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To the real Jonathan Seagull,
who lives within us all.
It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea. A
mile from shore a fishing oat chummed the water. and the word for Breakfast !lock
flashed through the air, till a crowd of a thousand seagulls came to dodge and fight for
its of food. It was another us" da" eginning.
But wa" off alone, out " himself e"ond oat and shore, #onathan $i%ingston &eagull
was practicing. A hundred feet in the sk" he lowered his weed feet, lifted his eak, and
strained to hold a painful hard twisting cur%e through his wings. The cur%e meant that he
would fl" slowl", and now he slowed until the wind was a whisper in his face, until the
ocean stood still eneath him. 'e narrowed his e"es in fierce concentration, held his
reath, forced one... single... more... inch... of... cur%e... Then his featliers ruffled, he
stalled and fell.
&eagulls, as "ou know, ne%er falter, ne%er stall. To stall in the air is for them disgrace
and it is dishonor.
But #onathan $i%ingston &eagull, unashamed, stretching his wings again in that
tremling hard cur%e(slowing, slowing, and stalling once more(was no ordinar" ird.
)ost gulls don*t other to learn more than the simplest facts of flight(how to get
from shore to food and ack again. !or most gulls, it is not fl"ing that matters, ut
eating. !or this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, ut flight. )ore than
an"thing else. #onathan $i%ingston &eagull lo%ed to fl".
This kind of thinking, he found, is not the wa" to make one+s self popular with other
irds. E%en his parents were disma"ed as #onathan spent whole da"s alone, making
hundreds of low,le%el glides, e-perimenting.
'e didn+t know wh", for instance, ut when he flew at altitudes less than half his
wingspan ao%e the water, he could sta" in the air longer, with less effort. 'is glides
ended not with the usual feet,down splash into the sea, ut with a long flat wake as he
touched the surface with his feet tightl" streamlined against his od". .hen he egan
sliding in to feet,up landings on the each, then pacing the length of his slide in the
sand, his parents were %er" much disma"ed indeed.
/.h", #on, wh"01 his mother asked. /.h" is it so hard to e like the rest of the flock,
#on0 .h" can+t "ou lea%e low fl"ing to the pelicans, the alhatross0 .h" don+t "ou eat0
&on, "ou+re one and feathers21
/I don+t mind eing one and feathers mom. I 3ust want to know what I can do in the
air and what I can+t, that+s all. I 3ust want to know.1
/&ee here #onathan1 said his father not unkindl". /.inter isn+t far awa". Boats will e
few and the surface fish will e swimming deep. If "ou must stud", then stud" food, and
how to get it. This fl"ing usiness is all %er" well, ut "ou can+t eat a glide, "ou know.
4on+t "ou forget that the reason "ou fl" is to eat.1
#onathan nodded oedientl". !or the ne-t few da"s he tried to eha%e like the other
gulls5 he reall" tried, screeching and fighting with the flock around the piers and fishing
oats, di%ing on scraps of fish and read. But he couldn+t make it work.
It+s all so pointless, he thought, delieratel" dropping a hard,won ancho%" to a
hungr" old gull chasing him. I could e spending all this time learning to fl". There+s so
much to learn2
It wasn+t long efore #onathan 6ull was off " himself again, far out at sea, hungr",
The su3ect was speed, and in a week+s practice he learned more aout speed than
the fastest gull ali%e.
!rom a thousand feet, flapping his wings as hard as he could, he pushed o%er into a
la7ing steep di%e toward the wa%es, and learned wh" seagulls don+t make la7ing steep
pewer,di%es. In 3ust si- seconds he was mo%ing se%ent" miles per hour, the speed at
which one+s wing goes unstale on the upstroke.
Time after time it happened. 8areful as he was, working at the %er" peak of his
ailit", he lost control at high speed.
8lim to a thousand feet. !ull power straight ahead first, then push o%er, flapping, to
a %ertical di%e. Then, e%er" time, his left wing stalled on an upstroke, he+d roll %iolentl"
left, stall his right wing reco%ering, and flick like fire into a wild tumling spin to the
right. 'e couldn+t e careful enough on that upstroke. Ten times he tried, and all ten
times, as he passed through se%ent" miles per hour, he urst into a churning mass of
feathers, out of control, crashing down into the water.
The ke", he thought at last, dripping wet, must e to hold the wings still at high
speeds(to flap up to fift" and then hold the wings still. !rom two thousand feet he tried
again, rolling into his di%e, eak straight down, wings full out and stale from the
moment he passed fift" miles per hour. It took tremendous strength, ut it worked. In
ten seconds he had lurred through ninet" miles per hour. #onathan had set a world
speed record for seagulls2
But %ictor" was short,li%ed. The instant he egan his pullout, the instant he changed
the angle of his wings, he snapped into that same terrile uncontrolled disaster, and at
ninet" miles per hour it hit him like d"namite. #onathan &eagull e-ploded in midair and
smashed down into a rickhard sea.
.hen he came to, it was well after dark, and he floated in moonlight on the surface of
the ocean. 'is wings were ragged ars of lead, ut the weight of failure was e%en hea%ier
on his ack. 'e wished, feel", that the weight could e 3ust enough to drug him gentl"
down to the ottom, and end it all.
As he sank low in the water, a strange hollow %oice sounded within him. There+s no
wa" around it. I am a seagull. I am limited " m" nature. If I were meant to learn so
much aout fl"ing, I+d ha%e charts for rains. If I were meant to fl" at speed, I+d ha%e a
falcon+s short wings, and li%e on mice instead of fish. )" father was right. I must forget
this foolishness. I must fl" home to the !lock and e content as I am, as a poor limited
The %oice faded, and #onathan agreed. The place for a seagull at night is on shore,
and from this moment forth, he %owed, he would e a normal gull. It would make
'e pushed wearil" awa" from the dark water and flew toward the land, grateful for
what he had learned aout work,sa%ing low,altitude fl"ing. But no, he thought. I am
done with the wa" I was, I am done with e%er"thing I learned. I am a seagull like e%er"
other seagull, and I will fl" like one. &o he climed painfull" to a hundred feet and
flapped his wings harder, pressing for shore.
