If Henry David Thoreau were alive today, he would probably live in Montana, or Tucson, or a small rural town in New England with beautiful hiking trails. He'd be the scruffy guy in sandals who pads down to the public library once or twice or day to check his email, read the New York Times online, maybe surf a blog or two. You can see him scavenging a sandwich - he would say, "Can you believe it, a perfectly good sandwich that someone just threw away!" - from the trashcan as he walks home to write in his journal, admiring the blue sky, the birdsong, and a dozen other things that every one else takes for granted.
The Concord, Massachusetts native Henry David Thoreau was a writer, poet, naturalist, handyman and prophet of simple, sustainable living. Before you could purchase magazines with titles like Real Simple, Thoreau was exhorting his fellow man to live with less stuff and more time for things that really matter. In 1845, he built a cabin on the shores of Concord's Walden Pond (on land owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson) and proceeded to live a Spartan life for two years. His memoir of the experience, Walden, has since become a bible for simplicity-seekers everywhere. As Emerson wrote after Thoreau's death in Concord in 1862, "He chose to be rich by making his wants few, and supplying them himself."1
Thoreau's message has as much relevance today as it did in the 1860s. Thoreau was writing during tough economic times, when formerly self-reliant farmers were being displaced by an increasingly industrialized economy. Thoreau exhorted his readers to be thrifty, to do without unnecessary things, and to live with an appreciation for the simple things in life. We need his message now more than ever.