Jonathan Livingston Seagull 2

Posted: 10 Maret 2008 in inspirasi
Tag:, , , ,

Part Two

 

 

 

So this is heaven, he thought, and he had to smile at himself. It was

hardly respectful to analyze heaven in the very moment that one flies up

to enter it.

As he came from Earth now, above the clouds and in close formation

with the two brilliant gulls, he saw that his own body was growing as

bright as theirs. True, the same young Jonathan Seagull was there that had

always lived behind his golden eyes, but the outer form had changed.

It felt like a seagull body, but alreadv it flew far better than his

old one had ever flown. Why, with half the effort, he thought, I’ll get

twice the speed, twice the performance of my best days on Earth!

His feathers glowed brilliant white now, and his wings were smooth

and perfect as sheets of polished silver. He began, delightedly, to learn

about them, to press power into these new wings.

At two hundred fifty mlles per hour he felt that he was nearing his

level-flight maximum speed. At two hundred seventy-three he thought that

he was flying as fast as he could fly, and he was ever so faintly

disappointed. There was a limit to how much the new body could do, and

though it was much faster than his old level-flight record, it was still a

limit that would take great effort to crack. In heaven, he thought, there

should be no limits.

The clouds broke apart, his escorts called, “Happy landings,

Jonathan,” and vanished into thin air.

He was flying over a sea, toward a jagged shoreline. A very few

seagulls were working the updrafts on the cliffs. Away off to the north,

at the horizon itself, flew a few others. New sights, new thoughts, new

questions. Why so few gulls? Heaven should be flocked with gulls! And why

am I so tired, all at once? Gulls in heaven are never supposed to be

tired, or to sleep.

Where had he heard that? The memory of his life on Earth was falling

away. Earth had been a place where he had learned much, of course, but the

details were blurred – something about fighting for food, and being

Outcast.

The dozen gulls by the shoreline came to meet him, none saying a

word. He felt only that he was welcome and that this was home. It had been

a bigday for him, a day whose sunrise he no longer remembered.

He turned to land on the beach, beating his wings to stop an inch in

the air, then dropping lightly to the sand, The other gulls landed too,

but not one of them so much as flapped a feather. They swung into the

wind, bright wings outstretched, then somehow they changed the curve of

their feathers until they had stopped in the same instant their feet

touched the ground. It was beautiful control, but now Jonathan was just

too tired to try it. Standiug there on the beach, still without a word

spoken, he was asleep.

In the days that followed, Jonathan saw that there was as much to

learn about flight in this place as there had been in the life behind him.

But with a difference. Here were gulls who thought as he thought, For each

of them, the most important thing in living was to reach out and touch

perfection in that which they most loved to do, and that was to fly. They

were magnificent birds, all of them, and they spent hour after hour every

day practicing flight, testing advanced aeronautics.

For a long time Jonathan forgot about the world that he had come

from, that place where the Flock lived with its eyes tightly shut to the

joy of flight, using its wings as means to the end of finding and fighting

for food. But now and then, just for a moment, he remembered.

He remembered it one morning when he was out with his instructor,

while they rested on the beach after a session of folded-wing snap rolls.

“Where is everybody, Sullivan?” he asked silently, quite at home now

with the easy telepathy that these gulls used instead of screes and

gracks. “Why aren’t there more of us here? Why, where I came from there

were.. “

“… thousands and thousands of gulls. I know. ” Sullivan shook his

head. “The only answer I can see, Jonathan, is that you are pretty well a

one-in-a-million bird. Most of us came along ever so slowly. We went from

one world into another that was almost exactly like it, forgettiug right

away where we had come from, not caring where we were headed, living for

the moment. Do you have any idea how many lives we must have gone through

before we even gor 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 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.”

He stretched his wings and turned to face the wind. “But you, Jon,”

he said, “learned so much at one time that you didn’t have to go through a

thousand lives to reach this one.”

In a moment they were airborne again, practicing. The formation

point-roils were difficult, for through the inverted half Jonathan had to

think upside down, reversing the curve of his wing, and reversing it

exactly in harmony with his instructor’s.

“Let’s try it again.” Sullivan said over and over: “Let’s try it

again.” Then, finally, “Good.” And they began practicing outside loops.

