You can be ‘empowered’ by age, not ‘enfeebled’

It was never quite clear why the book rose to the top of the best-seller list back in the early 1970s. “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” was a thin, different kind of book–complete with artistic photos of Jonathan and his friends in flight.
A simple book about a seagull who wanted to fly better than the other seagulls. That hardly sounds like best-seller material, does it?
Maybe, however, the answer is in the dedication at the front of the book. Author Richard Bach dedicates the book, “To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all.”
Or the answer might be in the blurb on the dust jacket. “People who make their own rules when they know they’re right . . . people who get a special pleasure out of doing something well [even if only for themselves] . . . people who know there’s more to this whole ‘living’ thing than meets the eye: they’ll be with Jonathan Seagull all the way.”
Yes, I think that must be it. “There’s more to this whole ‘living’ thing than meets the eye.” And once in a long, long time, a book comes along that promises to help us find that “more.”
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” is such a book.
Of course, flying is what seagulls do best but it turns out for most seagulls, flying is just a practical business. Jonathan’s father warned him, “Don’t you forget that the reason you fly is to eat.”
But that wasn’t good enough for Jonathan. He was sure there was more to life than diving and fighting for fish and scraps of bread with the other seagulls.
And for Jonathan that more was flying. He practised long hours. Alone. Eventually he flew at the terrifying speed of 214 miles per hour, complete with magnificent glides and swoops.
Jonathan was so engrossed he sometimes neglected to eat and sleep. He forgot the traditional wisdom, such as “seagulls never fly in the dark” and “a seagull never speaks back to the Council Flock.”
He dreamed of sharing his new-found skills.
But Jonathan’s only payment was being declared an outcast. He was sentenced by the Council Flock to spend the rest of his days alone–way out beyond the Far Cliffs.
The sadness for Jonathan was not so much being lonely as that the other gulls “refused to open their eyes and see.” He couldn’t believe that they refused to discover the true glory of flying.
There’s more to the story, of course. And you’ll discover that there was life after banishment for Jonathan.
“Jonathan Livingston Seagull” is the kind of book every person can read for his or her own reasons. There are quotes and insights on every page, but my favourite one comes when Jonathan moves to a higher consciousness and meets other gulls who, like himself, have a life-motivating dream.
Here Jonathan meets a wise teacher, an Elder Gull. The author says about Elder Gull, “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.”
There’s no doubt in my mind that’s the kind of gull Jonathan will be when he gets old–empowered by age, not enfeebled. Still outflying any other gull in the flock, still learning new skills.
Still growing right to the very end. Still defying the traditional wisdom, such as “old gulls don’t learn new tricks.”
Yes, you can bet on Jonathan. He learned to grow and stretch when he was young, and he’ll never stop practising those skills.

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