Sermons in white stones

THE HUNGRY SPIRIT by Charles Handy, Hutchinson pounds 14.99

Derry Moore, also known as the Earl of Drogheda, evokes the melancholy grandeur of the ruins of Empire in Evening Ragas: A Photographer in India (John Murray pounds 20, published on 9 October). A portrait of India after Independence, it shows a world of fading Victorian trappings: dusty billiard tables in grandiose mansions, classical statuary clogged with lush foliage. There are also haunting, adept portraits of Satyajit Ray, Krishnamurti and others. Left, a row of effigies waiting to be dressed for the Saraswati puja in Calcutta. At the end of the festival, the effigies are ceremonially thrown into the Hooghly river to dissolve.

FOR A successful and wealthy management guru, Charles Handy writes modest, downsized little books, full of homespun wisdom and arresting images. This penchant for images - the "shamrock" organisation, the "empty raincoat" - has grated on certain commentators, striking them as glib and twee. The Hungry Spirit provides a few more examples - the White Stone, the Geranium theory - and its cover features the author in shirt, tie and black business overcoat, looking pensive in a field that stretches to infinity.

It's much more like a self-help guide than a business manual, and its maxims are the new truisms of voluntary simplicity. That's not to say that they don't have resonance. I particularly liked the "Chindogu World", from the Japanese word for clutter and superfluity. Got a washing machine with 16 programmes, of which you only use four? Can your video machine tape up to a month in advance, even though you only ever video things the same day? That's chindogu, where "buoyant consumer demand means a world full of junk". Even books, if left unread on the shelf, are chindogu. In such a world, "waste collection and recycling become boom industries,[and] thrift shops thrive".

But apart from finding us a slinky Japanese word for a familiar concept, what great wisdom has Handy got to offer? Appropriately for someone who resembles Alec Guinness at his most bland and meek, Handy - he'd be the first to admit it - puts forward the immensely engaging persona of a modest man with a lot to be modest about, a holy fool trotting about pointing out the obvious.

He keeps a white stone on his desk to remind him of some ambiguous words in the book of Revelation: "To the one who prevails, the Spirit says, I will give a white stone ... on which is written a name, which shall be known only to the one who receives it." Call it self-knowledge, higher purpose, the soul, or what you will. Individuals are all in pursuit of the white stone, but so are companies, whether they know it or not. Money and efficiency aren't the bottom line, and Handy 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: when the central heating reaches a comfortable level, we wouldn't keep on turning it up, would we? I remember a Chinese poem, translated by Arthur Waley, which made much the same point: you can't live in more than one room at once. Handy, as the bookflap points out, has homes in Tuscany, London and Norfolk.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices