17th October 2017

2.9 Reading Responses

INTERSTELLAR

Directed by Christopher Nolan

The 2014 science-fiction film “Interstellar,” directed by Christopher Nolan, received some harsh criticism when it was released, including criticism about the Scientific concepts in the film. I would dispute this as I thought the film used stunning visualisations of concepts that are purely theoretical. More importantly, I thought the movie was less about wormholes and new galaxies and more about human emotion and love across time and space. It included thought-provoking ideas about the world we live in and how it could be improved or destroyed and also challenged how we think about love and the way most movies portray it.

An event that I struggled to come to terms with was the scene where Cooper has a meeting with two of Murph’s school teachers. Murph is in trouble over an old NASA textbook that she brought to class. Cooper and the teacher’s arguments contrast our current world, the movie’s old world, with the new world that Interstellar portrays. The two teachers argue on the side of the new world saying that they do not want to teach children to repeat the “excess and wastefulness of the twentieth century”. Cooper argues that this wastefulness could have saved his wife, who died of a cyst in the brain. I found this argument thought-provoking because I was inclined to take Cooper’s side, as he was a likeable character. However, after more thought, I wasn’t so sure. Was the new world in the movie better than our old world? Sure humanity was dying and crops were failing, but had that not been the case, what way of living was better? As Cooper pointed out, the old world had advanced medicine and technology that made the standard of living far superior to the new world; but in the new world, there was no war. Most of the population had died, yet there seemed to still be a functioning government and society. People were poor and food was short but the whole world seemed to be at peace. Contrast that with our world filled with war and genocide. Sure most of us have medicine and food but there is still poverty and starvation everywhere. So when you think about it, who’s world is better? I was left almost agreeing with the teachers, but following this conversation, Cooper says this: “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt” This complicates the situation again by adding a romantic, poetic element to his argument. Has humanity lost its curiosity and drive? Has it conceded to being farmers, scrounging off what they have left to survive rather than looking to the stars and dreaming of something better? Whatever the answer, it’s a fascinating concept to think about.

Another thing that really intrigued me in the film was the way that the personal connections between characters were made to transcend the other problems the crew faced, saving the world for instance. While the purpose of the mission was to find a habitable planet for all of earth, Cooper rarely thought about it like that. He was only concerned for Murph and saving her, not the world. This shows that when it comes down to it, humans will always ignore the big picture, to focus on their tiny sliver of that picture. Back on earth, Murph is just one of presumably millions that need to be saved, and yet, in another galaxy, Cooper was only concerned with saving her. However to me, as a viewer, this didn’t seem unreasonable. The film didn’t allow the viewer to develop an emotional attachment with earth or its population, so we weren’t nearly as concerned for the safety of humanity as we were for the possibility that Cooper might never see Murph again. Thus, it was heartbreaking to watch Copper look through the videos his family had sent him over the 23 years four months and eight days that had passed while they were stuck on the water planet. Watching this scene, I didn’t once think about the possibility that it might be too late to save humanity because I was too absorbed in Cooper’s sadness and regret at missing his children’s lives. This was very powerful because it challenged that which I thought was important. You would assume that the needs of the many would outway the needs of the few in my eyes, but no. It showed me that, just like time and space, love is relative. I cared only for the characters that I formed an emotional connection with so I was very involved when they were in danger. However, I was conscious, but not particularly concerned when there was danger to others that I didn’t have a connection with. This line of thinking is highlighted in the following quote from Dr Mann; “Evolution has yet to transcend that simple barrier. We can care deeply, selflessly about those we know, but that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight”. What Mann is saying here is that humans can give selflessly for those we truly love but struggle to extend that to people we are indifferent too. We’re simply not programmed to care about people we aren’t closely connected with and the film shows that in detail.

