All of us have felt it. That gnawing, cold sense of emptiness inside. Often, it’s accompanied by events we think would make us happy; winning the contest we’ve been working so hard for, accomplishing those goals we’d been chasing, wearing that new suit that will give us the prestige we’d like from others who notice, or finally landing that ‘perfect job’. Odd isn’t it? Culture defines a full life as having those things that set us apart yet, once we attain them, we’re still empty. One doesn’t have to look far to see how fame, fortune, and accomplishments fail to fulfill people. Many of those who seem to have everything, also seem to be some of the unhappiest.
Earlier in my life while planning a youth event, I was able to have lunch with the step-brother of Elvis. Ironically, the one table the waitress took us to in the restaurant was the one with a large poster of Elvis hanging above it. His response was, ‘That’s what I have to live with; Elvis constantly overshadowing me’. I felt sad for him because he’s had to struggle with his identity his whole life.
During the course of our meal he told me several things that struck me. One was how Elvis and his entourage were walking past a statue of Jesus and Elvis looked at Him saying, ‘Jesus was God, but who am I…?’ The other was how he was there the day Elvis died. He told me the story of how he’d discovered him on the bathroom floor bloated and purple having died from a drug overdose. In fact, he said Elvis had asked him for more drugs than usual that day (he was the one who helped him keep track of the drugs) because he was especially depressed.
Sadly, Elvis had everything the world said we should have to be fulfilled; wealth, fame, beauty, talent, friends, family, and power. Even with all that, he was empty inside and turned to drugs (among other things) to fill the void in his heart. Don’t take me wrong, I love Elvis’s music, I grew up watching his concerts on television and his music on the radio. His life impacted millions and still does today. But, inside of his heart, he needed more.
The truth is, Elvis was no different that Joe Dirt. His life was no more important than any one of us. He struggled with the same emotions we all deal with in life (rejection, insecurity, fear, anger, love, passion, jealousy, etc.). Sadly, our society puts people on pedestals and then loves to pull them back off of them once they do something they don’t like.
Perhaps I’m just getting old, but I’ve lived long enough now to see the dangers of fame, wealth, and the trappings of life. There’s nothing wrong with those things if we don’t allow them to define who we are. Like Elvis the day he walked by the statue of Jesus, that’s the question we all need to ask; ‘How do I define myself?’
Defeating emptiness comes down to how we manage the expectations we have of life. If it’s all about me, then there’s nothing that will ever fill the void. But, if it’s all about less of me, more of God, and sacrificing for others, then we will live life with a full heart and never lack for anything.
Books could be written, but keeping a check on our expectations of life, being content with what we have, giving ourselves to God, and putting others first whenever possible, will keep us grounded and full. And that is where I want to be because, being a ‘Hunka Burning Love’ ain’t gonna do it… (not that I have to worry about that mind you…)