On the Towpath of Happiness


new bike by Delaware River, Jersey side

Yesterday I took my brand new bicycle for a spin — trek, to say the least, although I bought a Bianchi, not a Trek — and I pedalled into an unmitigated state of bliss, if only for a few moments on the trail. The site of my joy expedition is where it usually is, the towpath of the D&R Canal, right along the Delaware River. I often ride from my home in Lawrenceville up to Lambertville & back. I ride a hybrid bike, so I usually ride on and off roads. This particular course runs partially along the towpath, and depending on the course, clocks in between 30-50 miles roundtrip.

On this day, the sunlight was superb, temps were high 80s, humidity was tolerable. The stress level was low. I had all day to ride, then a rendezvous with my four-year-old at daycare. All my needs were met.

I had just pulled into the boat launch area on the Delaware. Years ago I used that area to do verse memorization on my way up to do bible studies with the prisoners at the workhouse nearby. I decided to pedal in there and say a few prayers, to reclaim it for my new Orthodox faith, and for this new gorgeous day. Not a soul was around. Just mine. And as soon as I did that, I got back to riding and that’s when this joyful experience happened.

I do not want to analyze it too much. A few months or years ago when I was heavier into religion I would have said happiness didn’t matter, that it was a worldly attachment, but now I know that it is important. We need to seek it. That it is a vital human striving, like food or water or other compulsory needs. Indeed, the feeling of being fed produces happiness. I had been reading about Albert Ellis and rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), which postulates that the vast majority of us want to be happy.

Well, me too. Years ago, when I toyed with different religious beliefs and still suffered from untreated depression that I convinced myself that happiness was not necessary to live a godly life. I also wondered why so many men of God were so angry all the time. Hey, it’s OK for godly men to be happy. God can fill us with joy. When I prayed at the boat launch, I left there and then I felt joyful. A big part of that joy was happiness because all my needs were met. That happiness isn’t a permanent feeling, but it’s something significant because not too long ago I had suffered through quite a lot of unhappy days.

So here we go, flying off into the splendid sunlight, enjoying the final bursting days of summer and the glory days of fall. May every reader of this try to fulfill their soul potential under God, reaching for the unending sky, pushing their limits beyond their expectations, and reaping the unexpected rewards.

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About Pete Mladineo


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