Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach was something of a cult book when I was a student. Most of the people I knew had a copy on their bookshelves, and it is not difficult to understand why. It is the story of one seagull who believed that there was more to life than following the fishing boats and fighting over scraps. Jonathan's great love is flying, and his one goal in life is to become the best flyer he can be.
Predictably, because his behaviour is different, and odd, and seagulls, like people, distrust those who are different and odd, he is Outcast from the Flock. He is sad about this, but it doesn't stop him working towards becoming the best Jonathan Livingstone Seagull he can be.
And this is the great enchantment of the book. I didn't really "get" it when I first read it, because I was still very much in the first half of life, trying to fit in, trying to make a place for myself in society. It has taken me most of the years since then to understand that there is more to living than this. True happiness comes when you strive to become the best person you can be, regardless of what anybody else thinks. It is living with integrity that matters.
And this is the message that Jonathan learns, from the Elder Gull, and from other enlightened gulls. And then he realises that even that is not enough; he needs to share what he knows with the Flock back home - the Flock that rejected him and spurned him. Because the freedom and joy of flight changed his experience of life from that of humdrum existence to that of joyful swooping and diving and pushing to the limits. And this needed sharing.
Which is what I'm just starting to understand. The joys, the insights, that I have learned on my own spiritual journey as a Unitarian and as a human being mustn't be kept to myself - they have to be shared with others, in the hope that they might inspire somebody else to start their own journey. Which is why I became a minister.
So I owe Jonathan Livingstone Seagull a lot, even if it took me a while to get the message.