Lessons from Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”

I’ve always kept a copy of Richard Bach’s “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” within reach, for those days when it seems necessary to remind myself of Jonathan’s story – of struggle, of questions and learning, of constantly challenging himself, and of keeping true to his curiosities. I’ve re-read it a number of times in the past several years (it’s a short book, digestible in a few hours), and it has never failed to uplift my spirits. It always feels like talking to a great friend that I’ve never seen for an extended period of time.

Here are some favorite lines from the book:

  • Do you have any idea how many lives we must have gone through before we even got the first idea that there is more to life than eating, or fighting, or power in the Flock? A thousand lives, Jon, ten thousand! And then another hundred lives until we began to learn that there is such a thing as perfection, and another hundred again to get the idea that our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth. The same rule holds for us now, of course: we choose our next world though what we learn in this one. Learn nothing, and the next world is the same as this one, all the same limitations and lead weights to overcome.
  • Jonathan Seagull discovered that boredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull’s life is so short, and with these gone from his thought, he lived a long fine life indeed.
  • “You can go to any place and to any time that you wish to go,” the Elder said. “I’ve gone everywhere and everywhere I can think of.” He looked across the sea. “It’s strange. 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. Remember, Jonathan, heaven isn’t a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless.”
  • “To fly as fast as he thought, to anywhere that is,” he said, “you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”
  • “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.”
  • “Look at Fletcher! Lowell! Charles-Roland! Judy Lee! Are they also special and gifted and divine? No more than you are, no more than I am. The only difference, the very only one, is that they have begun to understand what they really are and have begun to practice it.”
  • “Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be hard?”
  • “Oh, Fletch, you don’t love that! You don’t love hatred and evil, of course. 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.”
  • We’re free to go where we wish and to be what we are.
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Lessons from Richard Bach’s “Life with my Guardian Angel”

The new year is always a great time to remember to talk to our guardian angel, to look at what beliefs do we have come to accept, and to remind ourselves of which sort of heaven do we really want to go to. 🙂 Happy New Year!

Some favorite lines from the book:

  • “You’ll never learn it all,” he said. “Nobody has learned everything about flying and they never will. But if you practice, you can learn enough to be a good pilot, even if you don’t know everything.”
  • Every context, every subtext means the same: heaven will be joy when we reach that place of mind, whether or not we reach its borders alive, or not-alive.
  • All the books I’ve read about death and dying, filled with stories and accounts and proofs that we go on after this lifetime, how can my heaven be exactly the same place that it is for everyone who’s died in the last thousand years or so? Is there one place in paradise where some folks enjoy cigars, a different heaven where others travel instantly to other places, others have houses, others don’t need shelter from winds or rains, which don’t exist in their heaven? Does heaven require space and time? Can heaven be kind of a dream, where we imagine space and time, but know that space-time doesn’t exist? How many heavens can there be? Two? Twenty? A million heavens, an indefinite number of heavens? Not just for mortals, but for every expression of life and love who recovers from the belief of dying? Do mortals share the same heaven with animals, with bees? There must be a heaven for dogs and cats who love people, and different heavens for dogs, cats, and other animals who prefer to continue without any humans at all. There must be a heaven for chipmunks and a separate heaven for crocodiles, and different ones for recently arrived spirits who’ve spent a lifetime thinking that no such place exists. There must be separate heavens to take care of the people who believe the various religions. Then different heavens for the different ways of thinking. Separate heavens.
  • Don’t you know? What you call ‘death’ is your chance to make different choices, make different stories about life and love.
  • What will your mortal’s life be like without tests, without adventure, without risk? Does the word ‘graveyard’ come to mind?
  • Your mission in every one of your lifetimes is to create love, to express love, to treasure love, to paint love in the biggest letters in every color of every language you will ever learn!
  • The world of space, time, and appearances can be wondrous beautiful. Have care, though, and don’t let your mortal mistake them for real.
  • You can work right now, today, as a mortal, to refine your beliefs, to make your heaven happier than the squirrelly heaven you’ve already built with your not-much-thought-about belief system. You can do this now.
  • We’re connected by the bonds of love that we’ve built. With anyone. With our parents, with our friends, with our pets, with fictional characters from books or motion pictures, with characters in our own imagination!

Lessons Learned from Richard Bach’s “Curious Lives: Adventures from the Ferret Chronicles”

I always start the new year like most people, spending quality time with friends and family, some reflection and goal setting, with good food, many cheers, and hearty laughs. I also often choose a wonderful book or two to go on an adventure with during the holidays, because it is always worth the while. This time, I got lucky finding a paperback copy of an old Richard Bach collection, titled “Curious Lives: Adventures from the Ferret Chronicles”, was glad to meet up with ferret friends, old and new both, and got valuable reminders about the courtesies and living accordingly to our highest sense of right, along with the fun ride.

