Simon Cowell, on holiday in Barbados, proves that suffering is part of the human condition
Suppose you gave someone 200 million pounds, a job that involved overseeing a dozen highly successful television programs that they'd devised themselves, a beautiful girlfriend expecting their baby and a mega-yacht with a jetski. What would happen?
It seems inconceivable they wouldn't be delighted, morning until night, deeply grateful for their amazing good fortune and pretty much overjoyed all the time.
Hence the utility of Simon Cowell. Extraordinarily, he has achieved all of the above. He therefore is one of the earth's perfect examples of a philosophical experiment about the role of money in a fulfilled life. It is through a close study of his existence that we are likely to be able to come to understand what riches and fame can do for us.
Analysis of photographs, from a recent Cowell holiday in Barbados, reveals some crucial facts.
The midday lassitude
Lunch was delicious - too delicious, actually. The chef went all out to charm the palate and the result is you ate too much. Waves of tiredness sweep over you but you know you're going to have to work a little harder on the yacht's gym in a few hours. Right now, you're a bit restless. This, in fact, is something you had hoped to do away with forever: boredom.
The ennui aboard the jetski
According to the modern theory of pleasure it should be impossible to be unhappy on a jetski in the Caribbean. It represents our very best collective shot at happiness. If that doesn't work, nothing will.
Becoming a parent makes you so proud, they can be amazingly sweet. The pictures will look brilliant on Instagram. But it's a great unknown. And Lauren has been a little tired and tetchy of late. Vast regions of new vulnerability open up. There might be 3am wake ups and tantrums not amenable to reason and command. What about the longer term future? In time, the child might get a thing about Latin poetry, or fret about global warming or bemoan the fuel consumption of the ship's twin Rolls-royce engines.
It's not personal. She's not turned against you. It's a dictate of nature. But that doesn't stop it being miserable.
Simon is getting older
He'll turn fifty-five this year. He's still in his prime, but the horizon is visible. This is not to mock; it's going to happen to everyone. And that's the point. The fears of ageing can't be calmed by money or success. In fact, they make it all the more poignant. The means are there to do anything you could possibly want, but time is running out.
There are always vaguely dispiriting emails
However well things are going, there are always messages that make the heart sink, incite panic or give rise to fury. A friend subtly suggests you are neglecting them; the tax accountant has some mind-bending questions; one of your shows has bombed in Australia and a PA has forwarded the reviews.
It's incredibly difficult to get your hair right.
Cowell looks like he works out and he's a pretty stylish character. But even he can't guarantee that his hair won't bunch up in strange ridges when, ideally, it would follow more closely the contours of his head. Of course it's a tiny matter, but one can imagine the moment of annoyance on glimpsing in the mirror: it's doing that stupid thing again.
At the Philosopher's Mail, we don't argue that material goods have nothing to contribute to the well lived life. It's just that because material things matter, the temptation to get them to do everything is very strong. We need brave people to live out - and thereby reveal the imperfections of - our dreams.
Simon Cowell was not harmed in this experiment.