The final, and possibly most interesting, thing I found in Interstellar was the way they looked at love. There is an interesting dialogue between Cooper, Brand and Romilly where Brand tries to justify why she wants to visit Edmund’s planet over Mann’s planet. She is asked if the reason she wants to go there is to save her lover, Wolf Edmund, and she responds with; “Yes. And that makes me want to follow my heart. But maybe we’ve spent too long trying to figure all this with theory… love isn’t something we invented; it’s observable, powerful. Why shouldn’t it mean something? … Something we can’t understand, yet. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artefact of higher dimensions that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen for a decade, who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcend dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t yet understand it”. This was interesting to me because it illustrates how a logical, scientific mind grapples with an intangible, illogical concept like love. We usually think of love and science as two separate and often mutually exclusive entities. However, Dr Brand beautifully ties the two together in this speech. She talks about love being  “ The one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space”. This is a powerful statement in a film filled with intangible fifth-dimensional concepts. It contrasts the simplicity of the human psyche with the infinite complexity of the universe and ties back into the previous paragraph about Cooper’s love for Murph driving him rather than a higher calling.

“Interstellar” made me think about both the disparities and connections between love and science. It showed me that love can be a driving force for people to do great or dangerous things; a force that is matched by little else, capable of overpowering feelings of fear and self-preservation. I learned that people struggle to extend deep love, the kind of love that Cooper has for Murph, to people beyond their own line of sight. Cooper couldn’t justify leaving earth to save the world, but he managed to justify leaving in order to save Murph. This was interesting because it strayed away from cliches that often appear in such science-fiction adventure movies, where a hero goes away to save the world, selflessly giving to help complete strangers. Interstellar showed me that this simply isn’t true. People just don’t give everything without getting something in return, be that the security or happiness of a loved one. This can be likened to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism, which in essence states that nobody acts selflessly without receiving something selfishly. “Interstellar” also made me consider the world in which I live in and how my actions and the actions of my species can affect that world for better or for worse. So in conclusion, ‘Interstellar’, directed by Christopher Nolan, is an insightful, thought-provoking film that challenges conventional ways of thinking, against the spectacular backdrop of our universe.

HAWKS

By Andrew Grant

The novel ‘Hawks’ by Andrew Grant is a compelling and exciting depiction of the golden days of the venison recovery industry in New Zealand during the 1970s. It chronicles the rise of the great shooter ‘Grey’ and the relationships he forms and struggles with along the way. The character Grey intrigued me as his story made me consider the effects that certain events can have on a person’s emotions and their mental state. It also made me consider the different types relationships that people have and if they are healthy or unhealthy.

The character Grey fascinated me in the text. Grey was a famous shooter in the venison recovery business. He was a veteran of the Vietnam war and had a past filled with many different types of pain, a past that haunts him throughout the text. This personal history was interesting as it explained somewhat the causes behind Grey being the emotionally repressed individual who was portrayed that throughout the majority of the text. At the age of 18, he was in a relationship with a girl who he thought he would be with for the rest of his life. He was sure they were both in love until she left him for another man. This event hurt Grey more deeply than he ever let on. This and other pain he had endured led him to adopt a phrase he picked up from the American soldiers he fought with in Vietnam: “Ain’t nothin”. I believe that this phrase, and the mindset that accompanied it, is how Grey dealt with emotional anguish. He used it to tell himself and others that his problems were small and didn’t affect him while pushing his true feelings deep down within himself. This caused him to become a repressed, often deeply unhappy person. He remained so until he finally learnt to deal with his emotions. This happened in the wake of Jane’s (Grey’s Fiance) death in a car crash. Following this event, Grey was at a new emotional low. He was absolutely devastated and even his usual ‘ain’t nothin’ technique was useless. He could no longer bottle his emotions and was about to be overwhelmed by them. Fortunately, he was saved by Helen, who taught him to talk and cry and let his emotions out and deal with them rather than suppress them. It was only after this event that Grey found true stability and happiness in his life. This made me think about different ways, healthy and unhealthy, of dealing with painful emotions and feelings. The text showed me that bottling feelings instead of facing them and dealing with them is a very unhealthy way of coping with hardship. It led Grey to become a repressed and unhappy individual who could never be content. It was only by facing up to the hard, often scary truths in his life that he found happiness. This made me consider how I deal with my own feelings. It made me realise that sometimes I bottle my own feelings instead of facing and dealing with them and in doing so, I make it much harder for myself to be satisfied and happy with my life.

