Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970)
by Richard Bach
But then the day came that Chiang vanished. He had been talking quietly with them all, exhorting them never to stop their learning and their practicing and their striving to understand more of the perfect invisible principle of all life. Then, as he spoke, his feathers went brighter and brighter and at last turned so brilliant that no gull could look upon him.
"Jonathan," he said, and these were the last words that he spoke, "keep working on love."
When they could see again, Chiang was gone.
Call me a product of my generation, but my first edition copies of Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull (with my father's name printed inside the cover) and his second 1977 novella, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, occupy a treasured place on my shelf of most-loved books. I believe that these fables helped to shape much of my spiritual views throughout middle and high school, and perhaps even into my adult years.
Jonathan Seagull has a passion for flying and his experiments in speed and technique cause him to be exiled from his materialistic and narrow-minded flock, who decry his unwillingness to conform. After being cast out, Jonathan is met by two radiant gulls who take him to a "higher plane of existence" and a group of gulls who, like him, seek only perfection in flight. Under the tutelage of his teacher and Master, Chiang, Jonathan comes to realize that he can be free of the limitations of his own physical body, and travel at the speed of thought. The final words of his Master, "Keep working on love," urge Jonathan to forgive his former Earth-bound flock, to which he returns this time as a teacher to other young gulls who simply love to fly.