'e felt etter for his decision to e 3ust another one of the !lock. There would e no
ties now to the force that had dri%en him to learn, there would e no more challenge and
no more failure. And it was prett", 3ust to stop thinking, and fl" through the dark, toward
the lights ao%e the each.
4ark2 The hollow %oice cracked in alarm. &eagulls ne%er fl" in the dark2
#onathan was not alert to listen. It+s prett", he thought. The moon and the lights
twinkling on the water, throwing out little eacon,trails through the night, and all so
peaceful and still...
6et down2 &eagulls ne%er fl" in the dark2 If "ou were meant to fl" in the dark, "ou+d
ha%e the e"es of an owl2 9ou+d ha%e charts for rains2 9ou+d ha%e a falcon+s short wings2
There in the night, a hundred feet in the air, #onathan $i%ingston &eagull(linked.
'is pain, his resolutions, %anished.
&hort wings. A falcon+s short wings2
That+s the answer2 .hat a fool I+%e een2 All I need is a tin" little wing, all I need is to
fold most of m" wings and fl" on 3ust the tips alone2 &hort wings2
'e climed two thousand feet ao%e the lack sea, and without a moment for thought
of failure and death, he rought his forewings tightl" in to his od", left onl" the narrow
swept daggers of his wingtips e-tended into the wind, and fell into a %ertical di%e.
The wind was a monster roar at his head. &e%ent" miles per hour, ninet", a hundred
and twent" and faster still. The wing,strain now at a hundred and fort" miles per hour
wasn+t nearl" as hard as it had een efore at se%ent", and with the faintest twist of his
wingtips he eased out of the di%e and shot ao%e the wa%es, a gra" cannonall under the
'e closed his e"es to slits against the wind and re3oiced. A hundred fort" miles per
hour2 And under control2 If I di%e from fi%e thousand feet instead of two thousand, I
wonder how fast:
'is %ows of a moment efore were forgotten, swept awa" in that great swift wind. 9et
he felt guiltless, reaking the promises he had made himself. &uch promises are onl" for
the gulls that accept the ordinar". One who has touched e-cellence in his learning has no
need of that kind of promise.
B" sunup, #onathan 6ull was practicing again. !rom fi%e thousand feet the fishing
oats were specks in the flat lue water, Breakfast !lock was a faint cloud of dust motes,
'e was ali%e, tremling e%er so slightl" with delight, proud that his fear was under
control. Then without ceremon" he hugged in his forewings, e-tended his short, angled
wingtips, and plunged direcfl" toward the sea. B" the time he passed four thousand feet
he had reached terminal %elocit", the wind was a solid eating wall of sound against
which he could mo%e no faster. 'e was fl"ing now straight down, at two hundred
fourteen miles per hour. 'e swallowed, knowing that if his wings unfolded at that speed
e+d e lown into a million tin" shreds of seagull. But the speed was power, and the
speed was 3o", and the speed was pure eaut".
'e egan his pullout at a thousand feet, wingtips thudding and lurring in that
gigatitic wind, the oat and the crowd of gulls tilting and growing meteor,fast, directl" in
'e couldn+t stop5 he didn+t know "et e%en how to turn at that speed. 8ollision would
e instant death.
And so he shut his e"es.
It happened that morning, then, 3ust after sunrise, that Ionathan $i%ingston &eagull
fired directl" through the center of Breakfast !lock, ticking off two hundred twel%e miles
per hour, e"es closed, in a great roaring shriek of wind and feathers. The 6ull of !ortune
smiled upon him this once, and no one was killed.
B" the time he had pulled his eak straight up into the sk" he was still scorching
along at a hundred and si-t" miles per hour. .hen he had slowed to twent" and
stretched his wings again at last, the oat was a crum on the sea, four thousand feet
'is thought was triumph. Terminal %elocit"2 A seagull at two hundred fourteen miles
per hour2 It was a reakthrough, the greatest single moment in the histor" of the !lock,
and in that moment a new age opened for #onathan 6ull. !l"ing out to his lonel" practice
area, folding his wings for a di%e from eight thousand feet, he set himself at once to
disco%er how to turn.
A single wingtip feather, he found, mo%ed a fraction of an inch, gi%es a smooth
sweeping cur%e at tremendous speed. Before he learned this, howe%er, he found that
mo%ing more than one feather at that speed will spin "ou like a ritIe all... and #onathan
had flown the first aeroatics of an" seagull on earth.
'e spared no time that da" for talk with other gulls, ut flew on past sunset. 'e
disco%ered the loop, the slow roll, the point roll, the in%erted spin, the gull unt, the
.hen #onathan &eagull 3oined the !lock on the each, it was full night. 'e was di77"
and terril" tired. 9et in delight he flew a loop to landing, with a snap roll 3ust efore
touchdown. .hen the" hear of it, he thought, of the Breakthrough, the"+ll e wild with
3o". 'ow much more there is now to li%ing2 Instead of our dra slogging forth and ack
to the fishing oats, there+s a reason to life2 .e can lift oursel%es out of ignorance, we
can find oursel%es as creatures of e-cellence and intelligence and skill. .e can e free2
.e can learn to fl"2 The "ears ahead hummed and glowed with promise.
The gulls were flocked into the 8ouncil 6athering when he landed, and apparentl" had
een so flocked for some time. The" were, in fact, waiting. /#onathan $i%ingston &eagull2
&tand to 8enter21 The Elder+s words sounded in a %oice of highest ceremon". &tand to
8enter meant onl" great shame or great honor. &tand to 8enter for 'onor was the wa"
the gulls+ foremost leaders were marked. Of course, he thought, the Breakfast !lock this
morning5 the" saw the Breakthrough2 But I want no honors. I ha%e no wish to e leader.
