Fletchers, that need an instructor more than this one, that's on  its  way
toward the light?"
     "Me? Jon, I'm just a plain seagull and you're... "
     " ...the only Son of the Great Gull, I suppose?" Jonathan sighed  and
looked out to sea. "You don't need me any longer. You need to keep finding
yourself, a little more each day, that real, unlimited  Fletcher  Seagull.
He's your in structor. You need to understand him and to practice him."
     A moment later Jonathan's body wavered in the  air,  shimmering,  and
began to go transparent. "Don't let them spread silly rumors about me,  or
make me a god. O.K., Fletch? I'm a seagull. I like to fly, maybe..."
     "Poor Fletch. Don't believe what your eyes are telling you. All  they
show is limitation. Look  with  your  understanding,  find  out  what  you
already know, and you'll see the way to fly."
     The shimmering stopped. Jonathan Seagull had vanished into empty air.
     After a time, Fletcher Gull dragged himself into the sky and faced  a
brand-new group of students, eager for their first lesson.
     "To begin with " he said heavily, "you've got to  understand  that  a
seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great  Gull,  and
your whole body, from wingtip  to  wingtip,  is  nothing  more  than  your
thought itself."
     The young gulls looked at him quizzically. Hey,  man,  they  thought,
this doesn't sound like a rule for a loop.
     Fletcher sighed and started over. "Hm. Ah... very well," he said, and
eyed them critically. "Let's begin with Level Flight." And saying that, he
understood all at once that his friend had quite  honestly  been  no  more
divine than Fletcher himself.
     No limits, Jonathan? he thought. Well, then, the time's  not  distant
when I'm going to appear out of thin air on your beach,  and  show  you  a
thing or two about flying!
     And though he  tried  to  look  properly  severe  for  his  students,
Fletcher Seagull suddenly saw them all as they really  were,  just  for  a
moment, and he more than liked, he loved what he saw. No limits, Jonathan?
he thought, and he smiled. His race to learn had begun.



   The New York Times, July 3, 1974

     Des Moines, Iowa, July 2 - John H. Livingston, the man who
inspired the best-selling novel "Jonathan Livingston  Seagull,"
died Sunday at the Pompano Beach (Fla.) Airport soon after
completing his last plane ride.
     Richard  Bach, a former Iowa Air Guard pilot, has said his
best-selling book about a free-wheeling seagull was inspired by
Mr. Livingston.
     Johnny  Livingston,  as he was known, moved many years ago
from Iowa to Florida. He was one of the  country's  top  pilots
during the barnstorming days of the nineteen-twenties and thir-
     From  1928  through  1933,  Mr.  Livingston  won  79 first
places, 43 seconds and 15 thirds in 139  races  throughout  the
country,  many  of  them  at  Cleveland. He won first place and
$13,910 in 1928 in a cross-country race from New  York  to  Los
     Mr.  Livingston leaves his wife, Wavelle, two brothers and
four sisters.

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