The second thing that I found interesting about the character Grey was the way the way he grappled with love and relationships. I found this interesting as it made me consider different types of relationships people have and which types of relationships are healthy and strong and which are not. We learnt about this, at the same time as Grey learns it, through a series of three women that Grey meets and has relationships of some descriptions with. The first of these women is Sharon, Grey’s high school girlfriend. Grey, in his youthful ignorance, thought that he and Sharon were deeply in love, and mentally he was preparing for a life together with her. So he was shocked and heartbroken when she left him for another man. This event led Grey to become an emotionally repressed man who struggled to trust women. For a long time after this event, Grey used women only as sexual objects and not as a partner to develop emotionally with. While this was a simple, easy way to live for Grey, he was never truly happy or content emotionally. This showed me that often people need to emotionally invest in a relationship to get anything meaningful out of it, even if it risks them getting hurt. The second woman in the series is Mary, Greys sexy, seductive lover from Dunedin. Mary was relevant to the text because she was the second woman that Grey invested in emotionally and she was also the second woman to break his heart. Their relationship began as a one night stand, with the only intention of both parties being easy sex, but the passion was so intense that both Grey and Mary began falling for each other. For the first time in ages, both of them were emotionally invested in each other and were happy. The following quote from Mary supports this “It’s always been sex Grey, always. I want some love. God, I want some love”. Mary was sick of just using men for sex and not getting any emotional benefit from them. Grey felt the same way about the manner in which he was using women. They had finally learnt that they must invest to get any benefit, but unfortunately, as they had invested so much, they had more to lose. So after Grey returns from his month-long misadventure in the Fiordland wilderness to find that Mary had married another man (thinking Grey was dead) he was devastated. He had finally learnt to be emotionally invested, and just as Sharon had done to him, Mary had betrayed him. This event led Grey to fall back into his old habits of using women purely for sex and never trusting them with his emotions. This event led Grey to fall back on Judy, (Mary’s best friend) as support at this time. Grey needed emotional support but failed to get it from any romantic source. Judy saw this and convinced Grey to open up to her and the two became close friends, although they struggled to keep their relationship from developing romanticly. This friendship, the benefit and support it gave Grey and the self-restraint it took for them to keep it as a non-romantic relationship made me consider the nature of friendship. I thought about how having a friend rather than a lover can sometimes be better in a time of emotional hardship as they provide strong emotional support that often a lover cannot. By Grey choosing to keep Judy as a friend and nothing more, he negated the possibility of their relationship deteriorating in the way that his relationship with Mary did. I believe that this was the right decision for Grey because it provided for him a lifelong friend rather than a temporary lover which was what he really needed at that stage in his life.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel ‘Hawks’ by Andrew Grant as it gave me insight into how past events in one’s life can affect them in the present. Grey was haunted by his past, and this led him to refrain from trusting people. Because of this, he became an emotionally repressed and deeply unhappy individual. This mental state and they way Grey broke free from it showed me that people have to learn to move on from past traumas and face what is in front of them in order to be happy in the present. ‘Hawks’ also showed me that different types of relationships can be beneficial or damaging and that sometimes people must emotionally invest in a relationship, even if it risks them getting hurt, in order to get anything out if it.

