Musings on National Simplicity Day
Simply stated, National Simplicity Day is the annual celebration of Henry David Thoreau’s birthday – July 12, 1817.
Before being asked to write this blog, I knew nothing about National Simplicity Day.
I knew some things about Henry David Thoreau – a man who intentionally sought to simplify his life.
He wrote the book Walden to explain why he built a cabin in the woods around Walden Pond and lived alone there for two years.
I remembered his often-quoted words: “I went to the woods to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach me and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived.”
Great stuff from a simple man who led a complicated life as author, tax resister, abolitionist, development critic and surveyor.
How to celebrate?
I still didn’t know much about National Simplicity Day though. How is it celebrated? Ideas included unplug, declutter, take a walk through nature. OK, that sounded fine, but superficial.
I Googled more sites about the day and came upon some depressing numbers:
- 300,000 – the average number of items in an American home,
- 1 in 10 – the number of Americans who rent off-site storage,
- 238 – the average of toys a 10-year-old American child owns, and
- 1.2 million – the amount of money spent by Americans on non-essential goods.
All of a sudden, the “celebration” of National Simplicity Day turned into a celebration for the affluent. Why celebrate getting rid of things most of Earth’s people can’t afford?
My distaste intensified when I noticed the words “business opportunities” on one of the websites explaining National Simplicity Day. You have got to be kidding!
Trying to get back on track, I searched sites for religious or spiritual celebrations of the day. Not much to be found except what Thoreau himself advocated and lived: Silence, being one with nature, seeking “the essential facts of life.”
What started out as a simple writing assignment grew into a complicated mess of feelings and ideas. I may just pass on celebrating National Simplicity Day. I’d rather keep pondering – over many days, months or years – why Thoreau wanted to live simply.
I may spend time with these words as well. “Therefore, do not worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … indeed, God knows you need all these things … strive for the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
National Simplicity Day 2021 – a more thought-provoking assignment than I anticipated.