Listening to jazz in the ball room at the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town I found myself alone dressed to perfection with my favorite tie and jacket and completely content with my own company on Christmas Day. I was the only guy in the whole place sitting alone and with the tumultuous Christmas I had last year and the disaster that ensued with my family, being alone in a stunning period ballroom with a hundred potential new friends was perfect.
Above the clinking sounds of silverware and the gentle hum of conversation as well as the occasional child’s giggle, the trio of musicians soared through the room transporting all of us to another time and age which made me feel a very sincere emotion … Christmas joy. A joy that is giddy and simple and pure as a child. To be in my 30’s and have that genuine feeling of childlike wonder is the greatest gift this Christmas day has brought me. That coupled with a perfectly cooked turkey with all the trimmings.
A few guests commented on how my appearance was that of a very distinguished gentleman and this gave me no end of confidence. When I was selecting my dessert course from the buffet a guest approached me and commented on my tie. We had a quick conversation and he invited me to join his table to meet his mother and partner. I accepted and what ensued was a historic collaboration of wit amongst individuals that began as strangers and ended as close friends. Over a bottle of South African sparkling wine we found that we had so much in common and plans have been made for us to go out to dinner at some point in the next few days. How wonderful. I started alone and finished with a family.
Later after we said our farewells I headed to the bar to finish the afternoon with a brandy and the most peculiar observation could be made. I could overhear the bitterness of some of the other very wealthy guests. Some were being demanding and others were scowling at the staff for what appeared to be the most ridiculous nonsense. I mean straightening the table cloth or getting upset over the texture of the hollandaise on a sandwich hardly seemed appropriate or worthy of Christmas day in a beautiful setting amongst trees and flowers in the summer sun. I actually saw one person call over a manager to comment on how she did not feel the staff was up to scratch. I mean come on its Christmas and the staff was stellar to be sure. I am very glad I chose an elegant buffet in the ballroom rather than any of the other public areas.
My point is that I always believed fabulous wealth gave an automatic prevalence of happiness and joy in an individual’s life and that their experiences on the whole were better. We are made to believe that money really does make you happier. For some that is obviously true but I think we are made to believe the vast majority of wealthy people are content. But if you are still miserable when you have so much to be thankful for then what is the point of wealth in the first place? I have seen in India individuals with so little and yet more joy and love and peace than many of us in our western environments.