 

 

King for a King

By Will Varley

The lyrics in the song ‘King for a King’ by Will Varley interested me because they made me consider the way that people retrospectively look at their lives. The song left me thinking about things that give life meaning and things that we perceive to be important but are in fact meaningless. Varley tells the story of a person, starting as a baby, ending as an old man and going through each stage of life in between. This person, at the end of the song, looks back on his life and realises that the meaning he thought it had was hollow and the real meaning came from places he never thought it would. An interesting thing to note in the song was the writer’s choice to use the pronoun ‘your’ instead of giving the character in the song a name. By insinuating that the subject of the song was actually the listener and not some character, fictional or otherwise, Varley made a deeply personal connection with the listener. The effect that this had on me was that it made me consider everything Varley said from my own perspective. This was powerful as it made me think about the meaning that my life has.

The first verse is the beginning of the story, starting out with the character as a baby. The writer immediately begins by stripping the character’s dignity and humanity away with the line “And you learn pretty soon, if you cry you get tit, you learn how to crawl and you learn how to shit”. This line reduces the character to an animalistic level, craving food and carrying out bodily functions. This showed me that right from the outset, the character had no chance of fulfilling a higher purpose. He was just an animal, slave to his impulses and unable to put meaning into his existence. The next important line in the first verse is the line “By the time you can speak, they got you in school, where just asking questions is breaking the rules. Well, ten years later, the system has won, you’ve stopped asking questions and sucking your thumb”. This line expresses the writer’s feeling on the way society moulds young people into machines rather than letting them express their individuality. It made me think about the effect that school and society have on me as a person. I think that sometimes school does restrict my curiosity by telling me the way things are without letting me question it. This song made me want to resist this more than I currently do and be more critical and creative in my thinking. Through the rest of the first verse, the character goes through the stereotypical teenage phase of rebelliousness and immaturity. This is shown in the line “You’ve got Che on your t-shirt and spikes in your hair”. The Che on the t-shirt is a reference to Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary who staged a coup to overthrow the Cuban government. Che is a symbol of rebellion and revolution and his appearance on the character’s t-shirt shows that at this stage of his life, he values these attributes. This made me think about what sort of attributes I value. I, like the character, am a teenager and I am also sometimes inclined to value and reflect the rebellious characteristics that Che represents. The song made me wonder what value these attributes have for me because as we find out, they did nothing for the character in the song other than “Scar him like daggers”. I believe that it would be far better for me to value love and positivity because these attributes will actually help me in life in terms of being content and happy.

The second verse talks about the characters adult years. It begins with the line “Well by twenty you’re starting to run out of steam, you got no money and can’t sell your dreams. Get a job in an office like a means to an end. You start wearing shirts and losing your friends”. This line shows that often people at this age start to give up on their dreams, and willingly or unwillingly concede to a life of mediocrity. It made me think about what I will do when I reach this age. I worry that I too will give in to this easy yet meaningless life like the character in the song and so many others. In the next part of the verse, the character meets a girl and gets her pregnant. Suddenly the character has responsibility and someone to look after. He swears to protect his baby girl and her mother and settles down with them. The character grows old with his wife and following the death of a friend, his mortality is daunting to him. He realises he is close to the end and wonders “What have I done with my life?”. This leads the character to think about what his life was and whether it was meaningful. He comes to the conclusion that his life means nothing to anyone but himself. He is “Just a name in a family tree, nothing to history. But me and my woman, that’s all it is to me”. He understands that his life won’t matter to the world but it mattered to him. All he has now is his wife, his child and his memories. This made me consider what meaning my life will have once I am gone. I may not have any great effect on the world or history as a whole, but hopefully, I will leave a positive impact on the people around me. The song made me want to give more thought to the important people in my life so I would be able to leave a positive impact on them because that, and not the superficial, materialistic things in my life is what will give my existence meaning.

In conclusion, the lyrics in the song “King for a King” by Will Varley showed me that I must think a lot about what gives my life meaning. I learnt through the character in the song as he lives, makes mistakes and learns. I learnt through him that I should not let society mould me into a ‘cog in the machine’, by restricting my creative thinking because in this way I will set myself apart from other people. The song also taught me to value love and positivity over rebelliousness because in this way I have a better chance of living a contented, happy life. It also made me consider how I could allow myself to slip into mediocrity and what effect this would have on my happiness. And finally, the song made me consider what meaning my life will have once I am gone. I realised that it’s not the effect that I will have on the world, or whether or not I will go down in history. It is the relationships that I have and the people around me that give my life meaning.

