Stimulus without nourishment

What little I know about Starbucks leads me to believe that its managers are ethical people who treat their employees well and provide a good product.  But I avoided Starbucks coffee because I don’t want to acquire an expensive new habit.

The other day at lunchtime, I went with a friend of mine to a Starbucks, and my friend bought me a grande java-chip frappuccino, which was something like a heavily caffeinated vanilla milkshake.  It was delicious!  I was surprised by how energized I felt.  The feeling lasted all afternoon.  I didn’t eat lunch.  I saw why people like Starbucks’ concoctions so much.

That evening my energy ran out.  I felt more tired than I usually do, and I slept later the following morning that I usually do.  I realized that I needed to eat real food for lunch, and that the Starbucks frappuccino was not food, but a food substitute.  The frappuccino gave me stimulus without nourishment, energy without strength.  If I had done this on a regular basis, I would have had the energy to keep going through the day, but in the long run I would have depleted my strength.

Stimulation and pleasure are good things, not bad things.  But they are no substitutes for nourishment.  When I worked on newspapers, I needed a cup of coffee and maybe a sugared pastry each morning and afternoon to work at peak efficiency, but I didn’t skip lunch.  The caffeine and sugar gave me the energy to stay alert, but I needed actual food for health and strength.  Now that I am retired, I usually (not always) limit myself to a single cup of coffee in the morning.

I thought about the other things in life that give stimulus without nourishment.   Watching the circus-like presidential candidates’ debates on TV is stimulating, but it doesn’t make me a better-informed voter.  I need to read intelligent newspaper and magazine articles to do that.

I stay away from role-playing computer games precisely because I fear I might find them so engrossing I would give up things which I care about.  If I am alive 10 years from now, I don’t think I will regret never having played World of Warcraft, but I would regret not having read some of the great classic novels I intend to read when I get around to it.  That’s one definition of a good life–doing things you can look back on with justified satisfaction.

On a societal level, we Americans talk about economic stimulus when what we really need is to rebuild our nation’s economic strength.  The two things are not the same.  Congress seems more resistant to doing things of lasting value, such as infrastructure improvement and investing in green energy, than to things that will give a temporary boost, such as “cash for clunkers” or temporarily cutting the payroll tax.  The latter will not sustain us in the long run.

Do you agree with this distinction?  What other things give stimulus without nourishment?

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One Response to “Stimulus without nourishment”

  1. Anne Tanner Says:

    Well, let’s see now: Most movies; alcohol, and the more stimulation, the less nourishing it becomes; listening to pre-Iowa caucus political speeches and debates; chocolate (unless you buy the whole antioxidant shtick).

    My friends and relatives think I’m somewhat odd for hiding away in order to write a family history. They can see the stimulation, in that I’ve told them some of the more remarkable stories. They can’t see the nourishment. Too bad, because it is remarkable as well.


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