I had the opportunity to visit Windsor Castle last week. It was larger than I’d expected. Much larger.
It’s easy to forget how big the world is when you’re used to being in your own little bubble. It’s also hard to fathom the amount of wealth out there. Visiting the castle brought it into sharp focus.
We’re members of the National Trust so we regularly visit various properties around the UK. They are impressive in their own right, showcasing art and architecture as well as the wealth of the original owners. Windsor Castle makes them pale into insignificance.
I was simultaneously amazed and awed yet appalled at its ostentatiousness. I have to admit I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m impressed with the art and architecture and it’s a testament to the craftspeople involved and shows what we can be capable of. At the same time, I can’t help wondering why we, as humans, have this continual need to impress, project power and status.
In contrast, I was watching a TV programme about a hotel in Marrakech. It was being renovated, at great expense, ready for visits by some heads of state. It showed the staff who worked there, focussing on one of the butlers. During the course of the broadcast, he visited his family out in one of the villages. The contrast was stark - their home was basic but to them, it was much improved because of the money that the butler was sending home. His family didn’t know or care about where he worked and they all seemed happy and content. Their needs were taken care of and he was proud to be able to do this for his family. The programme also showed the staff training to serve the guests. They role-played serving difficult guests to ensure please and placate them because they pay handsomely for it. It was a helpful reminder that while money and status can give you a comfortable life, it is not a guarantee of happiness or contentment. If anything, it can make you a worse human being when you’re not even able to treat others as you are getting treated.