I want onl" to share what I+%e found, to show those hori7ons out ahead for us all. 'e
/#onathan $i%ingston &eagull,1 said the Elder, /&tand to 8enter for &hame in the sight
of "our fellow gulls21
It felt like eing hit with a oard. 'is knees went weak, his feathers sagged, there
was roaring in his ears. 8entered for shame0 Impossile2 The Breakthrough2 The" can+t
understand2 The"+re wrong, the"+re wrong2
/...for his reckless irresponsiilit"1 the solemn %oice intoned, /%iolating the dignit"
and tradition of the 6ull !amil"...1
To e centered for shame meant that he would e cast out of gull societ", anished
to a solitar" life on the !ar 8liffs.
/...one da" #onathan $i%ingston &eagull, "ou shall learn that irresponsiilit" does not
pa". $ife is the unknown and the unknowale, e-cept that we are put into this world to
eat, to sta" ali%e as long as we possil" can.1
A seagull ne%er speaks ack to the 8ouncil !lock, ut it was #onathan+s %oice raised.
/Irresponsiilit"0 )" rothers21 he cried. /.ho is more responsile than a gull who finds
and follows a meaning, a higher purpose for life0 !or a thousand "ears we ha%e scraled
after fish heads, ut now we ha%e a reason to li%e(to learn, to disco%er, to e free2 6i%e
me one chance, let me show "ou what I+%e found...1
The !lock might as well ha%e een stone.
/The Brotherhood is roken,1 the gulls intoned together, and with one accord the"
solemnl" closed their ears and turned their acks upon him. #onathan &eagull spent the
rest of his da"s alone, ut he flew wa" out e"ond the !ar 8liffs. 'is one sorrow was not
solituile, it was that other gulls refused to elie%e the glor" of flight that awaited them5
the" refused to open their e"es and see. 'e learned more each da". 'e learned that a
streamlined high,speed di%e could ring him to find the rare and tast" fish that schooled
ten feet elow the surface of the ocean; he no longer needed fishing oats and stale
read for sur%i%al. 'e learned to sleep in the air, setting a course at night across the
offshore wind, co%ering a hundred miles from sunset to sunrise. .ith the same inner
control, he flew through hea%" sea,fogs and climed ao%e them into da77ling clear
skies... in the %er" times when e%er" other gull stood on the ground, knowing nothing
ut mist and rain. 'e learned to ride the high winds far iniand, to dine there on delicate
.hat he had once hoped for the !lock, he now gained for himself alone5 he learned to
fl", and was not sorr" for the price that he had paid. #onathan &cagull disco%ered that
oredom and fear and anger are the reasons that a gull+s life is so short, and with these
gone from his thought, he li%ed a long fine life indeed.
The" came in the e%ening, then, and found Ionathan gliding peaceful and alone
through his elo%ed sk". The two gulls that appeared at his wings were pure as starlight,
and the glow from them was gentle and friendl" in the high night air. But most lo%el" of
all was the skill with which the" flew, their wingtips mo%ing a precise and constant inch
from his own. .ithout a word, #onathan put them to his test, a test that no gull had e%er
passed. 'e twisted his wings, slowed to a single mile per hour ao%e stall. The two
radiant irds slowed with him, smoothl", locked in position. The" knew aout slow fl"ing.
'e folded his wings, rolled and dropped in a di%e to a hundred ninet" miles per hour.
The" dropped with him, streaking down in flawless formation.
At last he turned that speed straight up into a long %ertical slow,roll. The" rolled with
'e reco%ered to le%el flight and was <uiet for a time efore he spoke. /=er" well,1 he
said, /who are "ou0
/.e+re from "our !lock, #onathan. .e are "our rothers.1 The words were strong and
calm. /.e+%e come to take "ou higher, to take "ou home.1
/'ome I ha%e none. !lock I ha%e none. I am Outcast. And we fl" now at the peak of
the 6reat )ountain .ind. Be"ond a few hundred feet, I can lift this old od" no higher.1
/But "ou can, #onathan. !or "ou ha%e learned. One school is finished, and the time
has come for another to egin.1
As it had shined across him all his life, so understanding lighted that moment for
#onathan &eagull. The" were right. 'e could fl" higher, and it was time to go home.
'e ga%e one last look across the sk", across that magnificent sil%er land where he
had learned so much.
/I+m read"1 he said at last.
And #onathan $i%ingston &eagull rose with the two starright gulls to disappear into a
perfect dark sk".
&o this is hea%en, he thought, and he had to smile at himself. It was hardl" respectful
to anal"7e hea%en in the %er" moment that one flies up to enter it.
As he came from Earth now, ao%e the clouds and in close formation with the two
rilliant gulls, he saw that his own od" was growing as right as theirs. True, the same
"oung #onathan &eagull was there that had alwa"s li%ed ehind his golden e"es, ut the
outer form had changed. It felt like a seagull od", ut alread% it flew far etter than his
old one had e%er flown. .h", with half the effort, he thought, I+ll get twice the speed,
twice the performance of m" est da"s on Earth2 'is feathers glowed rilliant white now,
and his wings were smooth and perfect as sheets of polished sil%er. 'e egan,
delightedl", to learn aout them, to press power into these new wings.
At two hundred fift" mlles per hour he felt that he was nearing his le%el,flight
ma-imum speed. At two hundred se%ent",three he thought that he was fl"ing as fast as
he could fl", and he was e%er so faintl" disappointed. There was a limit to how much the
new od" could do, and though it was much faster than his old le%el,flight record, it was
still a limit that would take great effort to crack. In hea%en, he thought, there should e
The clouds roke apart, his escorts called, /'app" landings, #onathan,1 and %anished
into thin air.
'e was fl"ing o%er a sea, toward a 3agged shoreline. A %er" few seagulls were
working the updrafts on the cliffs. Awa" off to the north, at the hori7on itself, flew a few
others. New sights, new thoughts, new <uestions. .h" so few gulls0 'ea%en should e
flocked with gulls2 And wh" am I so tired, all at once0 6ulls in hea%en are ne%er
supposed to e tired, or to sleep.
