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What's it all about?

Richard Russell snippet
Dow Theory Letters
May 11, 2011

May 11, 2011 -- I saw Babe Ruth hit a home run. I saw big Marion Motley, the first black NFL star (Cleveland Browns), rumble across the goal line. I was there when radio first arrived on the scene. I waved from my window when Herbert Hoover drove through NYC in a victory parade. I looked up and saw the giant Graf Zeppelin floating across the Manhattan skyline. I bought my first TV set in 1946, right after the War ended. At the time, TV seemed like an impossible miracle.

In two months I'll be age 87. And I sit back and wonder, "How did it happen? In my old and tender years, I've become a bit mystical, some even call it spiritual. And I ask myself, "Why am I still alive when so many of my friends have died?" I have it in my head that I have more work to do -- mainly more work on myself! Confession: I've been in some kind of therapy ever since my twenties. Times change and therapies change.

I started in orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis, where you lie on a couch (you did this four days a week) with the analysts being out of your sight behind you, and you free-associate anything that comes to your mind. I guess a few psychoanalysts in NYC still use that technique, but it's expensive and time-consuming, and few people have the money and time to do it these days. Sandor Lorand had analyzed my analyst, Dr. William Needles; Sandor Ferenczi had analyzed Lorand. Who in turn had been analyzed by Sigmund Freud himself.

Later I was in so-called encounter groups, and after that I entered Gestalt Therapy, the latter I found extremely beneficial.

But why all the life-long therapy? The reason, I grew up under difficult conditions, circumstances that affected me greatly. My mother knew little or nothing about mothering, since her own mother had died in childbirth when my mom was only three. So my mom grew up with no mother and no knowledge of mothering and a weak father along with a stepmother that she couldn't stand. My dad had it even worse. He was home and a lad of eight when his father committed suicide by shooting himself in the head at 5AM in the morning. What brought on my grandpa's suicide was that he lost all his money in the stock market crash of 1907. One day he was wealthy, the next day he was broke. It proved too much for him.

So I grew up with what I call "psychologically damaged" parents. My mother was a talented writer; she had published three novels and many short stories, so I guess I caught my "writing bug" from my mother.

To get back to why I'm still here and still working (writing) at the age of almost 87. I think it has to do with what I call my "unfinished life." I still have a lot to learn, about the world and about myself. My thinking is that we are all here on this earth to learn. Living is, in my opinion, basically a learning experience. Everything that happens to us should be accepted as an opportunity to learn. My guess is that when we have gone as far as we can go in the learning process, our time on earth is useless or over, at which point we head for the great beyond.

I often wonder -- are there any coincidences or is everything a matter of miraculous timing? Are situations put before us as opportunities for learning? Is life just random? Or in the great sense of things, is everything part of a pre-arranged plan? The plan, I believe, is for us to move towards some kind of perfection.

I guess there's a meaning in all the medical problems that I've had and survived through. A mastoidedectomy, two heart attacks, a stroke, motorcycle crash, combat in World War II. What's it all about? Maybe somebody is trying to tell me that despite all these opportunities to die, I'm meant to be here, that my life really has a meaning.

Well, I guess you see what I'm driving at. When a guy of 87 talks like this, I think it's difficult to laugh it off and say, "His age is getting to him, he sounds like some kind of a lame-brained old nut. But you know, I don't think I'm a nut, I just keep on wondering what it's all about and why I'm still here.


Richard Russell
website: Dow Theory Letters
email: Dow Theory Letters

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