The Hungry Spirit – Charles Handy

Charles Handy, a respected business thinker writes in a very simple and practical way. His ideas resonate with you. He challenges us to question our reliance on traditional definitions of ‘success’ and inspires us to find meaning and fulfillment in our personal lives. While we enjoy the material benefits and comforts of capitalism every day, we are also aware that this is what divides the rich from poor, consumes so much of our energies resulting in us not always having a contented life.

He asks both individuals and organisations to find purpose in the journey we take rather than focusing on money and profits, which are simply the means to keep us going. Handy relates to his own personal life by sharing his own excessive focus on his career and job titles leading to excluding his family and friends from his day-to-day orbit. Handy shows how we can all better ourselves and our companies while also contributing to a decent society.

I loved his use of the Japanese concept of “chindogu,” which clearly labelled clutter and overabundance. Very often, I have been dumfounded by the influence of chindogu on people in our materialistic world. In a world where enough is never enough, They create an environment that influences people to want more and more. It is a consumption-driven world. We want something not because we need it, but because of human desire, envy and greed. As they say, we have a washing machine with 16 programmes, of which we only use four. We have televisions and mobile phones that offer all kinds of apps that we hardly use. We keep changing mobile phones and cars not because we need them but because that’s the trend. We keep wanting more and more. This chindogu, Handy says leads to a situation where “buoyant consumer demand” would mean “a world full of junk.” In such a world, Handy says, “waste collection and recycling become boom industries” and “thrift shops thrive.” To save us from this unpleasant reality, utilitarianism has to win over materialism. Instead of continually hoarding things, we have to be practical and functional. Charles Handy explains that money and efficiency aren’t the bottom line. He disapproves of the notion that you can run your life as a business. He champions the notion of “enough” to put a brake on rampant capitalism and materialism.

This book is a rare combination of engaging storytelling, philosophical exploration, and down-to-earth wisdom. The book offers readers a powerful tonic for the materialistic lives we have prescribed for ourselves. The book offers an inspiring message of hope. Charles Handy has consistently articulated how we can all better ourselves and our companies while also contributing to a decent society. He relates a Chinese poem translated by Arthur Waley: you can’t live in more than one room at once. Strangely, very few of us get it.