.here had he heard that0 The memor" of his life on Earth was falling awa". Earth
had een a place where he had learned much, of course, ut the details were lurred(
something aout fighting for food, and eing Outcast.
The do7en gulls " the shoreline came to meet him, none sa"ing a word. 'e felt onl"
that he was welcome and that this was home. It had een a igda" for him, a da" whose
sunrise he no longer rememered.
'e turned to land on the each, eating his wings to stop an inch in the air, then
dropping lightl" to the sand, The other gulls landed too, ut not one of them so much as
flapped a feather. The" swung into the wind, right wings outstretched, then somehow
the" changed the cur%e of their feathers until the" had stopped in the same instant their
feet touched the ground. It was eautiful control, ut now #onathan was 3ust too tired to
tr" it. &tandiug there on the each, still without a word spoken, he was asleep.
In the da"s that followed, #onathan saw that there was as much to learn aout flight
in this place as there had een in the life ehind him. But with a difference. 'ere were
gulls who thought as he thought, !or each of them, the most important thing in li%ing
was to reach out and touch perfection in that which the" most lo%ed to do, and that was
to fl". The" were magnificent irds, all of them, and the" spent hour after hour e%er" da"
practicing flight, testing ad%anced aeronautics.
!or a long time #onathan forgot aout the world that he had come from, that place
where the !lock li%ed with its e"es tightl" shut to the 3o" of flight, using its wings as
means to the end of finding and fighting for food. But now and then, 3ust for a moment,
he rememered. 'e rememered it one morning when he was out with his instructor,
while the" rested on the each after a session of folded,wing snap rolls. /.here is
e%er"od", &ulli%an01 he asked silentl", <uite at home now with the eas" telepath" that
these gulls used instead of screes and gracks. /.h" aren+t there more of us here0 .h",
where I came from there were...1
/...thousands and thousands of gulls. I know.1 &ulli%an shook his head. /The onl"
answer I can see, #onathan, is that "ou are prett" well a one,in,a,million ird. )ost of us
came along e%er so slowl". .e went from one world into another that was almost e-actl"
like it, forgettiug right awa" where we had come from, not caring where we were headed,
li%ing for the moment. 4o "ou ha%e an" idea how man" li%es we must ha%e gone through
efore we e%en gor the first idea that there is more to life than eating, or fighting, or
power in the !lock0 A thousand li%es, #on, ten thousand2 And then another hundred li%es
until we egan to learn that there is such a thing as perfection, and another hundred
again to get the idea that our purpose for li%ing is to find that perfection and show it
forth. The same rule holds for us now, of course; we choose our ne-t world through what
we learn in this one. $earn nothing, and the ne-t world is the same as this one, all the
same limitations and lead weights to o%ercome.1
'e stretched his wings and turned to face the wind. /But "ou, #on,1 he said, /learned
so much at one time that "ou didn+t ha%e to go through a thousand li%es to reach this
In a moment the" were airorne again, practicing. The formation point,roils were
difficult, for through the in%erted half #onathan had to think upside down, re%ersing the
cur%e of his wing, and re%ersing it e-actl" in harmon" with his instructor+s.
/$et+s tr" it again.1 &ulli%an said o%er and o%er; /$et+s tr" it again.1 Then, finall",
/6ood.1 And the" egan practicing outside loops.
One e%ening the gulls that were not night,fl"ing stood together on the sand, thinking.
#onathan took all his courage in hand and walked to the Elder 6ull, who, it was said, was
soon to e mo%ing e"ond this world.
/8hiang...1 he said a little ner%ousl".
The old seagull looked at him kindl". /9es, m" son01 Instead of eing enfeeled "
age, the Elder had een empowered " it5 he could outfl" an" gull in the !lock, and he
had learned skills that the others were onl" graduall" coming to know.
/8hiang, this world isn+t hea%en at all, is it01 The Elder smiled in the moonlight. /9ou
are learning again, #onathan &eagull,1 he said.
/.ell, what happens from here0 .here are we going0 Is there no such place as
/No, #onathan, there is no such place. 'ea%en is not a place, and it is not a time.
'ea%en is eing perfect.1 'e was silent for a moment. /9ou are a %er" fast flier, aren+t
/I... I en3o" speed,1 #onathan said, taken aack ut proud that the Elder had noticed.
/9ou will egin to touch hea%en, #onathan, in the moment that "ou touch perfect
speed. And that isn*t fl"ing a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or fl"ing at the speed
of light. Because an" numer is a limit, and perfection doesn+t ha%e limits. Perfect speed,
m" son, is eing there.1
.ithout warning, 8hiang %anished and appeared at the water+s edge fift" feet awa",
all in the flicker of an instant. Then he %anished again and stood, in the same
millisecond, at #onathan+s shoulder. /It+s kind of fun,1 he said.
#onathan was da77led. 'e forgot to ask aout hea%en. /'ow do "ou do that0 .hat
does it feel like0 'ow far can "ou go01
/9ou can go to an" place and to an" time that "ou wish to go,1 the Elder said. /I+%e
gone e%er"where and e%er"when I can think of.1 'e looked across the sea. /It+s strange.
The gulls who scorn perfection for the sake of tra%el go nowhere, slowl". Those who put
aside tra%el for the sake of perfection go an"where, instantl". Rememer, #onathan,
hea%en isn+t a place or a time, ecause place and time are so %er" meaningless. 'ea%en
/8an "ou teach me to fl" like that01 #onathan &eagull tremled to con<uer another
/Of course if "ou wish to learn.1
/I wish. .hen can we start01
/.e could start now if "ou+d like.1
/I want to learn to fl" like that,1 #onathan said and a strange light glowed in his e"es.
>Tell me what to do.1
8hiang spoke slowl" and watched the "ounger gull e%er so carefull". /To fl" as fast as
thought, to an"where that is,1 he said, /"ou must egin " knowing that "ou ha%e
alread" arri%ed ...1
The trick, according to 8hiang, was for #onathan to stop seeing himself as trapped
inside a limited od" that had a fort",two inch wingspan and performance that could e
plotted on a chart. The trick was to know that his true nature li%ed, as perfect as an
unwritten numer, e%er"where at once across space and time.
