He presents to us almost a Theory of Everything from this one observed phenomenon. Someone may know which branch of science or physics picks up the thread offered here.
In later years, Thoreau became more and more the scientist/naturalist. I think, though that he preferred still to be known as a transcendentalist. The world needed to be understood through a combination of accurate observation and imagination. We now would say that his speculations have no place in science. I wonder what he would think about this.
17.24 Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it. We need the tonic of wildness -- to wade sometimes in marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground. At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thunder-cloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks and produces freshets. We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.
This is the prophetic voice that many hear when they think of Thoreau. He must have been the earliest to express such a thought. In the public mind, wilderness was probably still something to be subdued and converted to something that people could use. Well, it is something people can use, he tells us, in fact it is essential to our full existence. A voice crying in the wilderness, alas.