 

 

 

Bad Luck and Trouble

By Lee Child

In the Book “Bad luck and Trouble” by Lee Child the main character Jack Reacher goes on a journey of vengeance as he tracks down and kills the people responsible for the murder of his old friends. The book was fast-paced and exciting, making it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Two things in the book interested me. The first thing that interested me was the way that Reacher lives and what that made me consider about the way that I live. The second thing was the idea of justice and the morality of justice being dispensed by a single individual.

The character Jack Reacher lives an interesting and unique life. He grew up in an army family and joined the military police as soon as he was able to. He served for many years until he resigned and began drifting around the US by himself. He doesn’t have a house, a car, friends or a family. Only himself, a toothbrush and his credit card. Reacher lives out of cheap motels and travels constantly with no real plan. The reason that this interested me is because Reacher’s way of living flies in the face of what society usually perceives as the best way to live; Get a job, buy a house, start a family. In his life after the army, Reacher has none of these things. And yet he is completely happy and content to drift around the country, beholden to no one but himself. His reasons for living this way are laid out in the following quote. When asked why he lives the way he does he responded: “Look out the window. What do you see? … Well, imagine you’ve never seen it. Imagine you’ve spent your whole life in other parts of the world being told every day you’re defending freedom. And finally, you decide you’ve had enough. Time to see what you’ve given up your whole life for. Maybe get some of that freedom for yourself. Look at the people. Now tell me which ones are free. Free from debt. Anxiety. Stress. Fear. Failure. Indignity. Betrayal. How many wish that they were born knowing what they know now? Ask yourself how many would do things the same way over again. And how many would live their lives like me”. Reacher chooses to live like this because it frees him from the usual things that cause people stress and anxiety. A mortgage, a job and people. This was interesting to me because it made me consider the way I live now and how I plan to live in the future. I assume I will have a job, a house and a family, but how much stress will this cause me? Will I lay awake at night worrying? Will I truly be free? And would I be happier living like Reacher, with no attachments or worries? It’s a difficult question and one people should ask themselves before they commit to one life or the other. If a person was to commit to living ‘normally’, with a house and a family they may find that they have stresses and unhappiness that Reacher doesn’t, but at the same time they will have ongoing positive relationships; Something that Reacher definitely doesn’t have. And if a person was to commit to living like Reacher they would forego the possibility of long term relationships, but negate the possibility of the stress and unhappiness that they would have otherwise had. Both ways of living have positives and negatives but are both valid ways to live one’s life.

The second thing in the book that interested me was Reacher’s moral code and what happened when a person broke it. What happened usually is that they died. Whether by a bullet to the leg, thrown out of a helicopter or a severed spinal cord, if a person wrongs Reacher, they almost always get killed in some nasty way. This is a concept that I struggled with in the book. Because I couldn’t decide if his actions were justified or if he was a complete sociopath. Reacher’s idea of justice is highlighted in the following dialogue after Reacher had shot a man. He was asked “What about the truth?… What about bringing him to justice?” and he responded with “I just did”. He felt completely justified murdering a man because said man had broken his moral code. When Reacher killed someone in the book (and he killed quite a few people) there was always a reason for doing so. He never killed someone unless they had done something terrible to ‘deserve it’, usually killing someone that Reacher cared about. And I was immediately inclined, as a reader, to accept this as the moral thing to do. They were ‘baddies’ so they had to go, and it was sadistically satisfying when they did. But when justice is dispensed by a single individual, is it really justice? All that these ‘baddies’ did was break Reacher’s moral code. And even if his code is impeccable, it is still just the code of a single person. I’m sure that serial killers have their own code and feel perfectly justified killing people according to their own code. After reading the book I came to the conclusion that Reacher’s actions, while very satisfying to read about, were immoral because they had no one other than Reacher himself to validate them. I realised that the only way to achieve true justice is to go through the proper criminal justice system because in this way the outcome will be decided based on a moral code derived from the opinions of the many, rather than of a single individual.

