I intended to use this trip to meditate on fear. To that purpose, I was far from cheated. I was flabbergasted by own dread, how each evening it reached a pitch and subsided somewhat in the morning when the looming, practical necessity of checking out a motel room or my AirBnb lodging forced that down from a boil to barely a simmer. Plus, anytime I let anxiety retard my launch into the new day, I risked baking longer more in the midday sun and add a dollop of gratuitous, easily-avoidable agony.
I feared the passage across the Upper Peninsula perhaps the most; my one dated impression of it—from a trip there long ago—was that its legendary serene beauty was hooked up inextricably with isolation and long stretches where persons were rare and cell phone coverage and the opportunity for rescue, spotty. It didn’t help that my Port Washington naysayer friend, George, had gloomily forewarned me about how “rough the hills were up there”. (I’m not dissing George; I liked George; I know he was only trying to help.)
As the UP loomed closer, I was three riding days away from Escanaba, I thought about fear more acutely. I had thought about
I hadn’t completely remembered Roosevelt’s observation, the one we all know, about fearing fear itself and that what that explains is that fear is insidious. So, very simply, in my example, I didn’t look and plan properly for the trek across the UP for fear of what I would find and then—not knowing what I would find—I compounded my fear. Fear generates fear. It’s the breeder reactor of the human psyche.
I had thought about Roosevelt’s maxim on this trip already but hadn’t really allowed it to sink in and affect my manner.
I can’t claim that I reasoned this out (hey, we’re talking about fear). I did finally intuit it and started to study the route more closely.
Please smile with me when I tell you swapping knowledge for ignorance hardly helped at all. My fears, it seems, were largely justified and not as exaggerated or chimerical as I had hoped.
It was isolated; there would be long stretches between lodging. The only AirBnb across the whole swoop of Route 2, was a large tent near St. Ignace you could let for $30 per diem. It looked like I would have to make a 56 mile ride from Menominee to Escanaba, then two back to back 60+ mile rides to skip from Escanaba to Manistique and Manistique to St. Ignace.
Yet knowledge trumps ignorance if only by a smidgen. At least now I could gird myself with a better idea of the challenge ahead. Just knowing what I was up against seemed to nudge everything ever so slightly in my favor. I felt a little less gloomy about my chances.
Fear has many arresting analogies. The old-fashioned notion of “the devil”, this thing inside of ourselves with which we are constantly waging war, is one. In a religious, theological, or spiritual context, it has everything to do with an absence of faith (however you choose to envision God). It is insidious, exactly the way degenerate diseases like diabetes are insidious.
I have dug a little deeper into an old conviction: viz. that fear is the quicksand of our spiritual lives, a capacity within us that can drown the spirit and nullify any potential we might have for good.