By Stan Stewart
After watching a documentary on Super Yachts I felt depressed. For thirty minutes men, some of them my age, displayed their prize possession - a super yacht. The way it came across was that the proof of their life success and their financial success was owning a super yacht costing $300 million, $400 million. The figures are staggering. The owners seemed so at ease. It was as though they were saying, “This possession (my super yacht) is nothing to be surprised by. I worked for it and now I deserve it”.
I found myself wondering what had I achieved in my life time? How come there is so much disparity between their tremendous wealth and my modest circumstances? Does it mean that they are successes and I am a failure? As I was going off to sleep this thought captured me. Despite what I often say to the contrary, does wealth equal happiness after all? This unwelcome thought kept me awake and half-awake for a long time.
At various times, in various places I have met young people who crewed on super yachts. The one thing they had in common was that they would not speak about the experience - no stories, no selfies - not even the name of the yacht, nothing. I came to realise that they were tied in knots by confidentiality agreements. They had lived and worked on floating palaces but one word out of place and they would be in big trouble.
I encountered two stories. One of these young adults told me of the fastidiousness of the cleaning routine. “I had to clean bathrooms with a toothbrush” she told me. “The worst thing was the hinges on the shower doors. They looked perfectly clean, but nonetheless, I was to toothbrush them every day”. Another told me of one guest. This was a female celebrity (no name), in the news every week she said. “She rented our yacht for five days. All she did was to lie on a sun lounge for hours every day. She looked absolutely miserable”.
A number of the yachts are owned by Russian oligarchs. This past year has been tough on Russian oligarchs. Quite a number of them met sudden death in unusual (!!!) circumstances. Super yachts are clearly not set up for informal, unexpected visits. They are more like fortresses. Roman Abramovich, former owner of Chelsea F.C. has reportedly equipped his $700 million yacht with an escape submarine and a German defence system. It is understood that a team of bodyguards are on board whenever he sails. It seems like you have to work hard for a carefree, relaxing day on a super yacht.
Back to me. I admit the parade of super yachts and their self-confident owners unsettled me that night. How do I assess myself. With daylight, other thoughts gradually came. Over this past year I have been reading Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher who according to tradition lived in the 6th century BC. He talks about happiness. “Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are.” This thought started to defuse my anxiety. And then there was another saying of his that popped into my head.; “The key to happiness is not to have more, but to enjoy what you have.”
Much to my surprise, our son, Walker (still paralysed from his covid injection) is a fan of the Roman philosopher, emperor Marcus Aurelius. He wrote, “Very little is needed to make a happy life. It’s all within yourself in your way of thinking”. Cynically I think it’s all right for him to say, as he was the Roman Emperor. He didn’t have a super yacht but the whole Roman empire was his.
However, history does judge him to be a ‘good’ emperor. Maybe he meant what he said.
Jesus said quite a bit about happiness. His most famous sayings are found in the Beatitudes – Matt 5: 3-12. The earlier versions of the Bible translate the opening word as ‘Blessed,’ but this word can also be translated as ‘Happy’. I relate to this one. “Happy are the peacemakers they will be called the children of God.”
Whoops! So now to second thoughts.
I think those huge floating luxury palaces have been messing with my head. If super yachts are where happiness is to be found, then a minuscule fraction of one percent of the planet’s population can achieve this desired goal. For the rest of us, there is nothing to do but suffer. Hmm – pass me another Valium!
In the bright light of day I have decided to stick with the Lao Tzu and Marcus Aurelius and Jesus quotes.
Actually, listening to Jimmie Cliff can also bust my gloom bubble.
“I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way; Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind,
It's gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiny day.”