The animal spotted me jogging up the path in the park. It stopped and turned about 75 meters ahead, and then again at 50 meters. It was the size and shape of a dog, but moved like a cat.
I saw it scoot into the brush around the turn, and didn’t think I’d be able to confirm its identity. But as I made the turn, and looked to the right, there it was, just 10 meters away standing on a log. A coyote!
In 15 years, it’s the first I’ve seen a coyote in Lower Park, a narrow strip of land that follows the creek and runs through this college town of around 100,000 people.
Having had a sitting that ignited a meditative state, one’s senses were sharp and attuned, and the mind essentially quiet and present. So it was I found myself standing face to face with a healthy coyote, in the prime of its life, its gray bushy tail held out straight, its ears up, and its eyes piercingly alert.
I could feel its curiosity and intelligence, and we stood motionless for some seconds staring at each other. The species barrier suddenly did not exist. We were simply two beings looking at each other, an animal in its more or less natural state, and a human in a meditative state.
Then something happened that was quite natural at the moment, but later seemed quite extraordinary. For a moment, the mirroring was so clear that all separation between the human being and the coyote disappeared altogether. For a few seconds, it felt like one was looking at the man through the coyote’s eyes, as well as looking at the coyote through the human being’s eyes.
A cyclist came up riding the path 100 meters away. Though she was out of the coyote’s line of sight, when I turned back the animal was gone. The tear in time and space, and the gulf between species and worlds had instantly returned; and one returned to the world of cyclists, runners, and dogs.
Native Americans often spoke about such experiences, and their myths flowed from them. The coyote figures prominently in these myths. For some tribes he was mainly seen as a trickster and fool, for others a transformer and creator.
According to Crow and other Plains traditions, the coyote was second only to the Spirit Chief itself in its powers of creation. “Old Man Coyote took up a handful of mud and out of it made people.” The Miwok of the Central Valley and western slopes of the Sierra Nevada in California saw the coyote as an essential force in the creation of the earth.
All myths are really about humans and their place in nature, as well as their powers on earth and in the world. Thus, projected into the coyote was the imaginative power of humans, a power, for good or ill, which puts us almost on par with creation itself. The Crow said “Old Man Coyote named buffalo, deer, elk, antelopes, and bear. And all these came into being.” That’s not human hubris; it shows how naming something made it real and comprehensible for people.
Whether as creator, trickster, or culture hero, the coyote spirit in Native American mythology stands in for the core contradiction of the human mind itself. Thought makes worlds, but it cannot create nature, or anything else. Thought can only be creative when it’s subordinated to insight and intelligence, never when it’s primary. That’s what makes man destructive.
Ruled by that mind, tens of thousands of years of human history may be coming to a head. We have remained psychologically unchanged as ‘modern humans,’ and there is no cultural evolution. Emerging from the mists of East Africa about 100,000 years ago, we were fully equipped to build cathedrals and all the art within them, as well as replicate thought with computers. Knowledge has grown, but man has not.
Insight must renew the brain, or the old mind will destroy the earth and humanity. Can we consciously transmute into a new species, one in which the duality, destructiveness, and arrogance of thought give way to stillness, insight, and humility?
If so, a new human being will create a new kind of culture. Not one based on division, belief, and tradition, but rather on insight, creativity, and collaboration.
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