Get Unstuck: Simple Surf Wisdom For The Ages

Timeless insights tucked away in a classic surf film

Gavin Lamb, PhD
Nov 28, 2020 · 4 min read

There is a poem in a surfing video I recently rewatched again for the umpteenth time called Castles in the Sky.

It’s a beautiful film about, well, surfing. But as fragments of this poem are interspersed throughout the film, it conveys a sense of simplicity and adventure that comes with traveling alone with no schedule, no agenda, just enjoying the unpredictability of what might come next.

Or maybe it just reinforces the romanticized stereotype of the wanderlust surf bum.

Either way, I appreciate it because it reminds me of both the psychological and geographical journeys that occur when we embark on some new adventure.

These journeys might involve starting some daunting creative project, taking a trip to the other end of the world (or to the other end of your neighborhood), or maybe just doing something that you fear but which you know will be good for you in the end; like striving to experience the world in a new way by learning a new language.

And then, one day, while it seems like you haven’t been moving forward at all, you suddenly realize you are experiencing the world a little differently than before, with a little more soul and gratitude:

Next Steps: Getting Unstuck in Time & Space

1. Re-storying the self through time-travel

Slaughterhouse Five is an autobiographical, time-traveling science fiction novel by Kurt Vonnegut about a man named Billy Pilgram –– an American prisoner of war captured after the Battle of the Bulge ––who somehow has ‘become unstuck in time’ after being abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore.

Tralfamadorians experience time in a strange way. As one Tralfamadorian tells Billy: “I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains.”

The story is rich and is worth re-reading from time to time. It can be read as Vonnegut’s time-traveling journey across his own life experiences as a method for re-storying his life and his relationship to time and place.

In other words, one takeaway from the novel might be that the act of ‘re-storying’ one’s life is vital to creating purpose and meaning. As the philosopher Martin Colemen puts it, Vonnegut’s novel shows us how,

2. Writer’s Block? Get moving

The poet Mary Oliver carries a notebook with her, writing while she walks, often in the woods. Something about motion, and keeping moving, helps the words flow. She also writes right after going for a swim. How does physical movement encourage intellectual movement for you?

3. When doors of opportunity open, walk through them. Or, be like the unstuck bookmark

Watch this amazing short film about a bookmark who ‘becomes unstuck in the world.’

It’s a good reminder about how close our next adventure just might be, whether that adventure is inward psychologically, outward geographically, or both. Or perhaps the lesson here is: go surfing.

Leaky Grammar

“Unfortunately, or luckily, no language is tyrannically consistent. All grammars leak.”

Gavin Lamb, PhD

Written by

I’m a researcher and writer in ecolinguistics and environmental communication. Get my weekly digest of nature writing ideas/tools: https://wildones.substack.com

Leaky Grammar

Leaky Grammar is a new publication running stories on creative, inspiring, and educational ideas on writing, language and communication.

Gavin Lamb, PhD

Written by

I’m a researcher and writer in ecolinguistics and environmental communication. Get my weekly digest of nature writing ideas/tools: https://wildones.substack.com

Leaky Grammar

Leaky Grammar is a new publication running stories on creative, inspiring, and educational ideas on writing, language and communication.

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