By the time I received my copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I had already finished reading the Bible for the first time. I was nine. I read a lot. The timing of this gift from my parents was nothing short of transformational for me, as I was looking for meaning and hope. The stories in the Old Testament frightened me, and the ones found in the New Testament, while more hopeful, still seemed to land us all in a place. If we behaved. Richard Bach seemed to be suggesting that rather than having one shot at getting things right, we would continue to pursue perfection, returning to the place where we left off, gliding and soaring until we had it just about right, and then poof.
On to the next level.
This was an age that had yet to embrace the reset button. Video games were in their infancy, and the notion that we could all have a chance at beating the big boss was still more than a decade away. I was reading. A lot. I read comic books. And it was somewhere around this time that the folks at Marvel decided to test Spider Man by killing off Gwen Stacy. So I got to watch Peter Parker struggle with the stages of grief and though he had the proportionate strength and agility of a spider, he had the heart of a nerd from Queens. Which may be why Stan Lee brought Gwen back to life via cloning. Because, as I began to discover, nothing golden stays. It tends to go away until fans insist upon its return.
Like Frankenstein's Creature, or Jason Voorhees, monsters in the movies did not stay dead. Not as long as there was potential box office in them. I was watching those movies as I kept reading. And I wondered about the nature of reality and the afterlife. By the time the 1980s rolled around, I was pretty confounded by all the places that life might lead, but I attempted to stay on a path that might allow me to regenerate in some meaningful way if this path suddenly ended. That's when I heard Bruce Springsteen sing these words, "Everything dies, baby that's a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back." The words of a prophet. Or so I hoped.
Now I'm raising a son, who is probably far more familiar with the stories of pop culture than he is with those of The Good Book. His formal spiritual training has centered more on the wisdom of the Jedi Knights than the writings of the apostles. Which is sort of by design, and lot out of laziness. Which means that when Han died in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, only to reappear four years later in yet another Fast and Furious movie, I was initially at a loss to explain.
Then I remembered Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And it all made sense to me. Not necessarily to my son. He's still working that out. He should read more comic books.