Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Parable (and not about seagulls)

    

So all the book lists and reviewers I read suggesting I read “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” because it featured a seagull protagonist and was so “about seagulls,” clearly missed that this is a book about Buddhism. Jonathan, the “seagull” learns the truth about flying (it’s love), reaches a higher plane of understanding, returns to the earthly realm to teach other seagulls the truth about flying, faces resistance, but teaches one or two seagulls and so feels satisfied.

Here’s a telling excerpt:

“Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip…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, to…” (76-77).

While a parable of Buddhist enlightenment is entertaining, it is nevertheless disappointing when you are expecting a book about seagulls, or a book narrated from the perspective of a seagull. Jonathan never eats a fish.

The illustrations/photos in the book are less of a disappointment. They get far closer to the supposed “majesty” of Jonathan-the-buddah-seagull by representing seagulls (writ large) as majestic creatures.

Now that I’ve finished this last book on the non-human protagonists list I’m prepared to declare this category a wash. I’ll have to review my notes in detail, but I’m confident that I didn’t read a book with a non-human protagonist that wasn’t, in fact, a human protagonist. Cursed be the limitations of the (my) human imagination.

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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Worst Books

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