Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

The Book in A Few Sentences

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a fable about a seagull more interested in flight for the joy of flying than chasing food from a fishing boat. After getting cast out of the flock for not being “normal,” he befriends two gulls who come to take him home. He discovers that freedom is being who he already is.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull summary

This is my book summary of Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. My summaries are casual and include what I believe are the most important concepts, ideas and insights from the book, along with direct quotes from the author.

  • “More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly.”
  • This way of thinking didn’t make him popular with the other birds.
  • “I just want to know what I can do in the and what I can’t, that’s all.”
  • After “failing” during one of his high-speed maneuvers, Jonathan realizes he’s limited by his nature and vows to be a “normal” bird.
  • Shortly after, as he feels the “great swift wind,” he realizes that being “normal” is for normal birds.
  • He loved flying fast for the power, the joy and the beauty. Flying gave Jonathan a reason to live.
  • “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!”
  • “Who is more responsible than a gull who finds and follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life?”
  • Boredom, fear and anger shorten a gull’s life.
  • For the birds who were not normal, the most important thing was to touch the perfection of that which they loved most.
  • “…we choose our next world through what we learn in this one.”
  • “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.”
  • “You must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”
  • “The trick was to know that his true nature lived, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.”
  • Then you will begin to know the meaning of kindness and love.
  • Overcome space, and all that is left is Here. Overcome time, and all that is left is Now.
  • Our true nature is an unlimited idea of freedom, and “precision flying is a step toward expressing our real nature.”
  • “We’re free to go where we wish and to be what we are.”
  • “…you have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.”
  • “Freedom is the very nature of his being…The only true law is that which leads to freedom.”
  • “Why is it that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it to himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing?”
  • “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.”
  • Just keep finding yourself, the real, unlimited self, a little more each day.
  • “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.
  • He’s your instructor. You need to understand his and to practice him.”
  • “To begin with, you have 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.”
  • “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.”

Related Resources

This is a list of resources, including authors, books, websites, podcasts and concepts mentioned in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which might be useful for further learning.