One of my current occupations is a contract position for a local theatre company. I am to collect all the props for an upcoming production. It involves some of my favorite things: organization, lists and research. One of the required items was the book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull“.
I feel like this is book that everybody’s heard of, but nobody’s read. But, this just in, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” is a thing. But, there was something about it, that felt familiar yet unfamiliar. Right? That’s deep. Even thinking about reading this book makes me a better writer. A better human really. I feared the book would be difficult to find, but it was surprisingly easy. When I popped into the book store to pick it up, the clerk highly recommended it. “This book was very important to me when I was sixteen”. Now I’m not a doctor, but I’ve known a lot of sixteen year old boys in my time…and I can’t imagine any of them tucked under the covers with this classic. I’m also not a gambling man, but I reckon teenaged “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” fans don’t get out much in the way of adolescent intimacy. So what’s this book about anyway?
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.
But I keep thinking…how do I know you, Mr J.L Seagull? And then it hits me, like a glorious beam of light while crouching on a beach, as a gentle breeze blows through your feathered hair. Of course. How could I forget Neil? I owned a Neil Diamond album that was a soundtrack to the film version. I remember being in a thrift store, handing over twenty-five cents and chuckling over a cornucopia of images and ideas. How they could turn this into a feature length film? Is it just a seagull flying and pondering life? Is there a voice over? Subtitles? Neil Diamond narrating from the beach? And oh Lord can’t you just imagine how serious Neil would look in the studio, laying down tracks for “Jonathan Livingston Seagull: The Movie”. Argh, the mind reels.
I love Neil, I love his album covers, in fact I’ve had a Neil Diamond wall montage in a few different apartments. I’ve always loved his serious expression looking back at me.
Though I reckon I was alone in that, after breaking up with my ex, he was standing by as I took the albums down. He said he felt “kinda relieved” to be freed from his “judging and self-righteous glare”. Don’t worry Neil, I understand that your genius makes you look like a bit of dick. It’s because you care so much, almost too much, and that’s why you look like that. On further inspection, I realized that old Richard Bach, writer of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” (How does this seagull have a fucking middle name? Why not Jonathan Livingston Seagull Esquire? Jonathan Livingston Seagull the Third? Jonathan Livingston Seagull Jr?) Anyway, I came across many inspirational quotes that relate to this book. In the exact same apartment as the Neil Diamond record, \\ I once owned this varnished wood decorative piece that was inscribed with:
I bought it, you know, cause it was fifty cents at a thrift store. But over the years I would stare at it from my bed, feeling heartbroken or lonely…and the saying sort of pissed me off. That’s just about the saddest thing ever, loving something and setting it free, and knowing that it doesn’t belong to you. Good for the seagull, for absorbing that sentiment. ‘Letting go’ has never been my strong suit. Maybe it’s easier being a bird. Obvi, I’ve never read this beloved tale, but one would assume that the novella expands on the lessons of seagull named Jonathan, who I’m sure learns plenty about life and love on the high seas.
Images Courtesy of Google