Over the past weekend, I had the opportunity to watch the nearly 3-hour movie, The Aviator. This 2004 flick starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the protagonist, the tycoon Howard Hughes, paints the mogul in a rather positive light. Having come from wealthy beginnings, Hughes debuts in his movie Hell’s Angels. He then moves on to build Hughes Aircraft, and a lifelong fascination with flying.
Hughes was an eccentric, as one of the riches men in the world, it seemed like he was invisible. He didn’t really have progeny, so when he passed away there were people fighting for his estate. But as he aged, in part a result of his flying accidents, Hughes developed increasingly severe health disorders.
Was Hughes Happy?
As much as he could be described as a genius, Howard was a neurotic man. He was constantly concerned that his Trans World Airlines would be subsumed by the powerful Pan-Am Airlines. The head of Pan-Am, by the way, is played real well by the famed Alec Baldwin in the movie.
Add to his neurosis, Hughes was a flagrant womanizer, using his influence to date movie celebrities the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner. The trouble, though, like many in Hollywood, is that these relationships weren’t marriage and they didn’t last. There was no commitment. No “til death do us part.”
Hughes was a good designer, to be sure. The monumental Hercules airplane, was massive, and was successfully flown. The Hughes Aircraft Company employed many people, spawning innovative products such as satellites and electronic components.
On the whole, however, I would have to say that the man Howard Hughes, for all his brilliance, was not a happy man. He missed the true significance in life, which is coming in to relationship with His Saviour, Jesus Christ. Hughes would have done well to understand that “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Wealth, whether generated passively, like from real estate ventures, or actively through business ventures or work enterprises, never brings lasting happiness in and of itself. It’s only in losing your life that you will find it (Matt. 10:39, 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; Jn. 12:25). I will be addressing these issues of finding hope in Jesus, rather than material possessions, in my forthcoming book, Father to the Childless, which I plan on releasing soon.