 

 

One evening the gulls that were not night-flying stood together on

the sand, thinking. Jonathan took all his courage in hand and walked to

the Elder Gull, who, it was said, was soon to be moving beyond this world.

“Chiang…” he said a little nervously.

The old seagull looked at him kindly. “Yes, my son?” Instead of being

enfeebled by age, the Elder had been empowered by it; he could outfly any

gull in the Flock, and he had learned skills that the others were only

gradually coming to know.

“Chiang, this world isn’t heaven at all, is it?” The Elder smiled in

the moonlight. “You are learning again, Jonathan Seagull,” he said.

“Well, what happens from here? Where are we going? Is there no such

place as heaven?”

“No, Jonathan, there is no such place. Heaven is not a place, and it

is not a time. Heaven is being perfect.” He was silent for a moment. “You

are a very fast flier, aren’t you?”

“I… I enjoy speed,” Jonathan said, taken aback but proud that the

Elder had noticed.

“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.”

Without warning, Chiang vanished and appeared at the water’s edge

fifty feet away, all in the flicker of an instant. Then he vanished again

and stood, in the same millisecond, at Jonathan’s shoulder. “It’s kind of

fun,” he said.

 

 

Jonathan was dazzled. He forgot to ask about heaven. “How do you do

that? What does it feel like? How far can you go?”

“You can go to any place and to any time that you wish to go,” the

Elder said. “I’ve gone everywhere and everywhen 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. Heaven

is…”

“Can you teach me to fly like that?” Jonathan Seagull trembled to

conquer another unknown.

“Of course if you wish to learn.”

“I wish. When can we start?”.

“We could start now if you’d like.”

“I want to learn to fly like that,” Jonathan said and a strange light

glowed in his eyes. “Tell me what to do,”

Chiang spoke slowly and watched the younger gull ever so carefully.

“To fly as fast as thought, to anywhere that is,” he said, “you must begin

by knowing that you have already arrived …”

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.

 

 

Jonathan kept at it, fiercely, day after day, from before sunrise

till past midnight. And for all his effort he moved not a feather width

from his spot.

“Forget about faith!” Chiang said it time and again. “You didn’t need

faith to fly, you needed to understand flying.This is jast the same. Now

try again …”

Then one day Jonathan, standing on the shore, closing his eyes,

concentrating, all in a flash knew what Chiang had been telling him. “Why,

that’s true! I am a perfect, unlimited gull!” He felt a great shock of

joy.

“Good!” said Chiang and there was victory in his voice.

Jonathan opened his eyes. He stood alone with the Elder on a totally

different seashore – trees down to the water’s edge, twin yellow suns

turning overhead.

“At last you’ve got the idea,” Chiang said, “but your control needs a

little work… “

Jonathan was stunned. “Where are we?”

Utterly unimpressed with the strange surroundings, the Elder brushed

the question aside. “We’re on some planet, obviously, with a green sky and

a double star for a sun.”

Jonathan made a scree of delight, the first sound he had made since

he had left Earth. “IT WORKS!”

“Well, of course, it works, Jon.” said Chiang. “It always works, when

you know what you’re doing. Now about your control…”

By the time they returned, it was dark. The other gulls looked at

Jonathan with awe in their golden eyes, for they had seen him disappear

from where he had been rooted for so long.

He stood their congratulations for less than a minute. “I’m the

newcomer here! I’m just beginning! It is I who must learn from you!”

“I wonder about that, Jon,” said Sullivan standing near. “You have

less fear of learning than any gull I’ve seen in ten thousand years. “The

Flock fell silent, and Jonathan fidgeted in embarrassment.

“We can start working with time if you wish,” Chiang said, “till you

can fly the past and the future. And then you will be ready to begin the

most difficult, the most powerful, the most fun of all. You will be ready

to begin to fly up and know the meaning of kindness and of love.”

A month went by, or something that felt about like a month, and

Jonathan learned at a tremendous rate. He always had learned quickly from

ordinary experience, and now, the special student of the Elder Himself, he

took in new ideas like a streamlined feathered computer.

But then the day came that Chiang vanished. He had been talking

quietly with them all, exhorting them never to stop their learning and

their practicing and their striving to understand more of the perfect

invisible principle of all life. Then, as he spoke, his feathers went

brighter and brighter and at last turned so brilliant that no gull could

look upon him.

