“No limits, Jonathan?”, I think to myself from time to time when I need to remember who I am. “No limits, Jon? Very well! It is only a matter of time . . .”
Long before my beloved Jonathan spoke these words to me, I knew their truth in my heart of hearts, without suspecting it. I was rejecting suggestions of limits long before I knew what I was doing or why.
I knew in my heart of hearts I wanted to write, was drawn to pen and paper before I could hold a pen in my little hands. To my young mind there was something terrifically, deliciously important about it, about working a pen and paper.
Childhood years were indeed the loneliest and most lost in all of my life. But rarely from time to time I heard the voice of my highest right, and it kept me safe from making foolish choices that would destroy one's life.
In time, as I learned to think for myself, I was naturally drawn to questions like 'What is Life?', and 'Why do we live?', and 'What is the best, highest way to live one's life?'
I wanted to learn about Life, be a philosopher, write my truth, share it with the world and change it forever. Gradually curiosity turned to obsession. It was baffling for my mother and it worried her. She expected me to be like the world around me, conform to it's definitions and be obsessed by sane and rational objectives befitting my "age" and upbringing.
'I just want to find out what I don't know about Life, is all, mother!' I tried to relax her mind. 'I have to! I shall know no peace until I know!'
It didn't make a lot of sense to her and didn't reassure her.
The best times of my childhood were the halcyon days at my maternal grandmother's home. And always, at my grandmother's home, in pleasant accompaniment to my frolicking, was music! I have been drawn to music since as far back as I can remember. This love grew until, by the time I was in college, I decided to learn to play the violin. Mozart and Bach and Beethoven and Paganini became heroes to me!
I had never believed myself to be incapable of anything whatsoever, and although there was nobody in my city to teach me how to play the violin, I did not for a moment despair of it. In my heart I was absolutely dead certain I'd play the violin beautifully one day. As it turned out, I met one of the best violin teachers in the world.
A friend and fellow violin enthusiast gave me a brilliant book: 'Six lessons with Yehudi Menuhin'.
By then I had learned a little about and aspired to be like the great American violinist, widely loved and respected like few other violinists before, then or since: Yehudi Menuhin. As a matter of fact, by the time his book was in my hands he had passed away in the United States. I never had a chance to meet him. But I had his book to comfort and guide me in my pursuit of violinistic perfection. 'There is nothing you can't learn from a book: careful study, a little practice and we're throwing knives expertly.'
I didn't learn to throw knives; I learned to play the violin. As I learned, I taught what I learned to kids and earned some money as a violin teacher.
Every time I met social acquaintances or relatives or old and new friends I was asked the same question: 'What do you do for a living?', as if that is the only thing that matters. When I answered that I was a violinist people repeated the question as if they thought I hadn't heard their question accurately. For them it was inconceivable that one could make such a choice, be so cavalier with one's life. When I reassured them they had heard me correctly they threw propriety to the wind and asked me how I hoped to make a living from it. Relatives advised my parents to check my descent while there was still time and hope.
My parents are mild people, and have been my best friends all my life. For that I am deeply grateful to them.
They strongly advised me to walk the beaten path and value security. After a time of perfunctory opposition, they abandoned their worried efforts to turn me from my decision, as I refused to relent, and left me to my devices.
I did try my hand at a job once. Within a month I knew I would very soon die from boredom if I continued to do something I didn't really want to do. At the end of the month I left it.
There was hardly a social gathering I went to where I wasn't looked upon strangely, with doubts cast over my sanity, for choosing to fiddle while my life burnt away day after day. The world around me didn't care for my belief in myself and remained cynical. I, in turn, cared nothing for the world's cynicism, and whenever the opportunity presented itself I tried to share with them what I was learning in my life.
Events of my life kept on proving me right, again and again, to choose to always follow my heart. There was never any doubt in my mind to begin with. And every event, small or big, not only proved me right but also opened up new avenues of opportunity and adventure. And, through it all, quietly, I learned!
My unswerving obsession with my search for Life did nothing to reassure my mother who was already worried for my future. I'd read books that said you were guided if you wanted to learn this thing; that your teacher would find you if learning mattered to you more than anything else. Months passed but there was no teacher in my life, and I pined. Day and night the desperate wish to meet my teacher ate away at my heart. Nights I cried secretly on my pillow, and days I lived listlessly, worrying about what was going to happen of me, how I was going to learn what most of the world - except the books - told me was unknowable. With nothing to reassure me, except what I'd read in the books that said my teacher would find me, with no friends or relatives who shared my values and my search, I lived a lonely existence indeed. I dearly missed the innocence of the carefree days at my grandmother's home from my childhood. What a long way away had my life come from the innocence of those happy times and where was it going from here?
How was I going to meet my teacher?!
As I flew in my lonely lonely sky, desperate and distraught, my dark sky was lit up by the warm, immensely powerful radiance of two magnificent birds . . .
One of them, was Jonathan Livingston Seagull!
