Considered the grandfather of the simple living movement by some, it was the 150th anniversary of Thoreau's death on 6 May. Radio 4's Something Understood programme with Sir Mark Tully, dedicated last Sunday's episode to Thoreau, and celebrated the life of this naturalist, poet, writer, anarchist and abolitionist. Thoreau, a transcendentalist, was also deeply spiritual (and indeed I heard about the programme via the Embrace Mindfulness blog).
Thoreau is best known for his book Walden or Life in the Woods, published in 1854, which details his experiences of living in an isolated hut in woodland owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The radio programme suggests that Thoreau has influenced the lives of many, from Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, to Pink Floyd's musicians.
The programme concludes that we could all still learn from Thoreau's views on friendship, simple living, and treasuring the countryside. However Mark Tully advises that perhaps we should not follow Thoreau's stance on non-payment of taxes unless we have a kind aunt, like Thoreau's, who will pay the tax man on our behalf!
As usual, this episode of Something Understood contained beautiful music and poetry. The programme can be enjoyed on BBC Radio 4's iplayer until this Sunday 13 May.