On Seagulls and Greatness

On Seagulls and Greatness

Over at Seagull Rising Jon Mollison discusses Cora Buhlert and her lack of awareness of what she refers to. Cora B in bold….

*Does anybody else find the idea of a rabid puppy taking inspiration from Jonathan Livingston Seagull of all things as funny as I do?

Of course she thinks it’s funny.  She doesn’t know what you’re talking about.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of a seagull whose unwillingness to conform to the demands of the crowd results in his expulsion from the flock.  It was adopted by the hippy-dippy movement in the 1970s as they struggled to escape the conformity provided by hard work, the Christian faith, and showers.  Cora still operates under that out-dated mindset, clinging to the notion that true rebels write works that conform to the demands of the university system, major publishing houses, Hollywood, every major media outlet, and most major businesses like Target, Google, and Starbucks.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull is the story of a seagull whose unwillingness to conform to the demands of the crowd results in his expulsion from the flock.  Her mirth makes it clear that she either has not read the work in question – which is largely agnostic on matters of politics, hewing closer to  a ‘you be you even if it means going against the majority’ message than to her assumed ‘stick it to the man, and once you are the man, stick it to those who want to stick it to the man’ message.  Proving once again…

These people don’t read

I agree utterly – these people don’t read. Most of what I’ve seen on the hugos, and I’ve looked, is about what kind of authors and characters were in the story, and what they reference. “And there’s this girl, and she’s black, and she has lucid dreams and it’s, like, Freudean, and..” – yeah, fuck off, I’ll go re-watch Dreamscape or re-read the Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath. Oh, wait, that’s the article describing a new comic series Afar. It’s cool because it has a new twist on Freudian dream theory, you see, and this girl is utterly helpless through most of it, then she makes a horrible mistake she can’t undo, but it’s all about us and our dreams, and…

Nevermind.

Where were we? Oh, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

I hate to Break it to Jon, but I think he missed an important point of the book, which I first read back in 4th grade a long time ago.

Sure, it’s not about specific politcs – it’s about the willingness to follow a path even if it’s not in lockstep march with what everyone tells you in general, and as he points out, that is by no means the monopoly of the left or liberals, especially when they have become the man.

Here’s where it goes deeper. It’s not just that our intrepid seagull is determined to do his own thing – all the seagulls “fly” after a fasion. They all dive for fish, after a fashion. They all eat, after a fashion. It is that he is utterly dedicated to excellence. What sets him apart is is his quest to be the best, to fly the best. To find the limits of what is possible and maybe even push a bit further. He could of course choose something else, and of course he is not content to just live life like the herd – but he wants to achieve mastery.

Often in life, we have to accept good enough, but to master ourselves, to achieve excellence, there have to be areas we care about where “good enough” is not good enough.

UPDATE: In all fairness to Jon – on rereading this I realized I made it sound like Jon didn’t realize there were more meanings to the story. A guy who’s site is called “Seagull rising”.

Yeah, right.

So – first of all, sorry Jon, it was a failure in my writing to not make it clear that Cora B’s failure to grok JLS went far deeper than just “outsider evicted for bucking the flock” but to excellence and working for it, for, as Jon pointed out elsewhere, the art of the whole and not just badly assembled very pretty bits of craft. The fault was not, as I made it appear, in your understanding of JLS.

I for one am a person who hates to draw distinctions between, say, illustrators, and artist, and craft is ultimately required for most great art, but Jon is utterly correct – one can master craft, and not know how to put the whole thing together into a thing of beauty. A cargo cult of mistaking the craft for the art, without understanding the spirit, the soul of the thing.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.