Wednesday, September 14, 2005


take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints

I personally think that roadside shrines are pretty tacky and unnecessary - except perhaps where they remind you to drive more slowly - but the idea of having plaques and other items on mountains just seems completely over-the-top. People go to the wilderness to enjoy the beautiful unspoilt scenery, not to be intruded upon by other people's grief. When I die I'll settle for a green burial in one of these woodland burial grounds; I wouldn't want some plaque or shrine to spoil other people's enjoyment of mountains. I'm glad to see that 100% of the comments on this BBC article were against the idea of placing memorials on mountains.

In Alexandria, a certain Thompson from Sunderland has inscribed his name in letters six feet high on Pompey's Pillar. You can read it a quarter of a mile away. You can't see the Pillar without seeing the name of Thompson, and consequently, without thinking of Thompson. This cretin has become part of the monument and perpetuates himself along with it. What am I saying? He overwhelms it by the splendour of his gigantic lettering... All imbeciles are more or less Thompsons from Sunderland. How many one comes across in life in the most beautiful places and in front of the finest views.

Gustave Flaubert, quoted in Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel.

I think that Flaubert has perfectly summed up the distastefulness of leaving one's mark on the wilderness. Fortunately there seems to be now no sign of the imbecile Thompson upon Pompey's Pillar.

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