No, he thought. I am done with the way I was, I am done with everything I learned. I am a seagull like every other seagull, and I will fly like one. So he climbed painfully to a hundred feet and flapped his wings harder, pressing for shore.
He felt better for his decision to be just another one of the Flock.
There would be no ties now to the force that had driven him to learn, there would be no more challenge and no more failure. And it was pretty,
just to stop thinking, and fly through the dark.
Dark! The hollow voice cracked in alarm. Seagulls never fly in the dark!
Jonathan was not alert to listen. It’s pretty, he thought. The moon and the lights twinkling on the water, throwing out little beacon-trails through the night, and all so peaceful and still…
Get down! Seagulls never fly in the dark! If you were meant to fly in the dark, you’d have the eyes of an owl! You’d have charts for brains!
You’d have a falcon’s short wings!
There in the night, a hundred feet in the air, Jonathan Livingston Seagull – blinked. His pain, his resolutions, vanished.
Short wings. A falcon’s short wings!
That’s the answer!
He climbed two thousand feet above the black sea, and without a moment for thought of failure and death, he brought his forewings tightly in to his body, left only the narrow swept daggers of his wingtips extended into the wind, and fell into a vertical dive.
The wind was a monster roar at his head. Seventy miles per hour, ninety, a hundred and twenty and faster still. The wing-strain now at a hundred and forty miles per hour wasn’t nearly as hard as it had been before at seventy, and with the faintest twist of his wingtips he eased out of the dive and shot above the waves, a gray cannonball under the moon.
He closed his eyes to slits against the wind and rejoiced. A hundred forty miles per hour! And under control! If I dive from five thousand feet instead of two thousand, I wonder how fast..
His vows of a moment before were forgotten, swept away in that great swift wind. Yet he felt guiltless, breaking the promises he had made himself. Such promises are only for the gulls that accept the ordinary.
One who has touched excellence in his learning has no need of that kind of promise.