The Mystery of Jonathan Seagull

So much has changed for me, since the beginning: my early beliefs about who I am, about families, about schools, about the military, governments, religion, entertainment, about the news, about authority.  Nearly everything I thought was true has changed, over the years.

The tests, the sudden challenges that come to us, I learned, those are not terrible accidents, they're our teachers.  I thought they were our destiny.  As the years swifted by, I found they were our choices: I found our destiny is us! 

The one thing that hasn’t changed in all the years for me has been the story of Jonathan Seagull.  So strange, that the young man I was wrote a story that’s still true for me.

Would I change one idea? 

A single soul loved the beauty of flight, and spent a lifetime expressing it;

By failing often, by finally getting a sense of his life at last, Jonathan earned the lifetime that followed;

He found that a belief of death is not a forever heaven, it’s life on unending levels;

He found new lessons, new tests, always higher realms to discover;

 With his new skills, he chose to fly back to others who loved his ideals too, the ones who wanted to learn;

He showed a new kind of flying, and taught the best he knew;

Once they understood the ideas, knew they could learn it, he left them to discover flight on their own;

He followed wherever his highest right led him to fly.

Not one of those ideas would I change today.

Well, would I change one word?

Yes.  I wish I knew how to drop “he” and “his” from the story.  Half Jonathan’s readers had to forgive me, opening the story.

Since everything else in my mind has changed with time, how did I write a story that stayed true for me all the rest of my life? 

Easy answer: I didn’t write the story.  

I heard the name as I walked alone in the night.  I was worried how I could pay the rent as a writer, but in the midst of my concerns, I heard ”Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” a voice behind me on the empty streets.  I didn’t know what a Jonathan Livingston Seagull was till hours later, when my office wall turned into a widescreen CinemaScope Technicolor movie, and the story began, a brilliant motion picture in front of me.  I somehow had the sense to write what I saw as fast as I could, till the widescreen suddenly disappeared, turned back into a wall, the story unfinished, and gone.  I tried, but couldn't invent the ending of the story.

Eight years later, a dream gave me the ending.  Then I followed Part One with three other parts, the last one written in 1967.  But the last part I didn't want to print.  It didn’t belong, I thought, in the sixties.  I was sure I had destroyed it, but my dear friend Sabryna found a faded carbon copy a year ago.  The fourth part does belong now, I thought, here in the beginning of the 21st century. 

Then who imagined the whole story, who sent it to the young writer I was?  

I don't have a clue.  I had no idea where it came from.  I still don’t.

I loved seagulls, loved flying.  If I were a seagull, I thought, I’d fly differently from the flock.  Was that enough that my subconscious mind would make this whole story up, then display the first part for me to see?  If it had that wonderful power, why didn’t my subconscious do the same for all the books, for any of the books that followed?

Had I been as fascinated with the forest as I was with the sky, I thought, would my mind have suggested Jonathan Livingston Squirrel?  I smiled, and doubted that would have happened.

All my life, no answer about who created the story.  Maybe each of us has one mystery that will never be solved.  Mine is Jonathan Livingston Seagull.