When I was in middle school, I first read Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. While a short and quick read, there were so many layers to it that I find myself re-reading it over the years. Richard Bach’s love of flying shines through, along with the core story - pursue your dreams. That message - pursuing your dreams even in the face of ridicule/opposition by friends and family - spoke to me. I was a bit of a loner, interested more in books and the myriad worlds found therein than the more common interest of my peers - sports, cars, etc. I enjoyed those things, but wasn’t passionate about them and that sometimes resulted in friction with my friends.
Reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull opened a new horizon for me. It taught me that being passionate about what interests you is ok. And if it’s not the same as what everyone else wants to do? That’s fine. It’s ok to walk a “parallel” path that intersects only occasionally with others. Don’t let their dislike, disdain, or outright fear (sometimes) of what you’re passionate about stop you.
Jonathan’s love of flying for its own sake, more important than food or mating or any of the other concerns the ‘normal’ seagulls focused on was a symbol of that freedom - to pursue what you love, not what others think you should love. It might not be an easy path, but it would be a richer one. Translated to my life, doing so would make me a better person and by extension a better friend, son, brother, father, manager, etc. Because I would be happy and content vs. unhappy and bitter. In other words - feeding your soul, letting it grow and be its best vs. keeping it constrained and limited to comply with the expectations of other - is the best thing a person can do.
This doesn’t mean be one should be selfish and self-centered. Rather, to me it means that everyone has the potential to do or be great at something. Failing to strive for that target and instead choosing to limit yourself only diminishes you and reduces the beauty of this world. While if you pursue your dreams, the joy you experience infects everything you do and everyone around you. And to quote another favorite author of mine - Spider Robinson - “Pain shared is pain halved. Joy shared is joy doubled.”
Jonathan Livingston Seagull led me to Richard Bach’s other works, where he expressed his view of spirituality in the context of the real world. Flying was front and center of that view, the man-made tool that allowed Richard - and others - to fly like Jonathan and be more than just a land-bound creature, focused on mundane things. The plane in the picture is the same type as the ones flown in Richard’s books. The partner of metal and gas and oil that allows you to be free. Ever since, planes, especially small planes like this one, remind me of those books, and that message.