The book “Bad Luck and Trouble” written by Lee Child interested me because it made me consider the way that I live now and the way that I plan to live in the future. I was forced to think about the things that cause me stress and unhappiness and how I could avoid them. The book also made me think about the nature of justice and the morality of a single person deciding what is just rather than many people deciding. Lee Child presented several moral dilemmas that were very thought-provoking, but other than this, the book was an exciting read that I would strongly recommend to other readers.

 

 

Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

By Baz Luhrmann

The poem “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” by Baz Luhrmann is a series of pieces of advice directed at the reader. The advice is generally aimed at educating the reader on what they need to do in order to have a happy life. The poem made me consider the path to happiness and the decisions that I will have to make in order to be happy in my life. I have chosen three pieces of advice that clearly show the writer’s beliefs on what it takes to be happy in life. The advice is as follows: “Wear Sunscreen”, “Don’t worry about the future” and “Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements”. Each of the three pieces of advice gives the reader insight into the nature of happiness, and what one must do in order to be happy.

The first piece of advice that is given in the poem is “Wear sunscreen”. This advice while seemingly nonsensical sets up the rest of the poem. The end of the first paragraph says: “The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience”. This line indicates that the writer of the poem values knowledge derived from personal experience rather than from scientific inquiry. This interested me because it made me consider what is more important; Knowing facts and being smart, or having an in-depth understanding of human emotion and thought. And in terms of achieving happiness and contentment in life, I believe that it is the latter. Just knowing facts, while helpful, will bring me no great joy in life. However, having a thorough awareness of my own feelings and other’s feelings will allow me to keep a healthy mental state and outlook which is vital for ongoing happiness.

The second piece of advice that interested me was “Don’t worry about the future”. This interested me because as a young person, with many years and decisions in front of me, I spend quite a bit of time worrying about the future. I know I will have tough times and lots of stress in my life and that worries me now. But as the writer points out, worrying about the future is “About as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum”. It’s completely futile. No amount of worrying that I do today will help me 10 years from now, so I should live in the moment and enjoy what I have now rather than fret about what I may not have tomorrow. If I don’t do this, I may waste some of the best years of my life. The writer urges me to “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth”. The writer encourages me to focus on living my life while I am young because I won’t always be able to do the things that I can do today. This idea interested me a lot because it showed me how to be happy with what I have. It made me realise that worrying about what I don’t have and may not have in the future will do nothing but waste my time and upset me. But focusing on the good things that I have right now will allow me to be happy in the present.

Another piece of advice that the writer gives is “Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements”. This line suggests that the writer values human relationships over money. This line made me consider what is more important to my happiness and contentment. Money, or memories of the people that I care about. I believe that it is the latter because money will only satisfy the superficial desires that I have. The deeper desires, the ones that will truly make me happy, can only be satisfied through meaningful relationships with people. Also on the topic of love, the writer says “Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts and don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours”. This line is telling the reader the proper way to treat others and also oneself. Life is too short to allow people to hurt you repeatedly. The writer encourages the reader to focus on the positive relationships in life while discarding the negative ones. This made me think about the relationships that I have with people in my own life and which ones are truly important. I realised that there are some people in my life that are reckless with my emotions and I shouldn’t put up with them because they will only make my life harder and limit how happy I can be. I would be far better off discarding these relationships and focusing on the positive ones. The ones that truly do bring me joy. In this way, I will diminish the bad things in my life and amplify the good things to maximise the potential for a truly happy life.

