Don’t be fooled by the pounding of the surf. You don’t have to be a giant to approach the sea. You can be small, and quiet and even whisper. So much Icelandic cultural advertising approaches the world as a terrible, destructive force that wears people down, yet Iceland isn’t like that. In many ways, this approach is a marketing strategy, born in the romantic travel literature of 18th century England and the perennial problem of Icelanders feeling cut off from the world. These birds are scavenging on the shores of a powerful ocean, yes.
But to them, Icelanders the lot of them, the ocean is not destructive. This concept of “destructive” comes from human attempts to live here, despite all this energy, and failing almost as often as not. That is a human problem, though, which means you can approach the sea as a human without the limitation of fear. This is the sense of fate that Gunnar tried to tell the Germans about in 1936, that “life in the present” means “to act,” because all time is present. You can’t choose between past, present and future. You can integrate them, however, into action and be your fate. That doesn’t include romanticizing your isolation or fighting against it. Those are just cultural choices, for the most part from outside the country.
The greatest wealth, Gunnar said, is poverty. It makes everything that has washed in from the sea a treasure.