Billions of reasons for rich people to dream big
It was at the bottom of the ocean that James Cameron felt alone, distant from humanity. But it was there that he was, perhaps, closer to us than he had ever been.
Earlier this week, the acclaimed director became the first person to solo-dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench - one of the darkest, quietest places on the planet.
As the world applauded Cameron, billionaire Clive Palmer was holding court at a press conference in Brisbane, speaking about spooks and conspiracy theories and strange political follies. There were no submarines, blueprints or audacious concept drawings behind him. Just a man who had made enough money to say whatever he liked whenever the mood struck.
Men like James Cameron are a rarity - millionaires who cling to boyhood dreams of terrifying depths, snow-capped peaks, magnificent machines and endless space.
Loud and eccentric, they conquer our fears and keep alive the notion that exploration - even if it’s just for the sake of exploration - is noble and pure. Their feats remind us that the world is vast, that we are small and that, despite our tallest skyscrapers and greatest technological marvels, there is still mystery. Something left unspoiled.
Envy gives way to awe when the wealthy use their freedom and fortunes to nudge humankind that little bit further ahead.
In turbulent times, the simplicity and elegance of a man or woman fighting to climb higher or dive deeper than anyone before them can be an incredible source of inspiration.
So why are millionaires like James Cameron or Howard Hughes in such short supply? How do these children, who grow up zooming around with ice-cream buckets on their heads and toy airplanes in their hands, forget these dreams the minute they acquire the wealth to make them real?
Later this year, Sir Richard Branson plans to dive to the depths of the Atlantic and reach the Puerto Rican trench.
Let’s hope his journey inspires a few more to attempt the extraordinary.
There is something genuinely exciting about a person who has the means to live out their days in peace and comfort, but chooses danger and adventure.
It would be sad to think that among all those people with the power to do whatever they pleased, only a handful were willing to tackle the fantastic voyages we’ve all dreamed about.
Undoubtedly, many of them are happy to spend their days furiously gobbling steaks and drowning in wine. They explore only hotel receptions and resorts, traversing lobbies and taking shelter beneath the intricately-woven roofs of exotic pool bars.
They’re content. Their legacy is a number. The greater that number, the more important their legacy. They leave rows of zeros for their children to squabble over, squander and burn. Palatial sprawls welcome the envious, who dance and feast and whisper cruel things while the music blares.
But it is their undeniable right and good fortune to live that way. No one can truly resent them for it. Nor should we insist they spend their money any other way.
We cannot, and should not, demand that the Palmers and Rineharts of the world leap into submarines or hop into supersonic jets.
But we can hope that there are, among their ranks, men and women daring enough to do so.
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