During the 1972 season Oakland A’s pitcher Bob Locker followed the philosophies professed in a book, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, that he also encouraged teammates to read as a way of life. The era of beatniks, artists and college students reading Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Herman Hesse and other existential writers was now considered out-of-date and the world of the quasi-philosophy paperback was finally entering the zeitgeist of U.S. culture and another culture not known for its intellectual capacities: baseball.
The premise of the book was simple–there is a seagull named Jonathan who is bored with his daily routines. Jonathan goes through an existential crisis, learns to fly, meets other seagulls who interest him in moral platitudes until he finally learns love, respect and forgiveness all the while embracing non-conformity.
The book was largely panned by critics and the literary crowd, yet I will leave you with a few quotes in order to make your own decision concerning the now largely forgotten novel:
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.”
“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.”
“Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “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, too.”