All my life until that moment the two radiant powerful birds appeared in my sky I'd been more or less lost. Now I had finally met my teachers. And from the first moment we met the most important lesson they taught me was: You already know!
I was impatient to know, to be wise and free like my teachers, impatient to reach my goal. Jonathan taught me that perfect speed is being there. How soon did I want to be free? What could be sooner than here and now?! My teachers told me I was already free, here and now, and I was free to live this truth by removing the limits in my thinking. The choice was all mine and mine alone.
Perfect speed is being there, and to play the violin well you must believe you already are an expert. As I practiced this truth, sure enough, I learned things about violin playing I didn't know before; I acquired sudden skills I didn't have before. Every time I relaxed my mind I was free of my limited beliefs and naturally, inevitably, without exception, I played beautifully!
Time and again, as I practiced my lessons, Jonathan flew by my side reminding - 'Remember: no limits!'
Other times, he soared high in the sky until he was merely a speck against the deep blue, way up high above me, teaching me by example what it means to fly!
With tears in my eyes and stillness in my heart I gazed at him, understanding a little more each day and each year.
I watched my teachers in flight and yearned for their skill and their control. Jonathan taught me that perfect control in flight comes from perfect control of mind; that fear and anger and boredom limit one's life, one's capacity for joy and love.
By loving me both my teachers made me realize that there was one truth in all our beliefs and at the end of all our search, and that truth wasLove! Nothing else matters.
Each year I learned and grew some more. Each year I changed some more, realizing more and more each year my teachers' truth in my own heart, as I attempted to live their powerful ideas in the highest way I knew.
One summer evening, a few years after I met my two teachers, I was sitting in my room writing in my journal, as had been my habit of many years. I put my pen down and looked outside my window. It had been a warm summer's day and, as happens in late summer here in the northwest of the Indian peninsula, the sky had been darkening with gigantic cumulonimbus clouds. It looked like a thunderstorm was in the offing. On impulse I put my journal aside and went outside to look at my beloved sky. I climbed a few steps to the terrace and stopped a few steps short of the iron grill doorway to the terrace. Through the iron grill I could see part of the sky to the west.
There was a giant cumulonimbus on the western horizon. The sun had just dipped behind the hills to the west. The dark nimbus was touched on it's northern side by pink and orange from the setting Sun, lightning flashing inside it now and then. In the sky behind the peak of the nimbus, a star twinkled against a blue so clean, so pure, so true, it did something inside me and there was a flash inside me, like the flash of lightning: as sharp and as brief! It lasted less than a quarter of a second and left me standing there in tears from the sheer loveliness of it, feeling love love love!
I knew right away that I had just had a brief glimpse of the truth my teachers had taught me: 'Love. Is all. That matters.'
I stood there on the step, unmoving, tears in eyes unseeing, deeply disappointed that the moment of truth had been so unjustly brief! . . . Iwanted nothing but to abandon myself to that amazing Love . . . ! What point in living without it? . . . For a long moment I stood there with a heavy heavy heart, before slowly, listlessly dragging myself back to my room.
Now I'd had a glimpse of my truth. Now I knew what lay hidden inside me, so close it was an impossible miracle it was hidden so completely from my view! That glimpse guided me in my living by giving me perspective. It answered vital questions. The perspective it gave me helped me in my relationships to others and in the challenges of my life.
Some time after this I was on a sight seeing trip to a waterfall. It had rained a lot and the little river roared wildly as it threw itself over a cliff! On a cliff opposite the waterfall I stood, watching it, tears in my eyes and beautiful rain on my face, knowing in my heart the meaning of the wild abandon of Love, dying to lose myself in it. For me, it wasn't a waterfall, it was Love . . .
Just a brief glimpse of my truth changed me in subtle ways nothing else could have changed me in. Anything beautiful I now encounter in my life reminds me of my vision of 'Love' . . . Anything beautiful - people, nature, art, films, violins, music, airplanes, rivers, waterfalls - I no longer distinguish from that beautiful Love.
I think of the most beautiful lesson Jonathan taught me: 'You must learn to fly 'up' and understand the meaning of kindness and of love', and every time I think of it I realize more and more the direction I want to keep changing in. 'You must learn to fly up and understand the meaning of kindness and of love.' . . .
My teachers are with me always, whether I can see them with my eyes or not. It was true before I met them as it is true now, although I didn't suspect it then. Never, since I met them, have I felt they were absent. It is my certain understanding that in troubled times and smooth, day and night, every moment of my life they are with me. In spite of my mistakes, my aparrent imperfections, they are ever present, guiding and heartening with their love, reminding me always: 'Remember, you are a perfect expression of perfect Love! Don't let nobody tell you different! Ever.'
Jonathan flies with me, every moment, tirelessly, refusing to give up his trust in me, guiding, reminding, exhorting, inspiring: 'Well done! A little theory, and a lot of practice! Remember . . . no limits!'