Sunday, February 26, 2006

Finding a 'Jonathan' within us

It took about an hour to read through those 127 pages of that book. The reading was a bit of it and the thinking which followed after that was more of it.

This is about a book which is universally considered as a best-seller classic. I’m not going to review or walk you though the book. All I’m doing here is just talk about this book ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ by Richard Bach.

For starters, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a book ‘authored’ by Richard Bach in 1970.It is a fable about a seagull by name 'Jonathan Livingston' whose passion is to fly higher and who believe that there is something more than ‘just’ living. It is a fable, where this seagull braves the outcasting, age-old conventions-beliefs, & finally shows that there is a world to be explored, beyond what is seen/believed to be.

What appears to be this simple fable about a seagull soon captured imagination and within two years of its publication, over a million copies were sold. Even a movie with the same name was made. Isn’t it amazing that the book written in 70 has its latest reprint in 2005-06.

Still wondering why I’m talking about a 70s book?

What fascinates me is the way the underlying metaphor of the book changes every time the book is read. The thoughts in the book irrespective of time, still remain relevant. May be next time I read the book ,I may see the underlying things in a new light.

In the story, there are ‘seagull flock on the earth’ and ’flock in some other world’, which denotes two different schools of thoughts. The 'seagull flock on earth' believes that their main objective in life is to get the food. But 'other' group thinks differently. For the 'other' group, it is not just about to live to get the food, it is about to discover the potential within, to fly to the heights where no other seagulls fly.Jonathan Livingston belongs to this second group.

Why did it strike cords with millions of people?

I think at some point of time everyone would have felt like Jonathan. But may be not everyone who had such thougths but didn’t venture as Jonathan did.

Isn’t Jonathan denotes all those who stand-out from the crowd? Isn’t Jonathan’s story is about people who had the guts to believe that they are meant for something more than mundane things and about people who showed that new heights can be reached through belief, inspiration and practice?

Now something other than the metaphorical meanings, there is a story about the origin of this book. This is what Richard Bach said in an interview

“It was the weirdest experience of my life, I was walking along one night, worrying about the rent money, when I heard this voice say, 'Jonathan Livingston Seagull.' But no one was there. I had absolutely no idea what it meant. When I got home, I suddenly had a vision of a seagull flying along, and I began to write. The story certainly didn't spring from any conscious invention on my part. I just put down what I saw."

May be these sound bytes sound debatable and fuzzy, but there is even more interesting trivia about why the name ‘Jonathan Livingston' for the seagull’s character was chosen.

It is believed that this book is inspired by a real person by name ‘John H Livingston’. John Livingston was one of top US pilots during 1920-30. He was into barnstorming which was a form of ‘flying circus’ where every known stunts like spinning, diving, rolling and every possible maneuver with the plane were performed. It seems Richard Bach, a ‘reserve’ pilot himself, got inspired by John Livingston’s dare devil life.

That was something about the book, thoughts,origin & names. If you haven’t read the book yet, I think you should give it a try.

Signing off with my favorite line in the book which is in the dedication page !!

“To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all”

Jonathan Seagull within us?? Think of it!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Celebration of Life

“I pray that you get the strength to accept the things and to see the tomorrows”

After this line, I couldn’t write anything in that card we gave to her, which was our little token of support.

She….our client manager.I just can’t imagine what all she might have gone though before this. She always was that dignified person with a cracking sense of humor. Make no mistake, when it came to work, she was the boss. But I never could imagine that beyond those authoritative and humor-filled eyes, there was an ocean of grief.

Until the last day when we came to know that her husband passed away we didn’t know anything about that. But what intruded me was the fact that she knew that her husband is going to die and still she maintained the composition!

I don’t know how she managed to put up that brave face when her love of her life for more than 15 years was diagnosed with blood cancer. I heard she did all that she could do to fight to snatch her love with the slowly-inching death. I’m thinking, when she exactly came to know that the battle is coming to an end, how did she take it? From where did she get the courage to face the situation?

I was totally overwhelmed with all these emotions when I attended the funeral service.Funeral service was drastically different from the funerals I had been before. There was no grief, no weeping, no crying and no devastated looks all around. Instead it was like a celebration. I learnt that particular community in Christians does everything passionately, they celebrate everything in life and that includes the ‘final journey’ also.

The funeral service was marked with songs about heaven, meeting the Almighty and about life there. I should say that I felt I was not in a funeral service but in a crowd who was there just to celebrate death or call it re-birth. Then there were friends and family members who fondly spoke about the deceased one. The whole service was aimed at one thing ‘rejoicing’, what they believed that the deceased one is now in a world which is free of pain & grief.

Standing by her young kids, she looked very composed through out the service. Even managed to say a ‘Hi’ to all of us. But at dieing moments of service, she couldn’t control it no more. She broke down and she was escorted out.

These memories are like the waves of sea. They keep coming and making the mind wet…

After the service, we managed to meet her. She couldn’t speak anything but just hugged me, no tears.

I was still thinking about this, when I got this news about a friend’s friend who was diagnosed with a rare case of a blood deficiency. This guy was just exploring and enjoying the life when life handed over this ‘heavy baggage’ to him. He had recently gone back from overseas and was doing great .He had this very happy proud parents and tons of ‘would-be’ father-in-laws looking for him. And now I heard the news that even if all the necessary expensive medical treatment is given, his survival chance is 40%.

My sincere prayers are with him.

I’m just thinking how tough it will be for these people to spend each day. What if you know that you have so many days to live and what if you even know your last days are just a handful? How do you take it?

How about the people who love them? What pain and emotional distress they will be undergoing? How cruel to see that your loved ones are dieing everyday but you can’t do anything but to watch helplessly…

After reading all this, you definitely wonder why this is named as ‘Celebration of Life’.

When I was going through the funeral service which I mentioned earlier, I happened to look at the leaflet given, which described the funeral service as ‘Celebration of Life’. That phrase struck in mind like a bullet.

Do we actually ‘celebrate’ life? Forget celebration, do we actually ‘live’ a life? Even when we know that the days here are numbered, why do we behave as if we are here to stay forever? In such a short span of life, why do we make life still worse with our egos , unrealistic deeds and so many other self-created evils?

I know I’m sounding totally clueless, helpless and philosophical. Can’t help, sometimes life pops up such questions for which we have no answers....