“Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect. 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 there.”
Something led me back to Richard Bach’s ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull‘ in the half-light of my gloomy October bedroom this morning. It was one of those seeming arbitrary things, a shared soundtrack on someone’s Facebook wall, that took me sideways to a 1973 Grammy-winning recording of Richard Harris’s unmistakable resonance narrating a story I first tripped upon almost thirty years ago.
For the next 45 minutes, I closed my eyes and lost myself to sea-spray and longing and life on the wing with the seagull who wanted much more than life with the flock living-to-eat-to-survive. Just for wanting this ‘more’, for daring to dream, he was made an outcast and yet, in the end… (well, find out for yourself as it would be such a shame to paraphrase this exquisite book).
Revisiting this story, right here and right now, felt entirely non-accidental as I turned myself over to it for just under an hour. This lyrical masterpiece allowed me to appreciate anew how well I really have learned to fly, to soar, to master new heights since I last applied my youthful mind to its metaphor. How, yes, that has often meant solo flying, and yet…
It allowed me to recognise many stages I have since traveled through that meant next to nothing to my teenage mind – the need to keep working on love, the importance of beginning “by knowing you have already arrived” and, ultimately, realising that none of it means anything unless you bring it back down to earth; back into application from within life.
It has also helped me to identify any stuck points where I still (sometimes) – just like Kirk Maynard Gull – limp over to life, with wing dropped and in a voice like someone dying, declare that I am too broken to fly. Just like him, all I ever need reminding of, at these times (getting rarer), is held in these words: “you have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way…you are free.” We all need reminding of that, occasionally.
If you’ve never visited the story of ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ or if, like me, its been a while, I strongly recommend it; for this one truly is what they call a ‘timeless classic’, eternally relevant and oh so beautiful.
Interesting that this should story should drop back into my consciousness today…and I now find that a newly extended version, with an additional Part 4, is due to be released on 21st October. It seems Richard Bach was encouraged to prepare a non-published part, written contemporaneously with the original, to go to print in a new full edition following a near death experience as a result of a plane crash in August 2012. Needless to say, I have my copy on order and include the link below.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull (extended 2014 edition) – Richard Bach
The original story, narrated (wonderfully) by Richard Harris in 1973, available on YouTube – highly recommended!