The Happiness Machine - Doug Barnes

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Happiness Machine

I'm currently reading Ray Bradbury's tantalizing book titled Dandelion Wine. I was struck by this quote.
Watching him cycle the brick streets of the evening, you could see that Leo Auffmann was a man who coasted along enjoying the way the thistles ticked in the hot grass when the wind blew like a furnace, or the way the electric power line sizzled on the rain wet poles...The wheels of his Happiness Machine spun whirling golden light spokes along the ceiling of his head. A machine, now, to help boys change from peach fuzz to briar bramble, girls form toadstool to nectarine...His invention must let a man drowse easy in the falling leaves like the boys in autumn who, comfortable strewn in the dry stacks, are content to be a part of the death of the world. (Quote from Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine: A Novel. New York: Avon Books, reprinted by William Morrow, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, p. 37. First copyrighted 1946 by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury's work can often be understood on many different levels. Most critics think this quote refers to family or a fond remembrance of childhood. While that interpretation is no doubt valid, on a different level he first introduces the Happiness Machine with someone riding a bike. 

Bicycles leaning on stone wall and river
Two Bikes on C & O Canal near Violet's Lock
Photo: Doug Barnes 2016
My interpretation of this quote is that the Happiness Machine is a bicycle. This thought comes from my work during the Sundays that I volunteer for the Bicycle Loan Program at the C & O National Historic Park at Great Falls, Maryland. The combination of a riding a bicycle with friends and family, not having to deal with car traffic and constantly changing views of the beautiful C & O Canal often works its magic. People who ride bicycles may start out from Great Falls with a scowl, but they inevitably return with a smile.

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