Also known as
National Simplicity Day
annually on July 12th
Henry David Thoreau, born on today's date in 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, espoused the ethos of living simply. This was most evident in his book Walden. Simplicity Day is dedicated to the simpler way of life that Thoreau lived by.
Thoreau began writing nature poetry in the 1840s. He was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, and in 1845 started a two-year stay on Emerson's land, next to Walden Pond. He built a small house and lived a simple life, dedicating his life to philosophical and literary interests. He wrote about his experiences there in Walden, which was published in 1854. Its main themes were about simplicity and closeness to nature. The book was a modest success at the time but has stood the test of time, and has become an important piece of work for environmentalists and naturalists.
Here are a few quotes from the book that are fitting for today:
"Let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores."
"Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself."
Besides his view of simplicity and nature, Thoreau was dedicated to other subjects. He was against slavery and the Mexican-American War, he wrote about and participated in civil disobedience, and he was part of the transcendentalist movement. Transcendentalism came about in the mid-1800s in the United States. Its beliefs were that humans are inherently good, and knowledge is gained by the observation of looking both inward and outward. It also focused on inquiry, empirical thinking, and the importance of spiritual matters over the physical world.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by exploring Thoreau's work and dedicating your day—and possibly future days—to simplicity. Many of Thoreau's books and essays could be read, but none is more fitting than Walden. If nothing else, read some quotes from the book, of which many are notable. There are many things you could do to make sure your day is filled with simplicity:
- turn off your phone for the day, and stay off your computer
- take a walk through the woods or hike elsewhere
- go camping
- look up at the stars
- pause and observe what is around you
- simplify your meals
- get rid of things you don't need, and commit to stop buying things you don't need