#onathan kept at it, fiercel", da" after da", from efore sunrise till past midnight. And
for all his effort he mo%ed not a feather width from his spot.
/!orget aout faith21 8hiang said it time and again. /9ou didn+t need faith to fl", "ou
needed to understand fl"ing.This is 3ast the same. Now tr" again ...1
Then one da" #onathan, standing on the shore, closing his e"es, concentrating, all in
a flash knew what 8hiang had een telling him. /.h", that+s true2 I am a perfect,
unlimited gull21 'e felt a great shock of 3o".
/6ood21 said 8hiang and there was %ictor" in his %oice.
#onathan opened his e"es. 'e stood alone with the Elder on a totall" different
seashore(trees down to the water+s edge, twin "ellow suns turning o%erhead.
/At last "ou+%e got the idea,1 8hiang said, /ut "our control needs a little work...1
#onathan was stunned. /.here are we01
?tterl" unimpressed with the strange surroundings, the Elder rushed the <uestion
aside. /.e+re on some planet, o%iousl", with a green sk" and a doule star for a sun.1
#onathan made a scree of delight, the first sound he had made since he had left
Earth. /IT .OR@&21
/.ell, of course, it works, #on,1 said 8hiang. /It alwa"s works, when "ou know what
"ou*re doing. Now aout "our control...1
B" the time the" returned, it was dark. The other gulls looked at #onathan with awe
in their golden e"es, for the" had seen him disappear from where he had een rooted for
'e stood their congratulations for less than a minute. /I+m the newcomer here2 I+m
3ust eginning2 It is I who must learn from "ou21
/I wonder aout that, #on,1 said &ulli%an standing near. /9ou ha%e less fear of
learning than an" gull I+%e seen in ten thousand "ears. /The !lock fell silent, and
#onathan fidgeted in emarrassment.
/.e can start working with time if "ou wish,1 8hiang said, /till "ou can fl" the past
and the future. And then "ou will e read" to egin the most difficult, the most powerful,
the most fun of all. 9ou will e read" to egin to fl" up and know the meaning of
kindness and of lo%e.1
A month went ", or something that felt aout like a month, and #onathan learned at
a tremendous rate. 'e alwa"s had learned <uickl" from ordinar" e-perience, and now,
the special student of the Elder 'imself, he took in new ideas like a streamlined
But then the da" came that 8hiang %anished. 'e had een talking <uietl" with them
all, e-horting them ne%er to stop their learning and their practicing and their stri%ing to
understand more of the perfect in%isile principle of all life. Then, as he spoke, his
feathers went righter and righter and at last turned so rilliant that no gull could look
/#onathan,1 he said, and these were the last words that he spoke, /keep working on
.hen the" could see again, 8hiang was gone.
As the da"s went past, #onathan found himself thinking time and again of the Earth
from which he had come. If he had known there 3ust a tenth, 3ust a hundredth, of what
he knew here, how much more life would ha%e meant2 'e stood on the sand and fell to
wondering if there was a gull ack there who might e struggling to reak out of his
limits, to see the meaning of flight e"ond a wa" of tra%el to get a readcrum from a
rowoat. Perhaps there might e%en ha%e een one made Outcast for speaking his truth in
the face of the !lock. And the more #onathan practiced his kindness lessons, and the
more he worked to know the nature of lo%e, the more he wanted to go ack to Earth. !or
in spite of his lonel" past, #onathan &eagull was orn to e an instructor, and his own
wa" of demonstrating lo%e was to gi%e something of the truth that he had seen to a gull
who asked onl" a chance to see truth for himself.
&ulli%an, adept now at thought,speed flight and helping the others to learn, was
/#on, "ou were Outcast once. .h" do "ou think that an" of the gulls in "our old time
would listen to "ou now0 9ou know the pro%er, and it+s true; The gull sees farthest who
flies highest. Those gulls where "ou came from are standing on the ground, s<uawking
and fighting among themsel%es. The"+re a thousand miles from hea%en(and "ou sa" "ou
want to show them hea%en from where the" stand2 #on, the" can+t see their own
wingtips2 &ta" here. 'elp the new gulls here, the ones who are high enough to see what
"ou ha%e to tell them.1 'e was <uiet for a moment, and then he said, /.hat if 8hiang
had gone ack to his old worlds0 .here would "ou ha%e een toda"01
The last point was the telling one, and &ulli%an was right The gull sees farthest who
#onathan sta"ed and worked with the new irds coming in, who were all %er" right
and <uick with their lessons. But the old feeling came ack, and he couldn+t help ut
think that there might e one or two gulls ack on Earth who would e ale to learn, too.
'ow much more would he ha%e known " now if 8hiang had come to him on the da" that
he was Outcast2
/&ull", I must go ack,1 he said at last /9our students are doing well. The" can help
"ou ring the newcomers along.1
&ulli%an sighed, ut he did not argue. /I think I+ll miss "ou, #onathan,1 was all he
/&ull", for shame21 #onathan said in reproach, /and don+t e foolish2 .hat are we
tr"ing to practice e%er" da"0 If our friendship depends on things like space and time,
then when we finall" o%ercome space and time, we*%e destro"ed our own rotherhood2
But o%ercome space, and all we ha%e left is 'ere. O%ercome time, and all we ha%e left is
Now. And in the middle of 'ere and Now, don+t "ou think that we might see each other
once or twice01
&ulli%an &eagull laughed in spite of himself. /9ou cra7" ird,1 he said kindl". /If
an"od" can show someone on the ground how to see a thousand miles, it will e
#onathan $i%ingston &eagull.1 'e looked at the sand. /6ood,"e, #on, m" friend.1
/6ood "e, &ull". .e+ll meet again.1 And with that, #onathan held in thought an
image of the great gull flocks on the shore of another time, and he knew with practiced
ease that he was not one and feather ut a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited
" nothing at all.
!letcher $"nd &eagull was still <uite "oung, ut alread" he knew that no ird had e%er
een so harshl" treated " an" !lock, or with so much in3ustice.
