If I Were A Rich Man…

Sam Chapin

 

Being a man of little means, and even less free time, I wake up in the morning with my day already planned: Walk my dog, eat some cereal, go to work, eat some pizza, go to second work, eat some pizza, walk my dog, go to sleep. I make just enough money to eat, live and sleep, with a few dollars left over for beer and socks. Because the question of what to do with my money is so simple to answer—use it to sustain my meager body—I needn’t fret.

 

But what if that strict daily regimen was taken away? What if I was left to my own devices, with no schedule to follow or budget to keep? What if instead of a routine, I led a life of leisurely spontaneity—of chaos?

 

Enter Sir Richard Branson. Since his teenage years, Branson has been a profoundly successful entrepreneur and businessman. At 16, he founded Student magazine, which mainly discussed culture and music. At 22, he founded Virgin Records, which would later launch such bands as The Sex Pistols and Faust. At 34, he founded Virgin Atlantic Airways, and at 49, he launched Virgin Mobile. Today, Virgin Group owns more than 400 companies, including Virgin Galactic—his space airline.

 

If you’re a man who has everything you could ever want and more money than you could begin to count, what could you possibly do to entertain yourself? How could you keep things interesting in a world where anything is possible?

 

What’s that? You buy a Caribbean island for $250,000 to impress your girlfriend? And on the day of your wedding you arrive clinging to the bottom of a helicopter on said island to wed said girlfriend? Touché, Sir Richard.

 

And say it’s a Saturday afternoon and you’re tired of taking your boat to the lake; there are speed limits there, after all. What do you do? Just head for open waters with your 72-foot speedboat , cross the Atlantic Ocean in a few days, and break the world record. (That’s what  Branson did, anyway.)

 

Is Branson wrong to to engage in such outlandish behavior? He could have bought his girlfriend a tacky necklace or taken her to Vermont for the weekend like the rest of us. He could have driven to his wedding, or even biked, instead of being literally dropped off by a helicopter.

 

But why should he? This is a man accustomed to a certain level of luxury. If you fly first class once, it’s hard to go back. And once you fly Virgin Galactic…well, I imagine flying to, say, Phoenix, loses its appeal.

 

 

If you don’t feel like taking a trip to the stars, another good cure for boredom among the uber-affluent is a trip to the bottom of the world.

 

In March of this year, filmmaker James Cameron completed a solo mission to the Mariana Trench, making him the third mammal to do so in the history of the world. In fact, few fish have even been there since it is virtually uninhabitable.

 

Clearly this is quite an accomplishment, but some, like Dr. Alan Jamieson from Oceanlab, question its validity: “…Submersibles like this are limited in scientific capabilities when compared to other systems, mostly due to the fact that there is someone in it. Remote or autonomous systems can collect a far greater volume of useful scientific data for far less money."

 

So why did  Cameron take it upon himself to make the plunge? The same reason he does anything—to film it in 3-D: “"There is scientific value in getting stereo images because ... you can determine the scale and distance of objects from stereo pairs that you can't from 2-D images." Maybe, sometime in the future, he’ll re-release the film of his dive in breathtaking 2-D.

 

 

Not to be outdone by fellow gazzillionaire Richard Branson, Cameron has also set his sights on the heavens. He and some of his unfathomably rich buddies are going into the mining business. More specifically, the asteroid mining business. According to CBS News,  “The mega-million-dollar plan is to use commercially built robotic ships to squeeze rocket fuel and valuable minerals like platinum and gold out of the lifeless rocks that routinely whiz by Earth. One of the company founders predicts they could have their version of a space-based gas station up and running by 2020.”

 

This sounds so familiar. Where have I heard about interstellar mining…oh yeah, that’s the premise of Avatar.

 

In my lifetime, I’ve heard of ambitious plans. Creating an inter-space tourism company: ambitious. Catching asteroids and squeezing them until gold comes out: The.Most.Ambitious.Plan.I.Can.Think.Of. 

 

Some people see such mind-blowing affluence as an affront to the rest of us --  an unearned advantage, needlessly exploited. And in some ways, they’re right. The wealthiest of us buy and do things that, for the most part, needn’t be bought and needn’t be done. I’m going on vacation in a month—do I need to? No. Are many low-income families living in Queens going on vacation next month? Probably not. I have more than most  and less than some. It’s all relative, and so forth.

 

Bottom line: Does money grant happiness? Does the ability to have and do anything inherently lead to a happier and more fulfilling life? (Insert photo of Donald Trump looking particularly upset.) No. I suppose it doesn’t.

 

Author Bio:

Sam Chapin is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine. For his next assignment, we’re sending Sam on a trip to the moon, courtesy of Sir Richard's Virgin Galactic space airline. 

 

Photos: Richard Branson (dailygalaxy.com); Donald Trump (AP); James Cameron (JamesCameron.net).

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