Why Erotica is not the only frustrating kind of story

If you were to go to Amazon and type in the word DESIRE, you would turn up a pulsating set of fictional books simply focused on erotic connection. However, desire is not merely a special feature of erotic literature, but the selling point of every human story, however mundane or sexually charged it may be. Stories are narratives about characters that possess, live with, struggle, and, in many cases, satisfy their desires. Consequently, stories can prompt our own desires, which can quickly turn into a frustrating experience. For example, we observe on the screen a world where desire is fulfilled (e.g. stupid guy marries the girl), and then we compare that with our own dissatisfying circumstances and revolt in the feeling of anger, frustration, and betrayal. We, the spectator, live in a world markedly different from the world of the character on screen. However, the difference between our world and the world of the story is not the only factor that can make this a frustrating experience. There are a set of deeper reasons that reside in our hearts.


First, there is: DISAPPOINTMENT. Have you ever had the experience of finding a desire, pursuing it, but only to find that the desire is not fulfilled? How many of us have had a romantic crush quickly turned into a romantic rejection? Disappointment is an ordinary experience, which can prompt the best of us to conclude that desires are not good, and should not be awakened by anyone or anything.


The second reason that many give up on desire is: DISCOMFORT. As enjoyable as it is to awakened a longing, such as a career goal or an ice cream sundae with a friend, it can be equally mixed with discomfort. A longing for something good is also recognition of a present deficiency. If I desire to be earning a certain level income, I also recognize that I presently do not have a certain amount of money. This is a discomforting predicament.


The third reason: DEMAND. I wonder if you’ve ever had this experience. Have you ever tried to come up with a dream such as buying a house or getting a certain kind of job? This can be an exciting adventure, but then all of a sudden there comes a whole series of demands that accompany that desire. These demands normally come in the form of voices in your head. “Well,” a voice may say, “you want the house, you need the money. In order to get the money, you’re going to have to work hard. Since you don’t have the money now, this means you’re not working hard enough!” This is an example of the harsh kinds of demands that one can desire can place upon you. No wonder many of us give up on the whole project watching movies from the get-go.


However, whatever your past experiences desire may be, I hope you have not given up on the whole prospect of watching movies, let alone enjoying a good story (I realized the two are not always inclusive). To enter into the world of story, one will also enter into the world of your own desires. Stories can prompt and awakened us to our deepest longings, and in turn bring us face-to-face with our deepest hurts. Without a connection to both longing and hurt, our capacity to desire remains passive, useless, and even destructive to ourselves and others. Positively, if we embrace our desires acknowledge our disappointments, we will tap into a mighty reservoir of human power. John Eldredge states, “We are desire. It is the essence of the human soul, the secret of our existence. Absolutely nothing of human greatness is ever accomplished without it,” Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007), 11.


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