Flying with Jonathon Livingstone Seagull I had been reflecting on an idea the seed of which was probably planted by Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh. It was regarding the concept of being free on behalf of someone who is physically imprisoned. That there is no distance; that walls cannot be barriers to love or the freedom someone holds in their heart for you.
On this day my plan was to visit Quarr Abbey to spend some time in the church and to write a request in the prayer book for Julian Assange imprisoned in conditions of ‘profound isolation’ in HMP Belmarsh.
On my way I stopped at the Red Cross Charity shop at the top of town and had a quick glance at the books. I saw a slim paper back by Richard Bach called ‘There’s no such place as far away’.
I had read his book’ Illusions: the adventures of a reluctant Messiah’ It was a short story but I had to push myself to finish it. All that flying technicality did not grab me at all and even the moral of the story wasn’t clear to me. Then came ‘A Bridge across for ever: a true love story’. I loved the beginning. Some parts made me laugh out loud. But then it fizzled for me; it got a bit cheesy and I abandoned it to a friend.
However, the blurb on the back of this book asked: ‘Can miles separate us from friends? If we want to be with someone we love aren’t we already there?’ It felt so relevant so I bought it and popped it in my bag along with the words for my prayer request.
I read it on a bench in the sunshine overlooking the pig pens at Quarr. It is a gentle child’s book, illustrated with paintings, with wise uplifting messages brought by the humming bird, owl, eagle, hawk and seagull. A tale of love and friendship and a reminder that: ‘As anything that cannot be touched with the hand or seen with your eye. The gift grows more powerful as you use it.’
At art, the following Monday, I mentioned my musing and finding the Richard Bach book. As a throw away I added that he had also written Jonathon Livingstone Seagull. Nicky said that it was strange that I should mention that because the previous Saturday while cleaning her rental cottage, before the arrival of the next guests, she had found, on top of the book shelves, the sleeve of Jonathon Livingstone Seagull with the book itself missing. She went and fetched the cover which she’d brought home.
On the back it said: ‘This is a story for people who follow their dreams and make their own rules: a story that has inspired people for decades. For most seagulls life consists simply of eating and surviving. Flying is just a means of finding food. However, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is no ordinary bird. For him flying is life itself. Against the conventions of seagull society, he seeks to find a higher purpose and become the best at what he loves. This is a fable about the importance of making the most of our lives, even if our goals run contrary to the norms of our flock, tribe or neighbourhood. Through the metaphor of flight Johnathon’s story shows us that if we follow our dreams, we too can soar.’
A powerful message seemed to jump out particularly with regard to our thoughts and connections to Julian Assange a man who certainly holds fast to his dreams regardless of the risks of being outcast from the flock.
The next Monday Nicky told me that she had mentioned this little synchronisty to Kim, a friend of hers, who responded to say that she had the book JLS with her right then in her bag.
Still, I was not drawn to read the book!! I had decided I was not a fan of Richard Bach and that was the end of it. All those references to flying!!
And it went out of mind until a couple weeks later my daughter and I were in East Cowes with a few minutes to spare before getting the bus to Ryde. We popped into the Hospice shop. ‘Just a quick whizz round’, I said as I walked up to the book shelves. It took one glance, no browsing, to see a slim spine with the words Jonathon Livingstone Seagull, Richard Bach written on it.
Of course, I bought it and a few days later reluctantly pushed myself to read it. It certainly spoke to me, if not in my favorite language, and this time the message was clear. There were no doubts. The references were clearly pointing to Julian Assange and the connections we were creating, during our painting in Free Expression, to speak up for someone condemned by the flock. “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!”
The following week I told Nicky about finding the book and how extraordinary it was that it was the only book on the shelves that I set my eyes on. It was instant attraction.
Later that Monday Nicky messaged me to say that her friend, Kim, had just asked her if she wanted to borrow the book JLS!! Guidance can be so powerful and irresistible and can give us the faith and strength to lift off and fly in the direction of our true destiny!! https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1743336-jonathan-livingston-seagull
“He spoke of very simple things- that it is right for a gull 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.” ― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull