Материалы к занятию
Sullivan, adept now at thought-speed flight and helping the others to learn, was doubtful.
“Jon, you were Outcast once. Why do you think that any of the gulls in your old time would listen to you now? You know the proverb, and it’s true: The gull sees farthest who flies highest. Those gulls where you came from are standing on the ground, squawking and fighting among themselves. They’re a thousand miles from heaven—and you say you want to show them heaven from where they stand! Jon, they can’t see their own wingtips! Stay here. Help the new gulls here, the ones who are high enough to see what you have to tell them.” He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “What if Chiang had gone back to his old worlds? Where would you have been today?”
The last point was the telling one, and Sullivan was right. The gull sees farthest who flies highest.
Jonathan stayed and worked with the new birds coming in, who were all very bright and quick with their lessons. But the old feeling came back, and he couldn’t help but think that there might be one or two gulls back on Earth who would be able to learn, too. How much more would he have known by now if Chiang had come to him on the day that he was Outcast!
“Sully, I must go back,” he said at last. “Your students are doing well. They can help you bring the newcomers along.”
Sullivan sighed, but he did not argue. “I think I’ll miss you, Jonathan,” was all he said.
“Sully, for shame!” Jonathan said in reproach, “and don’t be foolish! What are we trying to practice every day? If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?”
Sullivan Seagull laughed in spite of himself. “You crazy bird,” he said kindly. “If anybody can show someone on the ground how to see a thousand miles, it will be Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” He looked at the sand. “Good-bye, Jon, my friend.”
“Good-bye, Sully. We’ll meet again.” And with that, Jonathan held in thought an image of the great gull-flocks on the shore of another time, and he knew with practiced ease that he was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all.
Fletcher Lynd Seagull was still quite young, but already he knew that no bird had ever been so harshly treated by any Flock, or with so much injustice.
“I don’t care what they say,” he thought fiercely, and his vision blurred as he flew out toward the Far Cliffs. “There’s so much more to flying than just flapping around from place to place! A . . . a . . . mosquito does that! One little barrel-roll around the Elder Gull, just for fun, and I’m Outcast! Are they blind? Can’t they see? Can’t they think of the glory that it’ll be when we really learn to fly?
“I don’t care what they think. I’ll show them what flying is! I’ll be pure Outlaw, if that’s the way they want it. And I’ll make them so sorry . . .”
The voice came inside his own head, and though it was very gentle, it startled him so much that he faltered and stumbled in the air.
“Don’t be harsh on them, Fletcher Seagull. In casting you out, the other gulls have only hurt themselves, and one day they will know this, and one day they will see what you see. Forgive them, and help them to understand.”
An inch from his right wingtip flew the most brilliant white gull in all the world, gliding effortlessly along, not moving a feather, at what was very nearly Fletcher’s top speed.
There was a moment of chaos in the young bird.
“What’s going on? Am I mad? Am I dead? What is this?”
Low and calm, the voice went on within his thought, demanding an answer. “Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly?”
“YES, I WANT TO FLY!”
“Fletcher Lynd Seagull, do you want to fly so much that you will forgive the Flock, and learn, and go back to them one day and work to help them know?”
There was no lying to this magnificent skillful being, no matter how proud or how hurt a bird was Fletcher Seagull.
“I do,” he said softly.
“Then, Fletch,” that bright creature said to him, and the voice was very kind, “Let’s begin with Level Flight. . . .”
Jonathan circled slowly over the Far Cliffs, watching. This rough young Fletcher Gull was very nearly a perfect flight-student. He was strong and light and quick in the air, but far and away more important, he had a blazing drive to learn to fly.
Here he came this minute, a blurred gray shape roaring out of a dive, flashing one hundred fifty miles per hour past his instructor. He pulled abruptly into another try at a sixteen-point vertical slow roll, calling the points out loud.
“. . . eight . . . nine . . . ten . . . see-Jonathan-I’m-running-out-of-airspeed . . . eleven . . . I-want-good-sharp-stops-like-yours . . . twelve . . . but-blast-it-I-just-can’t-make . . . thirteen . . . these-last-three-points . . . without . . . fourtee . . . aaakk!”
Fletcher’s whipstall at the top was all the worse for his rage and fury at falling. He fell backward, tumbled, slammed savagely into an inverted spin, and recovered at last, panting, a hundred feet below his instructor’s level.
“You’re wasting your time with me, Jonathan! I’m too dumb! I’m too stupid! I try and try, but I’ll never get it!”
Jonathan Seagull looked down at him and nodded. “You’ll never get it for sure as long as you make that pullup so hard. Fletcher, you lost forty miles an hour in the entry! You have to be smooth! Firm but smooth, remember?”
He dropped down to the level of the younger gull. “Let’s try it together now, in formation. And pay attention to that pullup. It’s a smooth, easy entry.”
By the end of three months Jonathan had six other students, Outcasts all, yet curious about this strange new idea of flight for the joy of flying.
Still, it was easier for them to practice high performance than it was to understand the reason behind it.
“Each of us is in truth an idea of the Great Gull, an unlimited idea of freedom,” Jonathan would say in the evenings on the beach, “and precision flying is a step toward expressing our real nature. Everything that limits us we have to put aside. That’s why all this high-speed practice, and low-speed, and aerobatics . . .”
. . . and his students would be asleep, exhausted from the day’s flying. They liked the practice, because it was fast and exciting and it fed a hunger for learning that grew with every lesson. But not one of them, not even Fletcher Lynd Gull, had come to believe that the flight of ideas could possibly be as real as the flight of wind and feather.
“Your whole body, from wingtip to wingtip,” Jonathan would say, other times, “is nothing more than your thought itself, in a form you can see. Break the chains of your thought, and you break the chains of your body, too. . . .” But no matter how he said it, it sounded like pleasant fiction, and they needed more to sleep.
It was only a month later that Jonathan said the time had come to return to the Flock.
“We’re not ready!” said Henry Calvin Gull. “We’re not welcome! We’re Outcast! We can’t force ourselves to go where we’re not welcome, can we?”
“We’re free to go where we wish and to be what we are,” Jonathan answered, and he lifted from the sand and turned east, toward the home grounds of the Flock.
There was brief anguish among his students, for it is the Law of the Flock that an Outcast never returns, and the Law had not been broken once in ten thousand years. The Law said stay; Jonathan said go; and by now he was a mile across the water. If they waited much longer, he would reach a hostile Flock alone.
“Well, we don’t have to obey the law if we’re not a part of the Flock, do we?” Fletcher said, rather self-consciously. “Besides, if there’s a fight, we’ll be a lot more help there than here.”
And so they flew in from the west that morning, eight of them in a double-diamond formation, wingtips almost overlapping. They came across the Flock’s Council Beach at a hundred thirty-five miles per hour, Jonathan in the lead, Fletcher smoothly at his right wing, Henry Calvin struggling gamely at his left. Then the whole formation rolled slowly to the right, as one bird . . . level . . . to . . . inverted . . . to . . . level, the wind whipping over them all.
The squawks and grockles of everyday life in the Flock were cut off as though the formation were a giant knife, and eight thousand gull-eyes watched, without a single blink. One by one, each of the eight birds pulled sharply upward into a full loop and flew all the way around to a dead-slow stand-up landing on the sand. Then as though this sort of thing happened every day, Jonathan Seagull began his critique of the flight.
“To begin with,” he said with a wry smile, “you were all a bit late on the join-up . . .”
It went like lightning through the Flock. Those birds are Outcast! And they have returned! And that . . . that can’t happen! Fletcher’s predictions of battle melted in the Flock’s confusion.
“Well, sure, O.K., they’re Outcast,” said some of the younger gulls, “but hey, man, where did they learn to fly like that?”
It took almost an hour for the Word of the Elder to pass through the Flock: Ignore them. The gull who speaks to an Outcast is himself Outcast. The gull who looks upon an Outcast breaks the Law of the Flock.
Gray-feathered backs were turned upon Jonathan from that moment onward, but he didn’t appear to notice. He held his practice sessions directly over the Council Beach and for the first time began pressing his students to the limit of their ability.
“Martin Gull!” he shouted across the sky. “You say you know low-speed flying. You know nothing till you prove it! FLY!”
So quiet little Martin William Seagull, startled to be caught under his instructor’s fire, surprised himself and became a wizard of low speeds. In the lightest breeze he could curve his feathers to lift himself without a single flap of wing from sand to cloud and down again.
Likewise Charles-Roland Gull flew the Great Mountain Wind to twenty-four thousand feet, came down blue from the cold thin air, amazed and happy, determined to go still higher tomorrow.
Fletcher Seagull, who loved aerobatics like no one else, conquered his sixteen-point vertical slow roll and the next day topped it off with a triple cartwheel, his feathers flashing white sunlight to a beach from which more than one furtive eye watched.
Every hour Jonathan was there at the side of each of his students, demonstrating, suggesting, pressuring, guiding. He flew with them through night and cloud and storm, for the sport of it, while the Flock huddled miserably on the ground.