Here are my favorite lines from the book:

  • Whatever harm I would do to another, I shall do first to myself. As I respect and am kind to myself, so shall I respect and be kind to peers, to elders, to kits. I claim for others the freedom to live as they wish, to think and believe as they will. I claim that freedom for myself. I shall make each choice and live each day to my highest sense of right.
  • Once, long ago, we changed our minds: end violence. In its place, no matter what: courtesy.
  • If you excel at your craft, there is a good chance that curious ferrets will need to know why, to find out what makes you different.
  • With the adventures we choose and the mysteries we solve we build our own credentials, write our own introduction to others around the world who value adventure and mystery themselves.
  • Trust. There’s a light, when we close our eyes, the light of what we want to do more than anything else in the world. Trust that light. Follow, wherever it leads.
  • Giving our visions and stories and characters to become friends to others lifts not only ourselves but the world and all its futures.
  • “There’s a time to work on a book and you know it,” said the muse. “There’s a time to think about the story, a time to care about your readers, your publisher, about rhythm and timing and grammar and spelling and punctuation, about design and advertising and publicity. But none of those times, Budgeron, is when you’re writing!”
  • Her husband had told her long ago that she didn’t need to please everyone with her stories – if a book pleases only half of one percent of the reading public, though no one else bought a single copy, it will be a massive bestseller.
  • Budgeron Ferret had chosen to be a writer. With his choice came poverty, loneliness, rejection, frustration, despair, perseverance, delight, attention, riches, love, understanding, fulfilment, a life of ideas that mattered to him, shared now and then with kings and kits.
  • How strange, he thought. Find the greatest teachers, ask the hardest questions, they never say, ‘Study philosophy’, or, ‘Get your degree’. They say, ‘You already know’.
  • The mark of true flight is not our altitude but our attitude, not our speed but our joy in the paths we find above the earth.
  • No one taught her, but she knew: more important than talent or gifts or education is the determination to make one’s wish come true.
  • “Vink, if you want to meet the one ferret who can fix any trouble, no matter how bad it is, the one who can bring you happiness when nobody else can do it – why, just look in the mirror and say hello.”

Lessons from Richard Bach’s “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”

Richard Bach’sIllusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” is a most treasured book from all the books I have read so far. It is a short book, something that can definitely be digested for an hour or a few, but it doesn’t fall short of inspiring and thought-provoking passages, and questions. I have always kept a copy close because it’s what I often choose to rummage through whenever I feel totally sluggish or disheartened, never failing to provide a good pick-me-up or occasionally giving a disapproving eye when needed.

Here are some favorite lessons from the book, which I remind myself every now and again:

  • Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers.
  • The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about these once in a while, and watch your answers change.
  • You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self. Don’t turn away from possible futures before you’re certain you don’t have anything to learn from them. You’re always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past.
  • There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts.
  • The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.
  • If you learn what this world is, how it works, you automatically start getting miracles, what will be called miracles. But of course nothing is miraculous. Learn what the magician knows and it’s not magic anymore.
  • Isn’t it strange how much we know if only we ask ourselves instead of somebody else?
  • If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.
  • Like attracts like. Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright. Automatically, as we shine who we are, asking ourselves every minute is this what I really want to do, doing it only when we answer yes, automatically that turns away those who have nothing to learn from who we are and attracts those who do, and from whom we have to learn, as well.
  • The world is your exercise-book, the pages on which you do your sums. It is not reality, although you can express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write nonsense, or lies, or to tear the pages.
  • Within each of us lies the power of our consent to health and to sickness, to riches and to poverty, to freedom and to slavery. It is we who control these, and not another.
  • There is no good and there is no evil, outside of what makes as happy and what makes us unhappy.
  • If you want freedom and joy so much, can’t you see it’s not anywhere outside of you? Say you have it, and you have it! Act as if it’s yours, and it is!
  • We are game-playing, fun-having creatures, we are the otters of the universe. We cannot die, we cannot hurt ourselves any more than illusions on the screen can be hurt. But we can believe we’re hurt, in whatever agonizing detail we want. We can believe we’re victims, killed and killing, shuddered around by good luck and bad luck.
  • Why are we here? For fun and learning. It’s the same reason why people see films, for fun or for learning or for both together.

Fun fact: One of Richard Bach’s sons is James Marcus Bach, a software tester.