Jonathan Livingston Seagull wanted to master the art of flying. Soaring up in the sky, above the white ocean of clouds, he felt truly free.
Though very unlikely of a seagull, Jonathan flew high ever so high, he practised and failed umpteenth times, but he never gave up.
An outcast, he lived alone and happily spent his time in his quest to achieve perfection.
On reaching a higher level of existence, he meets gulls like him who wanted to enhance their flying skills. It was not heaven for everyone there were learners.
Chiang, the guru of them all, teaches Jonathan how to let go of the concept of time and space so as to travel freely in the Universe.
“Begin by knowing that you have already arrived”, said Chiang.
Wondering if someone else, one who dares to question and take risks, needs guidance on Earth, he returns.
“Devil” for some and “angel” for others, Jonathan teaches a few eager ones. Practising, failing, practising again, Jonathan’s students rise above the Flock, the mundane.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull then continues his journey to guide other gulls who must have been waiting for him somewhere else in the Universe.
Richard Bach’s fable is soothingly clear, and thus, appears too simplistic to many. Just like flying looks simple only until we give it a try.
He equates perfection with freedom, emphasising on practising and a thirst for knowledge as the golden path to it; a path where you walk ahead passionately and not cumbersomely.
Every little bud in nature rises high, soaking in sun rays, moving towards it. Rising high, shedding the old self, stepping forward to explore the unknown, dwindling before making a firm stand is what life’s journey is all about.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, “a one-in-a-million bird”, if appears to be too perfect and his ideas if sound too far-fetching then you should look at your on-going journey and answer these questions – what are you looking for in life – perfection in some form or maybe a balance?
And what is balance if not a proportion of perfect this and perfect that?
Even better, you should meet Shelley’s Skylark.
Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
Bird thou never wert,
That from Heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.
Higher still and higher
From the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire;
The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.
‘Blithe Spirit’ calls Percy Bysshe Shelley a Skylark that is soaring up in the sky (or Heaven, or near it), singing beautifully and gloriously that to him it is nothing but unprecedented ‘unpremeditated art’.
The Skylark, invisible to his eyes, has such power in its voice that the poet likens it to ‘a cloud of fire’.
Shelley beseeches the Skylark to teach him what it knows; a divine secret it must be for nothing on earth could outshine it. Joy so true, Shelley calls it ‘a star of Heaven’.
Nature’s bounty, the golden glow worms, the rainbows, the playful wind, a young maiden’s love and a poet’s grand verses, Shelley says the Skylark’s song, that flows in a ‘crystal stream’, is above them all.
What thou art we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
Like a Poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:
Like a high-born maiden
In a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Its aëreal hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:
Like a rose embower’d
In its own green leaves,
By warm winds deflower’d,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:
Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.
The Skylark, above these mortal dilemmas, sings with pure love and delight. And in contrast we, humans, are locked in the past or the future.
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.
Shelley urges the Skylark to teach him just half of what it knows, this ‘harmonious madness’ so that he could capture it within and share it with the world.
The Skylark if not a gleaming reflection of perfection, then what is it? If its song is not a song of freedom, then why is the melody ‘a flood of rapture so divine’?
It must be that just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the Skylark returned to Earth, to guide and share its knowledge, to remind the poet that ‘freedom is the very nature of his being’.
Unlike a miracle, both took time to convey what little they knew of the truth. The Seagull stays to make his students practice and the Skylark sings till the chosen one – the poet in this case – hears its joyous voice.
Showing what doors can perseverance open and how patience leads to strength, the Seagull and the Skylark leave it up to the individual to unfold the story further.
Birth and death are timed then and a fully lived life, with all its imperfections, aims for a balance, for perfection that guides it to fly high and well.
Certain things are meant to be, but while we are living a moment, we rarely understand this beautiful phenomenon.
I am calling it a beautiful phenomenon because sooner or later we are able to gauge its magnanimity and purity. Everything simply falls into place.
