about philosopy

Rick’s personal philosophy is best summed up by this phrase:

Voluntary Simplicity

From his 1997 essay …

Simplify. Simplify. Our life is flitted away by detail.
– Thoreau

Is your life too full? Are you distracted by secondary commitments, complications, entanglements? Are you running, faster and faster, in circles?

Richard Gregg, a student of Ghandi, wrote in 1936 on voluntary simplicity. He sought a way of life that was outwardly simple, but inwardly rich.

Don’t add more hollow deeds to an already scattered life.

Cut back to a few important things you can do with some style.

After many happy months living out of a backpack, I am intrigued with the concept of elemental living; how few things can you possess and still be content? What are the minimum essentials of life?

In the desert I had found a freedom unattainable in civilization; a life unhampered by possessions, since everything that was not a necessity was an encumbrance. I had found, too, a comradeship inherent in the circumstances hardship and the pleasure which springs from abstinence.
– Wilfred Thesiger

073I read Thesiger with fascination. Here was an intelligent, articulate Brit who sought out the least developed parts of the world; 8 years in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia and then 11 years with the Marsh Arabs of southern Iraq. These are locations where only the hardiest and best can possibly survive. By examining the lives of people in the minimalist cultures (Bedouin, monks, Arctic peoples, etc.) we can determine the essential.

Do more with less.
– Bucky Fuller

What does this mean to you? Should you live more lightly?

I am reminded that my friend, media junkie Brian Mason once undertook a voluntary news black-out; avoiding TV, newspapers, magazines, and radio. Good idea. Sensory overload is a danger. We are increasingly entertainment rich, knowledge poor.

Perhaps it’s time we all embraced a radical simplicity, letting go of wasteful speech, costume, display. Be more sufficient unto ourselves.

For example, is high fashion tasteless ostentation? Do you really need a gas guzzling Mercedes? Isn’t it better to spend less, than earn more?

Abandon Affluence


My standard of living went down as my income increased …. I lived a lot better when I had no money. I was living in a beautiful big house on a Greek Island. I was swimming every day; writing, working, meeting people from over the whole world and moving around with tremendous mobility.

– Leonard Cohen

Research shows that, beyond a minimum standard, rich people are not significantly happier than the rest. They don’t find happiness in worldly things.

Every increased possession loads us with a new weariness.
– John Ruskin

So is it time for you to cash out of the rat race? What’s the alternative? How do you live with greater purpose?

After a lifetime study of comparative religion, Joseph Campbell concluded that the best course was to Follow your Bliss. Make a list of those things in your life that you most enjoy; those things that enervate you, compel you; interest you in a sustained way. Do them!

Make a second list of those things that vex your existence. How can you avoid or minimize those?

Most people find purpose, fulfilment, in people; especially in family and friends. Children are often the greatest joy, and greatest concern. Are you spending enough time with your people?

It’s a great challenge, too, to find work to be passionate about. I greatly admire those few who achieve it. I aspire only to do work which I would gladly do for free; work which interests and improves me.

Putting all of yourself into a task makes you real. Whole.

Unfortunately, I’ve been far too rarely rapt while working.

The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.
– Jesus

Look within, thou are the Buddha.
– Gautama Buddha

Atman (the essence of the individual) and Brahman (the ultimate reality) are one.
– words from the Hindu tradition

He who knows himself knows his Lord
– Mohammed

How is your inner life? Many gain greatly from spiritual quests, though most are no longer centred in the Church. To seek God you must look within. We can find fulfillment alone; reading, studying, learning, gardening,

Meditation, not prayer, is the most frequently reported method of calming the spirit across world cultures.

What’s the epiphany? Sex?

Sportsmen talk of the peak performance state. Joseph Campbell came closest to the great life energy while long distance running. He had races where he experienced:

a loss of all fear

no need to think

full attention / total immersion

perfect, effortless, Godlike control

a sense of awe and wonder

This is a true state of meditation.

Think globally. Act locally.

Perhaps no crusade is needed. Economic and environmental trends may necessitate voluntary simplification over the next few decades. Arnold Toynbee described the Law of Progressive Simplification; he feels that an advanced society will naturally transfer energy and attention from the material side of life to the non-material. It is an inevitable stage of growth.

Almost everyone in the world has access to Western entertainment. It is unrealistic to believe that a billion people or more will continue to accept grinding poverty when they know that millions live in conspicuous excess. We face chronic conflict over dwindling resources.

Shop with a conscience.

Our consumer culture is immoral and obscene and unsustainable. We need to change our patterns of consumption in favour of products that are functional, durable, energy efficient, non-polluting, easily repairable, healthy, and produced by ethical, (hopefully local), firms.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse.

My mentor Keith Russell loves old objects; he’s attached to things blessed by what Narayan calls the sanctity of usage. Keith calls too for a rebirth in personal competence and craftsmanship.

So, you? Do you want to embrace Simplicity?

He who knows he has enough is rich.
– Lao-tzu

Christ in a Venezuelan graveyard. Photo by Rick McCharles.

16 thoughts on “about philosopy”

  1. There are many times when you read something profound and you get a twinge, or a twitch, or an itch inside that strikes a peculiar chord of truth, for lack of a better word, but you know it’s important when you read something, and the twitch doesn’t go away…

    The universe must be trying to tell me something, as in the past year, I have “stumbled” on Rick’s treatise on philosophy, Alison Arnold’s “Scream and Run Naked,” What the Bleep, The Secret, A Severe Mercy, Shantaram, and the Practical Cogitator… learn to look within… work at what you love, create, rather than consume, learn to really listen… we listen constantly, but, I fear, we seldom hear.

    Rick’s points of finding a job, a hobbie, a passion you love and doing it is becoming more and more a central theme in my life. Aside from surrounding yourself with people you enjoy and avoiding the ones you don’t, it could be the best practical advice I know.

    He speaks of simplicity, and while I am not a minimalist by any means, my tastes have drifted–evolved, perhaps– to things that provide harmony and joy to me and others. Instead of buying/collecting/owning to impress others, I collect things of value to my heart and soul, rather than my wallet. I enjoy the things in my house–many of them old, used, and worn–thanks, Kieth–that sitting and looking at them, imaging the lives of the people who carved them, wove them, crafted them. WHen you can get peace from contemplating a painting, a sculpture, a carved bowl or a bottle of wine, then that thing is worthy to be in your house, or your tent.

    I grew up in a city, but now I live in the country, facing a mountain, with a pine forest surrounding our house. Until you hear the wind through a real forest, and the creaking of the trees, you haven’t really heard everything. It can be as captivating as the perfectly calm nights when the only sound you can hear is the sound of a train, almost 5 miles away.

    The twinge lingers, and as this was simply an impromtu ramble, I’ll have to think about it some more, and try to figure out what’s causing it.

  2. Thanks Dave.

    This is the most important post on this blog. And my feelings have not really changed since I wrote it 10-years-ago.

    I think this is my philosophy. For life.

  3. i love your philosophy coach rick. somehow it eases my frustration of being a frustrated coach. you know everytime i see the excellent gymnastics equipment during your video presentations, it adds to my discouragement because i know when i go back to our gym school, i only have old improvised equipments and worn out tumbling mats(the cover is about to separate)…..

    1. … I heard the same from several other coaches.

      If I were you I’d reduce the goal from FIG. Perhaps train “specialist” kids who don’t need the expensive apparatus.

      For example, you can do Beam with almost no equipment.

      Boys can train Rings or Pommels with very minimal equipment.

      That way you don’t need the 18-24hrs/wk, either.

      … hope this helps your spirits 😦

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