Why the Coyote Howls
The following was a kind of rationale for what I was doing in my previous blog. Since a lot of what I expressed still reflects my current interests and convictions, I decided I would leave this page as a source of insight about what I am trying to do in this blog, and perhaps in life in general.
I remember as a young lad going into my Aunt Ruth’s den on various visits and pulling down a dusty smelling, illustrated book of Greek and Roman mythology and being captivated by the marvelous stories of gods, demigods, mortals, and creatures. I was stirred by a world where everything changed form and life, and personality could be found in anything. I cannot recall what was going through my mind at that time, but I would guess that these stories addressed a deep longing of which I was only vaguely aware.
Another reason I was attracted to myths is because they matched my animistic instincts. For me everything had a soul: rocks, trees, animals, my toys, my mom’s tupperware, my dad’s tools. Even to this day, when I get frustrated during do-it-yourself projects around the house, I project personality into the objects of my ire, and threaten to kick the shit out of them unless they straighten up and act right. For some reason I have a natural inclination toward populating my world with sentience.
If I was to hazard a guess, I would say that this inclination came from a need to fill the void that I felt existed between myself and others. Though there were many caring and responsible people in my life, somehow a deep sense of connection did not happen, and thus in the mild ache of psychological isolation I populated the world with living things. In this manner the space between myself and others was diminished, and I was not quite so alone.
As I grew older I sought refuge in the life of the mind and fed myself on a wide array of books. Initially I was enamored with the world of ideas, and I drank them down deeply. Slowly, however, I began to develop a growing dis-ease with orienting my life upon concepts, abstractions, and all things related to the rational apparatus. I became weary of relating to the world, and my own being, as a problem to be solved.
This sense of weariness became particularly sharp during the time that I was studying theology in a graduate program. I fell into a pattern where at the beginning of each semester I was excited about the courses I had enrolled in, but by the end I became disillusioned. Through my studies I was looking for a connection to God, to others, and to myself, but ironically I was exacerbating the problem. I was relating to God as an object to be studied (and consequently all other things as well), which was not the path toward what I was hoping. Near the end of this time I began to realize that the questions arising from the field of theology were not the ones that were engaging me at the deepest levels. I also began to realize that where this was happening for me was in literature. Consequently, little by little I read more stories, and little by little a change was put into motion where I began to recover parts of myself that I had lost along the way.
I once heard somewhere that we read stories to know that we are not alone. In some fashion I know that this is true. When I read stories I become engaged on many levels: my imagination, my emotions, my reason, and even my will. By entering the world constructed in stories I multiply my experience by vicariously doing things that I either don’t have access to, or that I might hesitate to do in the world I physically occupy. However, by trying things out in that world, I am often encouraged and enabled to do similar things in this world. Also, by doing this I am encouraging myself to see and relate differently toward the world I live in. Instead of relating to this world as a riddle to be solved, I am seeing it more as a mystery to enter into. In this fashion I am encouraged to no longer relate to everything as one on the outside analyzing, but as one walking alongside and gaining understanding from within. This is much closer to the connection that I long for.
This is where I return to the beginning and my fascination with mythology. A myth of course is a story, but more than that it is a kind of story that is shared by a community, which gives them a sense of identity and orientation toward one another and the larger world. Currently, there are many theories concerning myth, and I find many of them worth understanding. However, what I most enjoy about myth is their primordial, haunting, spiritual quality. It is as if from the depth of our existence, starting way back in the time before, something of indomitable vitality has been transmitted through generations to let us know where we’re at by reminding us of who we are, and what we have lost along the way. In short, myth is a path of solidarity in our common struggle.
And so now the question: Why is this site called the Coyote Howls? In Native American folklore, the Coyote is a trickster god, who is characterized in various and sometimes a contradicting fashion. In one instance he is a selfish fool and in another he is a selfless being of wisdom. I identify with Coyote because his character runs the spectrum from good to bad, and because he is a prankster who loves to stir things up. Also, beyond the realm of myth, I identify with the nature of coyote existence in the wilds of our world. They are often solitary creatures, noted for the eerie or haunting howls they make in the still of the night. As I have expressed, my struggle is with connection, so on some level I am a solitary being. My howl in the night has taken many forms, but often it expresses itself through writing. I write to discover what I am thinking, to process the world I live in, and to tell stories (one’s I’ve heard, one’s I’ve made up, and one’s that I’ve lived). Like any coyote, however, I howl in hopes that others will howl back. So, if you read, please take the time to respond, for such is the stuff of which connections are made.