The poem “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” by Baz Luhrmann interested me with the advice it gave on achieving happiness and contentment in my life. The poem encouraged understanding of human emotion and thought over factual knowledge because the former is what will make one happy. The reader learns that it is better to live in the now and be happy with what’s around you rather than always fretting over what the future holds. And finally, the reader learns that love and relationships are more important than money because, in the long run, love is what will give the most happiness. The poem educated the reader on all they have to do in order to be happy in their life. I believe that this is an important message for a lot of people who are unhappy with what they have. I believe that people like this would be much happier if they followed the advice in the poem and lived life to the fullest.

 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

By Richard Bach

The novel ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, by Richard Bach is an allegorical tale of a young seagull who goes on a spiritual journey of learning. He seeks the idea of perfection through flight. There were a few important aspects in the novel ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ that interested me. The first aspect was the effects of the constraints and stigmas that society puts on individuals. The second aspect was the idea of reaching a higher plane of existence through dedication and persistence. These aspects were shown to me through Jonathan’s journey, his experiences and his interactions with other characters.

The First aspect that I have chosen to talk about is the consequences that societal expectations have on a person. This idea was shown through the effects that the Breakfast Flock and their expectations for Jonathan had on his life. Jonathan was expected to be a normal, conforming seagull that only had food on his mind, just like every other bird in the flock. To the flock, flight was only a means to an end, the end being breakfast. But to Jonathan, it was the reverse. Food was a means of staying alive so he could achieve his ultimate goal; mastery of flight. This caused him to stand far away from the flock. He was different, an outcast. He didn’t fit in and that scared the other gulls. Their fear of the unknown is what caused them to cast Jonathan out of the flock to live alone at the far cliffs. Here he had a lonely existence for the rest of his life. This made me think about the damage that societal expectations can have on an individual. Society often has antipathy for individuals who are non conforming in some way. For example people with unpopular opinions, people with differing sexual preferences and people who are deemed to be ‘uncool’. The aversion that society had to this kind of person can be very isolating, leading them to live lonely and sometimes unhappy lives. This taught me that I should be careful how I treat others who stand out like Jonathan. I know that I must treat them with the same respect that I would want from them or risk

The second aspect that I have chosen to talk about is the idea of higher existence. Jonathan achieves this through the restless, painful and lonely pursuit of perfection. He feels bound to the limitations that he has with his existence as a seagull, but finds ways to do things that no other seagull can do: Flying at high speeds, aerobatics, etc. This brings him great joy and satisfaction and is his first step on his journey of self-discovery. Because of his love of flying, he is outcast from the flock and spends the rest of his life on earth alone. During this time he comes as close to “perfect flight” as he could possibly get. This is when Jonathan transcends life on earth to join the other elder gulls in “heaven”. Here he learns “perfect speed” and flies and thinks in ways he never could on earth. He becomes boundless and limitless; “A perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all”. But he never saw any of the gulls that he knew back on earth in this heaven. He finds out that it is because the heaven he is in is only accessible to seagulls who understand the freedom and beauty within flight. Seagulls who only live for food will never reach this higher existence. They don’t understand perfection so they could never experience perfection, thus they could never live in Jonathan’s perfect heaven. I believe that this idea is intended to teach the reader the value of striving for perfection. The writer is trying to convey that the only thing we can do in life to achieve higher existence is to achieve total mastery over something. This made me think about things in my life that parallel Jonathan’s life. I play the piano, and I believe that the feeling that I get from trying to play as close to perfectly as I can is similar to the feeling Jonathan got from trying to fly perfectly. This made me think about how important it is for me and others to have something in life that we try to do perfectly. With dedication to perfection, I have a chance of being like Jonathan, but without it, I will likely be just another seagull in breakfast flock.

The novel “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” By Richard Bach, taught me about how isolating it can be for a person when they are shunned by society for being non conforming. It made me think about the way I treat people and the way that I want people to treat me. The novel also showed me that higher existence can be achieved through the pursuit of perfection. I realised the importance of pursuing perfection in my own life and how this will help me distinguish myself from others who do not act in this way. The following is a quote from the book that really highlights this point; “Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect”. The book was thought-provoking and compelling and I would strongly recommend it to other readers.

 

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