Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who observed, among many other quotable remarks, that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation and that in wildness is the preservation of the world. Thoreau lived for two years in a cabin he built on the shores of Walden Pond, in Massachusetts. In 2009, I visited Walden with National Geographic photographer Tim Laman, and today National Geographic has published a selection of the photographs Tim has made over the years at the pond, along with a short tribute from me.
I suppose that for many people Thoreau seems ancient, remote and irrelevant—a poet out of time. Yet the questions he asked are timeless—and arguably more pertinent than ever. What is the secret of contentment? What should our relationship be with nature? Can we live with less? Is less, in fact, more?
As the photo above suggests, let us stay in sync with Walden’s wanderer, wherever the path leads.