/I don+t care what the" sa",1 he thought fiercel", and his %ision lurred as he flew out
toward the !ar 8liffs. /There+s so much more to fl"ing than 3ust flapping around from
place to place2 A... a... mos<uito does that2 One little arrel roll around the Elder 6ull,
3ust for fun, and I+m Outcast2 Are the" lind0 8an+t the" see0 8an+t the" think of the
glor" that it+ll e when we reall" learn to fl"0
/I don+t care what the" think. I+ll show them what fl"ing is2 I+ll e pure Outlaw, if
that+s the wa" the" want it. And I+ll make them so sorr"...1
The %oice came inside his own head, and though it was %er" gentle, it startled him so
much that he faltered and stumled in the air.
/4on+t e harsh on them, !letcher &eagull. In casting "ou out, the other gulls ha%e
onl" hurt themsel%es, and one da" the" will know this, and one da" the" will see what
"ou see. !orgi%e them, and help them to understand.1
An inch from his right wingtip flew the most rilliant white gull in all the world, gliding
effortlessl" along, not mo%ing a feather, at what was %er" nearl" !letcher+s top speed.
There was a moment of chaos in the "oung ird. /.hat+s going on0 Am I mad0 Am I
dead0 .hat is this01
$ow and calm, the %oice went on within his thought, demanding an answer. /!letcher
$"nd &eagull, do "ou want to fl"01
/9E&, I .ANT TO !$921.
/!letcher $"nd &eagull, do "ou want to fl" so much that "ou will forgi%e the !lock, and
learn, and go ack to them one da" and work to help them know01
There was no l"ing to this magniflcent skillful eing, no matter how proud or how hurt
a ird was !letcher &eagull.
/I do,1 he said softl".
/Then, !letch,1 that right creature said to him, and the %oice was %er" kind, /let+s
egin with $e%el !light ...1
#onathan circled slowl" o%er the !ar 8liffs, watching. This rough "oung !letcher 6ull
was %er" nearl" a perfect flight,student. 'e was strong and light and <uick in the air, ut
far and awa" more important, he had a la7ing dri%e to learn to fl".
'ere he came this minute, a lurred gra" shape roaring out of a di%e, flashing one
hundred fift" miles per hour past his instructor. 'e pulled aruptl" into another tr" at a
si-teen point %ertical slow roll, calling the points out loud.
/...eight... nine... ten... see,#onathan,l+m,running,out,ofairspeed... ele%en... I,want,
good,sharp,stops,like "ours... twel%e... ut,last,it,I3ust,can+t,make...(thirteen...
theselast,three,points... without... fourtee ...aaakk21
!letcher+s whipstall at the top was all the worse for his rage and fur" at failing. 'e
fell ackward, tumled, slammed sa%agel" into an in%erted spin, and reco%ered at last,
panting, a hundred feet elow his instructor+s le%el.
/9ou+re wasting "our time with me, #onathan2 I+m too dum2 I+m too stupid2 I tr" and
tr", ut I+ll ne%er get it21
#onathan &eagull looked down at him and nodded. /9ou+ll ne%er get it for sure as
long as "ou make that pullup so hard. !letcher, "ou lost fort" miles an hour in the entr"2
9ou ha%e to e smooth2 !irm ut smooth, rememer01
'e dropped down to the le%el of the "ounger gull. /$et+s tr" it together now, in
formation. And pa" attention to that pullup. It+s a smooth, eas" entr".1
B" the end of three months #onathan had si- other students, Outcasts all, "et
curious aout this strange new idea of flight for the 3o" of fl"ing.
&till, it was easier for them to practice high performance than it was to understand
the reason ehind it.
/Each of us is in truth an idea of the 6reat 6ull, an unlimited idea of freedom,1
#onathan would sa" in the e%enings on the each, /and precision fl"ing is a step toward
e-pressing our real nature.E%er"thing that limits us we ha%e to put aside. That+s wh" all
this high,speed practice, and low speed, and aeroatics... .1
...and his students would e asleep, e-hausted from the da"+s fl"ing. The" liked the
practice, ecause it was fast and e-citing and it fed a hunger for learning that grew with
e%er" lesson. But not one of them, not e%en !letcher $"nd 6ull, had come to elie%e that
the flight of ideas could possil" e as real as the flight of wind and feather.
/9our whole od", from wingtip to wingtip,1 #onathan would sa", other times, /is
nothing more than "our thought itself, in a form "ou can see. Break the chains of "our
thought, and "ou reak the chains of "our od", too...1 But no matter how he said it, it
sounded like pleasant fiction, and the" needed more to sleep.
It was onl" a month later that #onathan said the time had come to return to the
/.e+re not read"21 said 'enr" 8al%in 6ull. /.e+re not welcome2 .e+re Outcast2 .e
can+t force oursel%es to go where we+re not welcome, can we01
/.e+re free to go where we wish and to e what we are,1 #onathan answered, and he
lifted from the sand and turned east, toward the home grounds of the !lock.
There was rief anguish among his students, for it is the $aw of the !lock that an
Outcast ne%er returns, and the $aw had not een roken once in ten thousand "ears. The
$aw said sta"5 #onathan said go5 and " now he was a mile across the water. If the"
waited much longer, he would reach a hostile !lock alone.
/.ell, we don+t ha%e to oe" the law if we+re not a part of the !lock, do we01 !letcher
said, rather self,consciousl". /Besides, if there+s a fight we+ll e a lot more help there
And so the" flew in from the west that morning, eight of them in a doule,diamond
formation, wingtips almost o%erlapping. The" came across the !lock+s 8ouncil Beach at a
hundred thirt",fi%e miles per hour, #onathan in the lead. !letcher smoothl" at his right
wing, 'enr" 8al%in struggling gamel" at his left. Then the whole formation rolled slowl"
to the right, as one ird... le%el... to... in%erted... to... le%el, the wind whipping o%er
The s<uawks and grockles of e%er"da" life in the !lock were cut off as though the
formation were a giant knife, and eight thousand gull,e"es watched, without a single
link. One " one, each of the eight irds pulled sharpl" upward into a full loop and flew
all the wa" around to a dead,slow stand,up landing on the sand. Then as though this sort
of thing happened e%er" da", #onathan &eagull egan his criti<ue of the flight.
