There was a story in the New York Times today about those so-called "power drinks" or "energy drinks"--products like Red Bull--that purport to give you an energy zap that will enable you to surpass in every way those Losers who proceed, more or less, drug-free through their lives. Here's a link to that Times story: Link
According to this article, the only really functional ingredient in the drinks (favored, it seems, by the young) is caffeine--in doses that cost far more per ounce than a Coke or a Tall House Blend from Starbucks. So, of course, most of us are not "drug-free" as we move through our diurnal rounds: We're more or less flying on caffeine or sugar (legal) or other things (illegal).
But about those "energy drinks" ... are we surprised at the research and the revelations? Are we shocked that something highly advertised, highly hyped, turns out to be not quite such a wonder as Madison Avenue would have us believe?
I admit right now my hypocrisy: I drink a lot of coffee--several cups a day, the equivalent, I guess, of some shots of Red Bull and kin. And in my youth--and even in later years--I drank lots of soft drinks that were also loaded with caffeine (no more, though). I flew through the days with the best of birds.
But this "energy drink" story reminds me of a piece I wrote years ago (but never published), a piece about what I called "the lotto mentality." (Nowadays, I would have to use that egregious term "mind-set" instead!) Anyway, in that unpublished piece I responded to a common sight here in Ohio: people lining up to hand over fistfuls of dollars to the Ohio Lottery Commission, an everyday occurrence but one that inflates considerably when the "jackpot" is very high.
I saw/see this lotto phenomenon, in one way, as a sign of impatience--of frustration. I thought how much more beneficially people could use all that lotto money--saving it each week, using it to pay toward their own education, a far more certain route to financial improvement--and, I believe, to Happiness.
I see this mentality everywhere--the belief that there are shortcuts to every destination--from weight loss to Enduring Bliss. To being energetic.
I don't think there are such things--shortcuts in life. Sure, in some extreme, highly rare cases people win lottery fortunes--but the vast majority of people do not benefit; they simply donate their money to those rare, freakish winners.
There are no quick, healthful ways to lose weight. (Do you remember the "appetite suppressing" chocolate candy, unfortunately called "AYDS," that was promoted as a Sure Thing?) Those of us who have traveled the Diet Road know that it has no high-speed lanes. Eat less, exercise more--the only way.
And think of all those other things ... learning a language in six weeks? Learning to speed read? Listening to recordings while you sleep? Snake oil, virtually all of it.
Want to have more energy? Rest more. Eat better. Exercise. Those (boring) things do work. Slowly. Surely.
Let me not be cruel. I know there are folks--many of them, here and elsewhere--who lead difficult lives, who must work multiple jobs, who are single parents, who have all sorts of other unfortunate factors in their lives that prevent their following a leisurely plan of resting, eating sensibly, exercising, educating themselves. It is a stain on the fabric of our democracy that so many people have to live like this. A much darker stain? So many of us being so unwilling to help them.