Sage stories from a soulful septuagenarian

Written by Leanne Esposito

“Look at life like it’s a game of snakes and ladders.

“Remember the challenge of rolling the dice and sliding down the slippery snake?

“You are only a roll of the dice away from landing on a ladder,” he said.

Author Ronald Russell, affectionately known as Ron, by his close network of peers, friends and the wider community, wrote three books in a short space of time. From September 2015 to January 2017, his life’s journey in memoir form and messages from a spiritual source seemed to fall onto the pages he was writing.

As if in a state of flow, the words that needed to written tumbled forth in eloquent prose of which, as a writer, I am somewhat jealous. Ron is not a scholar yet he is scholarly. Matriculating to an apprentice fitter and turner at the age of 14 his thirst for knowledge and self-education came later in life.

A Life So Good and A Life So Good Revisited were published within two months of each other, as if on reflection, Ron may have left some things out of his original story. However, for me it was the cover’s picture, on the second publication, which spoke volumes. He had replaced the pictorial serenity of a wooden hut with two clasping hands. One brown. One white. To a bookshop browser the image could be interpreted as a symbol of reconciliation, and as we read through we could
interpret the memoir as his own personal reconciliation of self. To Ron’s family of beautiful mixed-race children, it means so much more. In his own words, here is in part, the synopsis of the story.

“This is my life story inspired by my grandchildren’s need to have the complete story for themselves and future generations. It is a story of growing up in a small coal-mining town into young adulthood where alcohol started to become a part of my life, then of my journeys around the world and throughout Australia,” he said.

As a teenager Ron was afflicted by the nerve condition Bell’s Palsy which has the effect of altering one’s facial features. Because it was not quickly resolved, Ron struggled to develop a healthy sense of self. Around the age of 18, the ‘Dutch courage’ of alcohol entered his life. He says that it gave him false confidence. It became his constant friend and critical foe as he struggled with alcohol and other addictions for the next 25 years.

“I saw very clearly that when I was 17 and I started to drink I was very uncomfortable with life. I couldn’t talk to women because of the palsy. As soon as I picked up a drink everything changed. I felt comfortable but I couldn’t see what I had done.

What I had done is I covered it up with alcohol,” he said.

As a functioning alcoholic he travelled the world as an engineer on ships, entered the brutal world of turtle hunting in Western Australia (which he quickly turned his back on without pay), and became an entrepreneur on Thursday Island while living an idyllic life under swaying palms. He and his beautiful island partner then moved to Townsville with their children. Alcohol permeated the very fabric of
his and the lives of those he loved and was responsible for the breakdown of all relationships until there was nothing left but Ron and his nemeses – multiple addictions to alcohol, drugs and gambling. Ron sums up this bleak time.

“I was escaping from the now. That is why I went on ships, diving and all the dangerous stuff. I was dreaming. I wanted to leave. I wasn’t present,” he said.

That was until, at the lowest point in his life, he heard death calling and Ron was re-awakened. It may sound trite (the near-death experience to rebirth), yet Ron believes that this was his saving and the universe was speaking to him. He has written extensively of this catalyst to a new beginning.

“The story leads into the darkest depths of hell and insanity, and out the other side to a wonderful life completely free from the past, to an enlightenment few get to experience. It is a journey which is not really a journey but a gradual awakening as to how the god of my understanding has been with me throughout.

When I use the word god, it is a simplification of what I call the Higher power, or Higher self, and is not necessarily meant to signify a religious god. God to me is not a being but a state of being, and that state of being is love. So love has become my religion,” he said.

Ron lived the next 36 years of sobriety actively listening to the universe, practising the art of being present and living in love. He trained as a natural therapist in both eastern and western traditions. He married Heather, commenced a new business, farmed land in Maryborough, parented his grandchildren and provided palliative care to Heather before her death. His third novel God Doesn’t Live in the Fridge explores a program of hope in bringing spiritual awakening to those willing to practice the principles of living in love.

Now the 78-year-old Ron presents with a mischievous smile, and even without teeth and a lower jaw (due to multiple lifesaving surgeries he’s undergone for oral cancer), you can see it. He smiles with his eyes. With an intensity of light emanating from their gentle blue hue.

He has for many years now devoted his life to learning and helping others who have found themselves with similar afflictions, and of sharing a practice of uncovering the true self. Ron has discovered that everything we need to know has been said and written before by prophets, in both eastern and western societies to whom the universe was speaking. From The Tao, prophet Kahlil Gibran and Shakespeare, to name a few. He has his own unique way of interpreting their messages.
Ron said on uncovering the authentic sense of self.

“To thine own self be true. But I say to thine own true self be true. He (Shakespeare) also said, nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”

And on what we have learned on the concept of right and wrong he has another point of view.

“It is only your perspective of what is good or bad. We are taught, at a very young age that God (or whatever you want to call it) is good. God just is. To me there is no polarity. There is no good or bad, black or white. God just is. There is one constant – me. God, or what I call love, is inside me and it is inside you,” he said.

Ron believes that if we listen to our hearts, the answers we need are right there inside us all.