National Simplicity Day is celebrated every year on July 12th, in honour of Henry David Thoreau, who was born on this day in 1817. Thoreau was an advocate for living a life of simplicity. This day is dedicated to stepping back from the hustle of our complex daily routines and appreciating the simple things in life.
The idea is to unplug, enjoy some quiet time, or perhaps engage in simple outdoor activities like walking or gardening. The day encourages people to simplify their lives in ways that might make them more relaxed, content, and appreciative of what they have.
Who is Henry David Thoreau?
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was an American essayist, poet, and philosopher who was a leading figure in the 19th-century movement of Transcendentalism. Central to the philosophy is a belief in the inherent goodness of people and nature, and the idea that society and its institutions—particularly organised religion and political parties—ultimately corrupt the purity of the individual. Transcendentalists championed the idea of self-reliance and intuitive thought. Thoreau is perhaps best known for his book "Walden," a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. In "Walden," Thoreau recounts the two years, two months, and two days he spent in a cabin near Walden Pond, amidst woodland owned by his friend and mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, near Concord, Massachusetts. Another notable work by Thoreau is his essay "Civil Disobedience" (originally published as "Resistance to Civil Government"), which argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau's philosophy of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance has influenced many political leaders and movements worldwide, including Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. His writings and ideas continue to inspire and influence people around the world.
Books by Henry David Thoreau for National Simplicity Day:
Here are some of his works:
- “Walden“. This is Thoreau’s most famous work and is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings. It details Thoreau’s experiences over the course of two years in a cabin he built near Walden Pond.
- “Civil Disobedience“. This is an essay in which Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their conscience and that they have a duty to avoid allowing the government to make them the agents of injustice.
- “Walking“. This essay is a transcendental treatise on the importance of respecting nature, in which Thoreau meditates on the importance of nature to mankind and how people cannot survive without nature, physically, mentally, and spiritually, yet we seem to be spending more and more time entrenched by society.
- “The Maine Woods“. A collection of accounts from Thoreau’s trips to the largely unexplored woods of Maine. They reflect on the journey itself, the wildlife, the Pristine nature, and also on the encroachment of civilization.
- “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers“. This is a narrative of a boating trip that he took with his brother, John, from Concord, Massachusetts to Concord, New Hampshire.
- “Cape Cod“. It’s an account of his trips to Cape Cod, full of descriptions of the landscape, the ocean, and humanity’s relationship with nature.
These works make clear Thoreau’s embrace of simplicity, his love of nature, and his strong advocacy for individuality and personal freedom. His writings continue to inspire readers today. Check out the episode with The Joy of Minimalism author Zoey Arielle Poulsen.