“Jonathan,” he said, and these were the last words that he spoke,

“keep working on love.”

When they could see again, Chiang was gone.

As the days went past, Jonathan found himself thinking time and again

of the Earth from which he had come. If he had known there just a tenth,

just a hundredth, of what he knew here, how much more life would have

meant! He stood on the sand and fell to wondering if there was a gull back

there who might be struggling to break out of his limits, to see the

meaning of flight beyond a way of travel to get a breadcrumb from a

rowboat. Perhaps there might even have been one made Outcast for speaking

his truth in the face of the Flock. And the more Jonathan practiced his

kindness lessons, and the more he worked to know the nature of love, the

more he wanted to go back to Earth. For in spite of his lonely past,

Jonathan Seagull was born to be an instructor, and his own way of

demonstrating love was to give something of the truth that he had seen to

a gull who asked only a chance to see truth for himself.

Sullivan, adept now at thought-speed flight and helping the others to

learn, was doubtful.

“Jon, you were Outcast once. Why do you think that any of the gulls

in your old time would listen to you now? You know the proverb, and it’s

true: The gull sees farthest who flies highest. Those gulls where you came

from are standing on the ground, squawking and fighting among themselves.

They’re a thousand miles from heaven – and you say you want to show them

heaven from where they stand! Jon, they can’t see their own wingtips! Stay

here. Help the new gulls here, the ones who are high enough to see what

you have to tell them.” He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “What

if Chiang had gone back to his old worlds? Where would you have been

today?”

The last point was the telling one, and Sullivan was right The gull

sees farthest who flies highest.

Jonathan stayed and worked with the new birds coming in, who were all

very bright and quick with their lessons. But the old feeling came back,

and he couldn’t help but think that there might be one or two gulls back

on Earth who would be able to learn, too. How much more would he have

known by now if Chiang had come to him on the day that he was Outcast!

“Sully, I must go back ” he said at last “Your students are doing

well. They can help you bring the newcomers along.”

Sullivan sighed, but he did not argue. “I think I’ll miss you,

Jonathan,” was all he said.

“Sully, for shame!” Jonathan said in reproach, “and don’t be foolish!

What are we trying to practice every day? 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?”

Sullivan Seagull laughed in spite of himself. “You crazy bird,” he

said kindly. “If anybody can show someone on the ground how to see a

thousand miles, it will be Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” He looked at the

sand. “Good-bye, Jon, my friend.”

“Good bye, Sully. We’ll meet again.” And with that, Jonathan held in

thought an image of the great gull flocks on the shore of another time,

and he knew with practiced ease that he was not bone and feather but a

perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all.

 

 

Fletcher Lynd Seagull was still quite young, but already he knew that

no bird had ever been so harshly treated by any Flock, or with so much

injustice.

“I don’t care what they say,” he thought fiercely, and his vision

blurred as he flew out toward the Far Cliffs. “There’s so much more to

flying than just flapping around from place to place! A… a… mosquito

does that! One little barrel roll around the Elder Gull, just for fun, and

I’m Outcast! Are they blind? Can’t they see? Can’t they think of the glory

that it’ll be when we really learn to fly?

“I don’t care what they think. I’ll show them what flying is! I’ll be

pure Outlaw, if that’s the way they want it. And I’ll make them so

sorry…”

The voice came inside his own head, and though it was very gentle, it

startled him so much that he faltered and stumbled in the air.

“Don’t be harsh on them, Fletcher Seagull. In casting you out, the

other gulls have only hurt themselves, and one day they will know this,

and one day they will see what you see. Forgive them, and help them to

understand.”

An inch from his right wingtip flew the most brilliant white gull in

all the world, gliding effortlessly along, not moving a feather, at what

was very nearly Fletcher’s top speed.

There was a moment of chaos in the young bird. “What’s going on? Am I

mad? Am I dead? What is this?”

Low and calm, the voice went on within his thought, demanding an

answer. “Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly?”

“YES, I WANT TO FLY!”.

“Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly so much that you will

forgive the Flock, and learn, and go back to them one day and work to help

them know?”

There was no lying to this magnificent skillful being, no matter how

proud or how hurt a bird was Fletcher Seagull.

“I do ” he said softly.

“Then, Fletch,” that bright creature said to him, and the voice was

very kind, “let’s begin with Level Flight….”

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