The 46 Best Quotes from Jonathan Livingstone Seagull

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Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was written by Richard Bach and was first published in 1970. Bach originally wrote it as a series of short stories that were published in Flying magazine. The book was so popular that by 1972, over a million copies were print! Eventually it reached the top of the New York Times Best Seller list where it remained for 37 weeks and in 1972 and 1973 it was at the top of Publisher’s Weekly list of bestselling US Novels.

The book tells the story of a seagull – Jonathan Livingston Seagull – who is bored with daily fights over food. He starts to push himself to learn how o fly. He becomes increasingly unwilling to confirm with the other birds and eventually he gets kicked out of the flock. He becomes an outcast and then continues to learn how to fly and starts to live a more peaceful and solitary life.

The book is full of ideas from the 1970’s in the US like higher consciousness. And one day Jonathan meets two gulls who take him to a “higher plane of existence” in which there is no heaven. There is a better world that is found through perfecting knowledge. Along the journey, he meets another seagull that loves to fly. He then becomes friends with Chiang, the wisest seagull, who takes him beyond his previous self education and teaches him how to move instantaneiously to any other location in the universe. This is one of the classic lines in the book. Chiang tells him the section is to “begin by knowing you have already arrived.”

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is unsatisfied with his life and he returns to earth. Back on earth he finds other gulls like himself and spreads what he’s learned and spreads his love for flight. Jonathan eventually gathers a flock of like minded seagulls who have been outlawed for not conforming.


Jonathan Livingstone Seagull Quotes

We spent a lot of time looking for the best quotes from this book. It was a favorite of mine in high school and so many people still love this book. When you need some inspiration, be sure to check out the book.

  1. “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 will see the way to fly.”
  2. “To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is, you must begin by knowing that you have already arrived.”
  3. “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 so hard?”
  4. “Your friends will know you better in the first minute you meet than your acquaintances will know you in a thousand years.”
  5. “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!”
  6. “Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight – how to get from shore to food and back again.”
  7. “Boredom between two people doesn’t come from being together physically. It comes from being apart mentally and spiritually.”
  8. “A moment later Jonathan’s body wavered in the air, shimmering, and began to go transparent. “Don’t let them spread silly rumors about me, or make me a god. O.K., Fletch? I’m a seagull. I like to fly, maybe.”
  9. “His sorrow was not solitude, it was that other gulls refuse to believe the glory of flight that awaited them; they refused to open their eyes and see.”
  10. “If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”
  11. “Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s reason to live!We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”
  12. “A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise.”
  13. “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.”
  14. “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.”
  15. “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.”
  16. “You are always free to change your mind and choose a different future, or a different past.”
  17. “For each of them, the most important thing in living was to reach out and touch perfection in that which they most love to do, and that was to fly.”
  18. “Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too.”
  19. “Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”
  20. “That’s what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we’ve changed because of it, and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way is winning.”
  21. “You didn’t have faith to fly, you need to understand flying.”
  22. “We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill.”
  23. “Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.”
  24. “We choose our next world through 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.”
  25. “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!”
  26. “Were free to go where we wish and to be what we are.”
  27. “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.”
  28. “Boredom between two people doesn’t come from being together physically. It comes from being apart mentally and spiritually.”
  29. “You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. 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.”
  30. “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however.”
  31. “We choose our next world through 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.”
  32. “I do not exist to impress the world. I exist to live my life in a way that will make me happy.”
  33. “The shimmering stopped. Jonathan Seagull had vanished into empty air. After a time, Fletcher Gull dragged himself into the sky and faced a brand-new group of students, eager for their first lesson.”
  34. “One school is finished, and the time has come for another to begin.”
  35. “It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea.”
  36. “The trick, according to Chiang, was for Jonathan to stop seeing himself as trapped inside a limited body that had a forty-two-inch wingspan and performance that could be plotted on a chart. The trick was to know that his true nature lived, as perfect as an unwritten number, everywhere at once across space and time.”
  37. “It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea.”
  38. “Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect.”
  39. “Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.”
  40. “What are we trying to practice every day? If our friendship depends on things like space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”
  41. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the alhatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!” “I don’t mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.”
  42. “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.”
  43. “If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.”
  44. “For most gulls it was not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.”
  45. “He was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all.”
  46. “Like everything else, Fletcher. Practice.”


Conclusion

Jonathan Livingstone Seagull is a classic book that was written in the idealism of the US in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It very much captures the thinking of the time. Full of idealism and romanticism, it shows us that nothing can stop you if you want anything. All you need to do is believe in yourself. People have limited capabilities, but if called upon, human beings have a lot of hidden abilities. Reading this book will help change your mindset and inspire you to live your life beyond the chains of fear and reach for the next level.

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