By Nancy Austin, PhD – newportFILM Outdoors Summer 2017 Humanities Blogger

With support from the Rhode Island Council on the Humanities (RICH)

I just came back from the Henry David Thoreau Bicentennial, where hundreds of people from around the world gathered to celebrate the ongoing relevance of the author of Walden as a visionary ecologist and inspiring prophet of mindful simplicity in our too-busy world. A recurring theme was Thoreau’s passionate commitment to live fully present with non-human nature. Thoreau’s late essay on Walking was quoted by many of the speakers, especially the passage where Thoreau writes about how it was only by physically immersing himself in nature that he returned to his senses:

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall?… Of course it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither. I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. …. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is: I am out of my senses. In my walks I would fain return to my senses.

Thoreau will be on my mind this Thursday night when newportFILM screens Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, directed by Rory Kennedy. The film asks us to engage with surfing iconoclast Laird Hamilton as a Thoreau-like character for whom surfing is a kind of Walking – on water.  Thoreau challenged his contemporaries to see that: “the walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours … but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day”. With similar intent, Take Every Wave profiles Laird Hamilton as an artist whose “enterprise and adventure of the day” is surfing the biggest ocean waves (or innovating the Stand-Up surfing movement) as a means to live most fully. The film is a profile of the inner discipline to release the self and perform as one in harmony with the world. In this sense, Thursday night’s Take Every Wave follows in the wake of the award-winning 2008 documentary, Man on Wire, about Philippe Petit, where another peak performer revealed deep-seated inner motivation removed from the monetized game of professional sports. I look forward to seeing how this new documentary vicariously carries us to experiences we likely never will have, and moves us to act on the expansive possibilities available in our own lives – returning us to our senses.

Film screening details:
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton

Thursday, July 20


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