Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fear and cycling in Missouri

12/9/11 St. Louis to Fort Kaskaskia State Park, 73.5 miles

Fear. I believe it is one of the key features of what is keeping humanity from uniting. Not only a fear of certain social systems that talk about “uniting humanity,” but fear of almost everything.

I have gotten rid of a lot of fear in the last few years, most of which I didn't even realize I had. I can't remember the last time I was scared of something physical, unless I was teetering on the edge of a cliff, which is a perfectly rational and useful fear. But I had lots of social fears that I didn't recognize until very recently. I still have quite a few. I fear being ridiculed, made fun of and laughed at for lack of knowledge or lack of skill. I fear that when I share the deepest parts of myself with someone else, they will use the information to hurt me. I fear being turned down by attractive women in whom I am interested in flirting. I fear being rejected for jobs that I apply to, and not knowing the right answers to interview questions. I fear causing others pain or discomfort.

I don't fear blizzards or floods or fires. I don't fear snakes or spiders or bears. Once in a while, I fear my fellow man may cause me harm. I did this yesterday while riding through St. Louis at dusk, and realizing that I was the only white guy on a bike in a very black neighborhood. And then I scolded myself for my own ingrained stereotypes.

But many people have different fears. Terrorism, losing and/or not getting all the money they want and not ever being fulfilled are some of the big ones these days. Fear causes people to isolate themselves, insulating them from certain types of harm. In isolating themselves, they neglect to realize that they are a part of everyone and everything, and fool themselves into thinking that isolation is better, because it is safer. In reality, isolation causes even more mental discomfort and disorder, bringing with it depression, anxiety and deeper fear. We are social creatures. Believing that we are completely separate from everything and everyone else is simply a lie. Living a lie will never bring satisfaction or contentment.


Two days in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Last night, I arrived around 4:45, met awesome people, ate a burrito, went to a Grateful Dead cover band (called “Schwag”) show after a long talk with a guy who owns a local cafe, and went to bed late. Today, I ate at a ridiculously popular BBQ joint called the Pilot House (tasty), hiked on train tracks to an abandoned quarry (beautiful) and saw some Missouri countryside.  More instant friends.  More great places.  How can all this wonderfulness belong to a nation that is so messed up right now?  

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