Empty Energy

A few years ago while driving a U-Haul from New York to Chicago I encountered some bad weather while crossing through Pennsylvania. Already tired from loading the truck, I knew that if I was going to be able to keep going I’d need some coffee. I pulled over at a service plaza and went inside. Instead of getting a coffee I bought a couple of cans of Red Bull, an energy drink that I’d heard about but had never tried. After drinking them I was sufficiently revived and was able to make it all the way into Ohio before stopping for the night.

I’d always thought these drinks were only for adults. But after seeing teenagers drink Red Bull on their way to school, I realize they’re not. Convenience stores stock their coolers with all sorts of these beverages, the names of which are probably apt descriptions of the effect they have on one who drinks them: Nitro2Go, Liquid Blow Power Pop, HiBall Energy, Cocaine Energy, Charged, Who’s Your Daddy Green Tea Energy, Citrus Venom, Adrenaline Rush, Stinger, Rush, Extreme Energy, ISO Sprint, Whoopass, Lightning Bolt, Kaballah Energy, BooKoo Energy, Wired, Empower, and Rock Star Energy. These names conjure up images of power, invincibility, speed, endurance, intensity, stamina, strength, and potency, as well as sexiness.

The popularity of these drinks might be a response to the extraordinary demands our culture places upon us to achieve not in just one area, but many. We’re overworked and under-rested. What started as an infatuation with Starbucks and its quick and easy caffeine fix for one’s flagging energy now comes in a can. And it’s legal.

As our consumer culture, with its materialistic values, compels us to base our self-worth on what we own, rather than who we are, we become anxious and try to do more so that we can have more. Due to the physical limitations of our bodies—our humanness—we’re unable to achieve and succeed at the speed that we feel we must, so reach for energy drinks to help us. “Do more! Have more! Be more!” could be the marketing slogan of the beverage manufacturers who distribute these products.

Of course we can never do, have, or be enough. As we look outside ourselves for easy solutions and quick fixes to what we feel are our shortcomings we ignore the infinite sacred source within us. It is from that place from that the energy and love we desire will come. Instead of reaching out to clutch at what we’re told will make us whole we can turn within.

If we would but take a moment to be still and ask God to provide us with what we actually need, we’d probably realize that we already are and have enough. We’d find that we don’t need all those things we’re told we must have in order to be happy or fulfilled; those things, which, like a can of Red Bull, ultimately leave us empty and dissatisfied.



Categories: Theological Reflections

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