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Porn and That Place in the Distance

There was the wild night in Paraty dancing behind the Gecko Chill Bar, which ended with me running five miles barefoot along the river and collapsing on the front steps of a cathedral on the edge of town.

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Somewhere between Sao Paulo and Rio, c.a. 2011

I have a journal filled up with dozens and dozens of pages recording possibly the most epic episode of my life: The time two friends and I backpacked along the coast of Brazil. We began at Lucas’ house in Sao Paulo, mapping out our route, arguing about whether we should plan it out or simply play it by ear.

Of course, the entire voyage ended up being played by the seam of our pants because there was no way to plan out everything that happened over the ensuing voyage. Without going into detail about everything that happened, there was one distinct attribute of that season that loomed large over the entire expedition. One thing that was different than anything else I had experienced or have experienced since.

From the morning the three of us walked out Lucas’ front door, Rio de Janiero was on the horizon. It was a mysterious destination we were working toward with every step we made and every bus we boarded.

There was one night we earned some cash on a ferry by singing kid’s songs with Joel’s guitar and dancing with the kids. Afterward, one of the families invited us into their home for the night.

There was the wild night in Ubatuba, and the wilder night at Paraty dancing behind the Gecko Chill Bar, which ended with me running five miles barefoot along the river and collapsing on the front steps of a cathedral on the edge of town.

All of these episodes were overshadowed by this singular goal which drew nearer to us every day. Or rather, we drew nearer to it:

Rio.

Every local bus and ride we hitched brought us that much closer to our destination. Lucas had a girl waiting for him there, and Joel and I were excited to arrive and take our boots off and simply sit on Copacabana Beach having finally arrived. We knew Corcovado (The giant Jesus statue) was welcoming us atop his hill with open arms, and we were eager to arrive.

That time was so unlike any other solely for that reason. There was a destination toward which we strived every hour of every day. I grow nostalgic for that trip because when I look at my present life, it pales in comparison. There is no city in the distance toward which we sojourn; I simply go to work and make enough money to pay rent and the heating bill. There isn’t really momentum as much as there is stagnation and sedentary routine.

So it makes sense that we would seek out alternative forms of adventure. Like pornography.

When we lose sight of the mission we are on, and the country that awaits us beyond the horizon, the tedium often drives us to what Michael Cusick calls “counterfeit goods.” Porn gives us the same rush as an authentic adventure, but it burns out quickly and leaves us feeling more empty in the end. Cusick says it’s like going to Thailand and buying a knockoff Seiko watch because it looks and feels the same as the real deal, but the quality is a sliver of the authentic thing. The counterfeit—though it makes you feel cooler for a few days—ends up in a drawer after a few weeks because the wrist strap broke or the mechanics gave out.

It’s easy to see how we could turn to porn as a counterfeit for intimacy, love, and approval, but I think adventure is one of the most overlooked thirsts in a man’s soul. I think we were all created with a longing for adventure—whatever form it takes in each individual—but we have lost sight of our destination. Whether you’re a white collar cubicle employee or a vagabond elephant wrangler, it’s possible to neglect the larger adventure you’re on. Even on days when life feels like the opposite of an Indiana Jones film, we must remember that there is a home that we’ve never seen; there is a city where we’re headed and every day brings us one step closer to its gates.

Most days I don’t live like I’m moving toward my true home. Most days feel rather bland and boring, which often leads me to find adventure in more nefarious forms. Of course, the ‘adventure’ is nothing more than a rush of chemicals to my brain that promises to be fulfilling and exciting but ends up leaving me emptier and more ashamed than before. The ‘adventure’ is actually a form of cognitive dissonance in which I deceive myself into thinking I’m not just at home in my bathroom, but am actually with a beautiful woman.

But we are hungry for real adventure.

So how do we conjure up this sense of expedition and keep our minds set on the destination resting on the horizon? I’m still working on that part. But I think it begins internally before externally. I don’t think a plane ticket is necessary for us to be reminded that nowhere on this world is our home, or our ultimate goal. After all, when Joel, Lucas and I finally did arrive in Rio, we were mugged at gunpoint on the northern edge of the beach.

Nowhere in this world is our ultimate destination.

I think it’s important to keep in the forefront of our minds the fact that we are moving. Philosophically speaking, our lives are teleological, or, they are heading in a direction whether we realize it or not. We are on the move constantly as we pass through time, and for those of us who are hidden in Christ, our home is that beautiful country on Mount Zion; the New Jerusalem where once and for all, peace will prevail and we will live in the light of the Lord.

As we journey toward this nation, shouldn’t we be inviting as many people as we can to come with us? Whether we like it or not, we are on a mission. And there is a destination. As it relates to addiction, I’ve thought a lot about how this distant place can help set us free now, and I think it comes down to adjusting our mindset.

Imagine if two men were assigned the same job for a year. Their daily tasks are identical for 365 days. The first man is told he will receive 20k at the end of the year. The second man is told he will receive 5 million.

Suddenly everything changes.

The fist man drudges through his tasks, complaining about how arduous his work is, while the second man attacks his work with joy, exclaiming THIS is all I have to do today?? How fantastic! Though their day-to-day lives are identical, their end goal—that anticipation of the future—shapes their present attitude.

Does your future shape your present? Do you anticipate a destination more glorious and beautiful than you can comprehend today?

This is why hope plays such a central role in Christian theology: Without anticipation of a better world, we only have doom and depression to accompany us.

So may we be a people with hope for a glorious future; people who eager long for the coming of the kingdom which brings with it peace and joy. May we keep our eyes on that country in the distance, nestled just beyond the horizon, and constantly be reminded that we draw nearer every day. And may we happily bring many people through those gates with us, inviting them into joy and out of despair.

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1 comment on “Porn and That Place in the Distance

  1. Wow, thank you for these words of hope and encouragement. My struggle may manifest differently, but the root is the same. Anything we place before Him is an idol. I constantly remind myself that this world is not my home…when negativity and despair try to creep in, I remind myself that I have a pilgrim heart and what I truly yearn for is Jesus-my everlasting home.

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