/To egin with,1 he said with a wr" smile, /"ou were all a it late on the 3oin,up...1
It went like lightning through the !lock. Those irds are Outcast2 And the" ha%e
returned2 And that... that can+t happen2 !letcher+s predictions of attle melted in the
/.ell sure, O.@. the"+re Outcast,1 said some of the "ounger gulls, /ut he", man,
where did the" learn to fl" like that01
It took almost an hour for the .ord of the Elder to pass through the !lock; Ignore
them. The gull who speaks to an Outcast is himself Outcast. The gull who looks upon an
Outcast reaks the $aw of the !lock, 6ra",feathered acks were turned upon #onathan
from that moment onward, ut he didn+t appear to notice. 'e held his practice sessions
directl" o%er the 8ouncil Beach and for the first time egan pressing his students to the
limit of their ailit".
/)artin 6ull21 he shouted across the sk". /9ou sa" "ou know low,speed fl"ing. 9ou
know nothing till "ou pro%e it2 !$921
&o <uiet little )artin .illiam &eagull, startled to e caught under his instructor+s fire,
surprised himself and ecame a wi7ard of low speeds. In the lightest ree7e he could
cur%e his feathers to lift himself without a single flap of wing from sand to cloud and
$ikewise 8harles,Roland 6ull flew the 6reat )ountain .ind to twent",four thousand
feet, came down lue from the cold thin air, ama7ed and happ", determined to go still
!letcher &eagull, who lo%ed aeroatics like no one else, con<uered his si-teen point
%ertical slow roll and the ne-t da" topped it off with a triple cartwheel, his feathers
flashing white sunlight to a each from which more than one furti%e e"e watched.
E%er" hour #onathan was there at the side of each of his students, demonstrating,
suggesting, pressuring, guiding. 'e flew with them through night and cloud and storm,
for the sport of it, while the !lock huddled miseral" on the ground.
.hen the fl"ing was done, the students rela-ed in the sand, and in time the"
listened more closel" to #onathan. 'e had some cra7" ideas that the" couldn+t
understand, ut then he had some good ones that the" could. 6raduall", in the night,
another circle formed around the circle of students a circle of curious gulls listening in the
darkness for hours on end, not wishing to see or e seen of one another, fading awa"
It was a month after the Return that the first gull of the !lock crossed the line and
asked to learn how to fl". In his asking, Terrence $owell 6ull ecame a condemned ird,
laeled Outcast5 and the eighth of #onathan+s students.
The ne-t night from the !lock came @irk )a"nard 6ull, woling across the sand,
dragging his leftwing,to collapse at #onathan+s feet. /'elp me,1 he said %er" <uietl",
speaking in the wa" that the d"ing speak. /I want to fl" more than an"thing else in the
/8ome along then,1 said #onathan. /8lim with me awa" from the ground, and we+ll
/9ou don+t understand. )" wing. I can+t mo%e m" wing.1
/)a"nard 6ull, "ou ha%e the freedom to e "ourself, "our true self, here and now,
and nothing can stand in "our wa".It is the $aw of the 6reat 6ull, the $aw that Is.1
/Are "ou sa"ing I can fl"01
/I sa" "ou are free.1
As simpl" and as <uickl" as that, @irk )a"nard 6ull spread his wings, effortlessl",
and lifted into the dark night air. The !lock was roused from sleep " his cr", as loud as
he could scream it, from fi%e hundred feet up; /I can fl"2 $isten2 I 8AN !$921
B" sunrise there were nearl" a thousand irds standing outside the circle of students,
looking curiousl" at )a"nard. The" didn+t care whether the" were seen or not, and the"
listened, tr"ing to understand #onathan &eagull.
'e spoke of %er" simple things(that it is right for a guil to fl", that freedom is the
%er" nature of his eing, that whate%er stands against that freedom must e set aside,
e it ritual or superstition or limitation in an" form.
/&et aside,1 came a %oice from the multitude, /e%en if it e the $aw of the !lock01
/The onl" true law is that which leads to freedom,1 #onathan said. /There is no
/'ow do "ou e-pect us to fl" as "ou fl"01 came another %oice. /9ou are special and
gifted and di%ine, ao%e other irds.1
/$ook at !letcher2 $owell2 8harles,Roland2 #ud" $ee2 Are the" also special and gifted
and di%ine0 No more than "ou are, no more than I am. The onl" difference, the %er" onl"
one, is that the" ha%e egun to understand what the" reall" are and ha%e egun to
'is students, sa%e !letcher, shifted uneasil". The" hadn+t reali7ed that this was what
the" were doing.
The crowd grew larger e%er" da", coming to <uestion, to idoli7e, to scorn.
/The" are sa"ing in the !lock that if "ou are not the &on of the 6reat 6ull 'imself,1
!letcher told #onathan one morning after Ad%anced &peed Practice, /then "ou are a
thousand "ears ahead of "our time.1
#onathan sighed. The price of eing misunderstood, he thought. The" call "ou de%il
or the" call "ou god. /.hat do "ou think, !letch0 Are we ahead of our time01 A long
silence. /.ell, this kind of fl"ing has alwa"s een here to e learned " an"od" who
wanted to disco%er it5 that+s got nothing to do with time. .e+re ahead of the fashion,
ma"e, Ahead of the wa" that most gulls fl".1
/That+s something,1 #onathan said rolling to glide in%erted for a while. /That+s not
half as ad as eing ahead of our time.1
It happened 3ust a week later. !letcher was demonstrating the elements of high,
speed fl"ing to a class of new students. 'e had 3ust pulled out of his di%e from se%en
thousand feet, a long gra" streak firing a few inches ao%e the each, when a "oung ird
on its first flight glided directl" into his path, calling for its mother. .ith a tenth of a
second to a%oid the "oungster, !letcher $"nd &eagull snapped hard to the left, at
something o%er two hundred miles per hour, into a cliff of solid granite.
