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Marching, marching, and always marching: in a run, in a trot, in a walk, in stumbles, with bloody feet smearing ice-caked roads—such was the pace off the rag-tag Continental army maintained throughout the historical narrative, 1776 (2006) written by David McCullough.

In April, that year, George Washington assumed the role of Commander-in-Chief of the colonies’ ill-trained militias, in combat against thousands of professional British soldiers and sailors and Hessian mercenaries. The following July saw the signing of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. That much I had remembered.

What made this narrative jump off the page was the author’s extensive use of primary sources drawn from twenty-five libraries, archives, special collections, and visits to historical sites in America and Great Britain. Like an experienced collector of folk stories, McCullough referenced the living voices of the participants, British and American, drawn from journals, letters, diaries, newspapers, pamphlets, early histories of the War, etc. His use of white space gave readers needed moments to internalize the full import of what was just said or described—Painful pauses were frequent..

Experiencing the human face in this page-turner, however, inspired my indebtedness to the colonists with their passionate dream for liberty, with scarce means to achieve it. No words can describe their sacrifices and loss of life: twenty-five thousand Americans, and countless maimed whose chronic pain relived the story until their deaths.

David McCullough’s 1776 more than fulfills his sense of history: “… an enlargement of the experience of being alive, just the way literature or art or music is.” Such was my experience of this book.

“Let’s have a look,” said the serviceman from Arenz Pest Management as he knelt down, flipped on his flashlight, and poked through the dark stubble massed in the corner of my back porch. I looked over his shoulder, eager to have expert eyes analyze this disorder that had reappeared since last week’s vacuuming.Text Box: “I don’t see this very often,” he said squinting, adjusting his uniform cap. “You’ve got lots of spiders in your attic—having a bash. What you see on the floor are the remains of dead insects they spit out. See that opening in the joint, above the windows? That’s where they’re having the bash. In time, the spiders will die off, and so will your problem. Keep vacuuming in the meantime.” 

As I reflected upon this experience, a metaphor surfaced. The spiders are likened to covert spin-doctors, propagandist experts, and masters of media distortion; they take a truth, chew through it, and spit out what is foreign to their ideologies. What remains is deadly and creates havoc within the populace, asleep with their eyes wide open. In no way can societies live in harmony. The sickness even permeates those in leadership roles.

On the other hand, “the clean of heart,” simple, humble folks, often poor, are like trained servicemen and women who adhere to the whole truth in their psyches, name the half-truths in our maniacal culture spinning around us, and find solidarity with the like-minded.

There is a way out, but it requires consciousness and work. In the meantime, as counseled by the Arenz tech, “Keep vacuuming!”

isolated red vacuum cleaner.3d render.See also:

At 6:30 A.M., I awoke with this inspiring dream:

A restorative expert invited me to join a mixed group of artists to work with him on an ancient Gothic chapel, fallen in disrepair and almost obscured by the surrounding virgin forest. He provided the necessary scaffolding, tools, the paints and shellac. Tedious work followed on the frescoes and mosaics that had adorned the walls, ceiling, and arches. Imperceptibly, the original Christian motifs s began to reappear and told a different story from the one we were painstakingly removing.

This glimpse into my psyche heartened me. Like the ancient Gothic chapel, fallen in disrepair and almost obscured by the surrounding virgin forest, my spirit-house has grown old, encrusted with scum, distressed. Yet, someone has noticed: A restorative expert, God in disguise, engages a mixed group of artists, symbolic of balanced energies to spruce up the centering room in my psyche as I deepen my end-of life work.

He also provides the necessary scaffolding, tools, the paints and shellac that suggest the sixteen helpful practices in CPA’s Tool Box: meditation, literature, meetings and phone contacts with members, journaling, etc.—all critical for scraping the dross from my spiritual faculties to allow the full emergence of my authentic story. This is a daily task, with no time offs. Setbacks still occur, but,  “Oh well!”—I just begin again until the next one.

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