Early last year, I bought a book from a second hand street bookshop. The cover page captured my attention and reading a few lines here and there, I told myself that I am in for a treat. And happily, I wasn’t wrong.
‘The last time I saw Tibet’ took me to the land of the gods, to an eternal pilgrimage, to witness the serene beauty of the pious land and gave me a humbling experience.
Yes, the book is magical. There were times when a mere description of the icy winds blowing in a small village, Thokchen, at a height of almost 15,700 feet, made me quiver and a few lines about the picturesque valley that the author gazed upon left me in a trance.
His visits to the ancient and grand monasteries – Drepung, Sera and Ganden, to the fabulous Jokhang temple in Lhasa, to the royal palaces – Potala and Norbulingka – of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama and especially his journey to the Kailashnath and Mansarovar offered me a spiritual spectacle, a chance to feel the presence of the Supreme One.
This fabulous travelogue by Bimal Dey along with presenting the reader with the wonderful scenic beauty of Tibet talks about its rich culture, about the mystical Lamas, about the simple, poor but happy people of Tibet.
What makes his journey to Tibet an immensely special tale is the fact that he traveled in the year 1956, when he was only 16, along with a group of lamas and theirs was the last group of pilgrims to do so until the dawn of the 21st century.
The glory of Tibet, the land that accepted Buddhism wholly and spread its enlightening knowledge everywhere in the world, is now a tale of the past. With the Revered Dalai Lama living a life of a refugee in India since 1959 and the maximum number of Tibetan lamas either living in India or abroad, the spirit of Tibet has weakened.
Tibet, under the rule of China, is not what it was. Can development now seen in Tibet be acknowledged when the soul of the land is quietly being crushed every day?
The number of monasteries destroyed in the past, the so called Cultural Revolution that took place in Tibet, the bloodshed of countless monks and nuns, the sudden disappearances of the religious leaders, the number of Tibetans who have given into self-immolation will shock you, it will dishearten you.
I was aware about the plight of the Tibetans before I read this book. Reading about their on-going fight troubled me as I felt helpless. But slowly something brought a change, my efforts to understand Buddhism through whatever means possible, made me realize that Buddhahood is present in everyone, it cannot be conquered, it cannot be oppressed.
Rather, if one starts recognizing it, such a person can achieve complete freedom. And I concluded and told myself that Tibet is free.
‘The last time I saw Tibet’ was meant to be read by me because after finishing this book I again felt that Tibet is free. How lovely this feeling is, how empowering! Such is the positivity with which this book has been written.
All the facts will defy this statement at the moment, but Tibet, its culture and its religion is not about facts, it is about the spiritual connection with the Ultimate One, with the Lord Buddha, the enlightened one, whose blessings are always there with every free mind.
Caught in the political drama some may not be able to understand this, Tibet –the roof of the world, where gods reside- is, was and will remain free.
Time, no matter years or decades, will seal this thought with grandeur that the peaceful land of Tibet deserves.
A roguish year, 2020, I believe was a twist in our LIVE story. Terrible, oh, terrible things happened. Let us nurture hope, let us learn from our mistakes, let us help each other and contribute honestly to this change.
Let the old charm of stories work, let stories heal your tired heart.
This colossal twist proves that the great writer is planning to finish a chapter, but the story is far from over. Dawn is about to break, the sun rays will fall on a new beginning soon.
Come to Chiming Stories, pocket old and new posts and watch, along with me, the horizon.
Gabbeh, the 1996 film, is a simple tale of a gipsy girl, her clan and the way their life goes on. Unfolding beautifully just like an artist painting a canvas, Gabbeh quietly touches the grand questions.
Arthdal Chronicles is a South Korean fantasy drama TV series that takes us back to the Bronze Age in a mythical land named Arth, where different human species and tribes struggle to be on the top of the power pyramid.
Yes fly! For walking on the second track is dull and usual, but dreaming high, high, high requires tools. Tools like the right pair of shoes, a chirpy, gritty soul that eats butter-jam dreams, a soul that drinks milky-milky creams.