For more than three dozen years, my life has been deeply influenced by the benign example of Henry David Thoreau. If someone ever puts together a calendar of American saints (not a bad idea) he will surely be among them.
If you have never read his journals, which were first published in 1917 for the centenary of his birth, I highly recommend them. Here is a journal entry from July 24, 1852, that is as alive and pertinent today as when it was written 155 years ago.
“It is remarkable that the highest intellectual mood which the world tolerates is the perception of the truth of the most ancient revelations, now in some respects out of date; but any direct revelation, any original thoughts, it hates like virtue. The fathers and the mothers of the town would rather hear the young man or young women at their tables express reverence for some old statement of the truth than utter a direct revelation themselves. They don’t want to have any prophets born into their families, — damn them! So far as thinking is concerned, surely original thinking is the divinest thing. Rather we should reverently watch for the least motions, the least scintillations, of thought in this sluggish world, and men should run to and fro on the occasion more than at an earthquake. We check and repress the divinity that stirs within us, to fall down and worship the divinity that is dead without us. I go to see many a good man or good woman, so-called, and utter freely that thought which alone it was given to me to utter; but there was a man who lived a long, long time ago, and his name was Moses, and another whose name was Christ, and if your thought does not, or does not appear to, coincide with what they said, the good man or the good woman has no ears to hear you. They think they love God! It is only his old clothes, of which they make scarecrows for the children. Where will they come nearer to God than in those very children?”