Imagine you’re a young man growing up in the pastoral farmlands of Canada, surrounded by your devout parents and seven siblings. You trek 16 miles to church each Sunday to further devote your life to the religion that you believe to be your calling. Life is hard, but you’re at home and alive. Then, like a shot from destiny, everything changes. You find yourself in South Vietnam in the middle of war, attempting to make sense and reconcile the faith and morality from the only world you’ve ever known with this all-encompassing hell of inhumanity and senselessness. This is the disconcerting experience that author JanStephen James Cavanaugh recounts in A Bloodied Tapestry.
In this autobiographical historical account, Jan takes readers through the time he served as a civilian volunteer in the Vietnam War and shows how this experience altered the trajectory of his life forever. Walk with Jan as he comes to grips with the realities of war, and how injustice and violence betray our better judgements.
Much has been written about the Vietnam War; however, this book is not a retrospect on the utter inhumanity and senselessness of war because—sadly—war continues. Alternatively, Cavanaugh extols lessons and observations about the war that may finally reach our collective consciousness and compel meaningful and noticeable change. Much more insight is needed as we fumble our way toward attempting to find a peaceful way to exist together. Cavanaugh still believes we can make the choice to let go of the injustice and ego that create war. He is still hopeful that together we can make the collective choice to turn our backs on war so we may progress and find greater meaning and compassion in our existence. This pursuit is what motivates Cavanaugh and inspired him to revisit this hell, so that we may finally experience the harmony that comes from humanity living in an age of peace.
Sometimes graphic, oftentimes uplifting, A Bloodied Tapestry is a personal account of one man’s immutable beliefs as they are challenged to the very core and his resolution to survive for a greater purpose.
JanStephen James Cavanaugh, Ph.D. was born in Canada to a large, very religious family. His dream of the priesthood led him to the US, but, after being turned away from this role by the Catholic Church, he turned his attention to volunteering and found himself stationed in South Vietnam, right in the middle of the Vietnam War. After experiencing the hell of war first-hand as a civilian, Jan returned to the states, and went on to become a professor, psychologist, global business consultant, and surprisingly, a Class A licensed big rig driver. With a Ph.D. in Human Development from Penn State, Cavanaugh has dedicated his life to a deep study of the human psyche with the mission of facilitating ways to encourage the healthy growth of our collective bodies, minds, and souls.
My story is a story of boy raised in patriarchy and him no more aware of it than the air, but there all the same. Learning the lessons, he needed to survive and maybe thrive.
A Bloodied Tapestry
An early formative memory: I am no more than age five, standing in front of the farm kitchen stove, the only source of heat on a blustery winter’s day. I can feel the heat through my heavy winter clothing, giving me a head start before heading off into the cold. I can still feel the snow cap fur round my face. I can hear the wind whistle through the window cracks. Mother is dressing me to go outside in the bitter cold with Dad. I can see him standing there, also by the stove, getting ready to go and dig the quicksand out of the water trough. In our artesian well-water, there is a fine gray quicksand. This the only source of water for the cattle. If you did not periodically remove this fine gray sand, the trough would fill up with quicksand and be of no use for the cattle to drink. I remember mom looking me in the eye and saying, “You are the farmer.” Much too young to dig the heavy gray sand, but with a small snow shovel in hand standing atop a high snow drift, I dig keeping pace with my dad. I look down at him shoveling the stuff so heavy while the wind and snow are so fierce. I can still feel it biting my face. Digging quicksand on a bitter day is a matter of life and death, and I am learning that lesson.