It was, for him, as though the rock were a giant hard door into another world. A
urst of fear and shock and lack as he hit, and then he was adrift in a strange strange
sk", forgetting, rememering, forgetting5 afraid and sad and sorr", terril" sorr".
The %oice came to him as it had in the first da" that he had met #onathan $i%ingston
&eagull, /The trick !letcher is that we are tr"ing to o%ercome our limitations in order,
patientl", .e don+t tackle fl"ing through rock until a little later in the program.1
/Also known as the &on of the 6reat 6ull,1 his instructor said dr"l".
/.hat are "ou doing here0 The cliff2 'a%en+t I didn+t I: die01
/Oh, !letch, come on. Think. If "ou are talking to me now, then o%iousl" "ou didn+t
die, did "ou0 .hat "ou did manage to do was to change "our le%el of consciousness
rather aruptl". It+s "our choice now. 9ou can sta" here and learn on this le%el(which is
<uite a it higher than the one "ou left, " the wa"(or "ou can go ack and keep
working with the !lock. The Elders were hoping for some kind of disaster, ut the"+re
startled that "ou oliged them so well.1
/I want to go ack to the !lock, of course. I+%e arel" egun with the new group21
/=er" well, !letcher. Rememer what we were sa"ing aout one+s od" eing nothing
more than thought itself...01
!letcher shook his head and stretched his wings and opened his e"es at the ase of
the cliff, in the center of the whole !lock assemled.
There was a great clamor of s<uawks and screes from the crowd when first he
/'e li%es2 'e that was dead li%es21
/Touched him with a wingtip2 Brought him to life2 The &on of the 6reat 6ull21
/No2 'e denies it2 'e+s a de%il2 4E=I$2 8ome to reak the !lock21
There were four thousand gulls in the crowd, frightened at what had happened, and
the cr" 4E=I$2 went through them like the wind of an ocean storm. E"es gla7ed, eaks
sharp, the" closed in to destro".
/.ould "ou feel etter if we left, !letcher01 asked #onathan.
/I certainl" wouldn+t o3ect too much if we did...1
Instantl" the" stood together a half,mile awa", and the flashing eaks of the mo
closed on empt" air.
/.h" is it,1 #onathan pu77led, /that the hardest thing in the world is to con%ince a
ird that he is free, and that he can pro%e it for himself if he+d 3ust spend a little time
practicing0 .h" should that e so hard01
!letcher still linked from the change of scene. /.hat did "ou 3ust do0 'ow did we
/9ou did sa" "ou wanted to e out of the mo, didn+t "ou01
/9es2 But how did "ou...1
/$ike e%er"thing else, !letcher. Practice.1 B" morning the !lock had forgotten its
insanit", ut !letcher had not. /#onathan, rememer what "ou said a long time ago,
aout lo%ing the !lock enough to return to it and help it learn01
/I don+t understand how "ou manage to lo%e a mo of irds that has 3ust tried to kill
/Oh, !letch, "ou don+t lo%e that2 9ou don+t lo%e hatred and e%il, of course. 9ou ha%e
to practice and see the real gull, the good in e%er" one of them, and to help them see it
in themsel%es. That+s what I mean " lo%e. It+s fun, when "ou get the knack of it.
/I rememer a fierce "oung ird for instance, !letcher $"nd &eagull, his name. #ust
een made Outcast, read" to fight the !lock to the death, getting a start on uilding his
own itter hell out on the !ar 8liffs. And here he is toda" uilding his own hea%en
instead, and leading the whole !lock in that direction.1
!letcher turned to his instructor, and there was a moment of fright in his e"e. /)e
leading0 .hat do "ou mean, me leading0 9ou+re the instructor here. 9ou couldn+t lea%e21
/8ouldn+t I0 4on+t "ou think that there might e other flocks, other !letchers, that
need an instructor more than this one, that+s on its wa" toward the light01
/)e0 #on, I+m 3ust a plain seagull and "ou+re...1
/...the onl" &on of the 6reat 6ull, I suppose01 #onathan sighed and looked out to
sea. /9ou don+t need me an" longer. 9ou need to keep finding "ourself, a little more each
da", that real, unlimited !letcher &eagull. 'e+s "our instructor. 9ou need to understand
him and to practice him.1
A moment later #onathan+s od" wa%ered in the air, shimmering, and egan to go
transparent. /4on+t let them spread sill" rumors aout me, or make me a god. O.@.,
!letch0 I+m a seagull. I like to fl", ma"e...1
/Poor !letch. 4on+t elie%e what "our e"es are telling "ou. All the" show is limitation.
$ook with "our understanding, find out what "ou alread" know, and "ou+ll see the wa" to
The shimmering stopped. #onathan &eagull had %anished into empt" air.
After a time, !letcher 6ull dragged himself into the sk" and faced a rand,new group
of students, eager for their first lesson.
/To egin with1 he said hea%il", /"ou+%e got to understand that a seagull is an
unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the 6reat 6ull, and "our whole od", from
wingtip to wingtip, is nothing more than "our thought itself.1
The "oung gulls looked at him <ui77icall". 'e", man, the" thought, this doesn+t
sound like a rule for a loop.
!letcher sighed and started o%er. /'m. Ah... %er" well,1 he said, and e"ed them
criticall". /$et+s egin with $e%el !light.1 And sa"ing that, he understood all at once that
his friend had <uite honestl" een no more di%ine than !letcher himself.
No limits, #onathan0 he thought. .ell, then, the time+s not distant when I+m going to
appear out of thin air on "our each, and show "ou a thing or two aout fl"ing2
And though he tried to look properl" se%ere for his students, !letcher &eagull
suddenl" saw them all as the" reall" were, 3ust for a moment, and he more than liked,
he lo%ed what he saw. No limits, #onathan0 he thought, and he smiled. 'is race to learn