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The Coyote Dance of Things

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Old Man Coyote decided that life would be a lot easier for him if all the easy marks in the world would announce themselves. He wouldn’t have to work so hard at finding all the suckers that he could dupe. He thought long and hard about it and finally in a flash of sheer inspiration he came up with an answer. He invented the smiley face. Now all he had to do was look for the bumper stickers or lapel pins or that cute little face that people draw by their names, and he could easily go about his business.

I call the Sierra foothills above where I grew up Coyote’s landscape. In more primal times there were four main predators apart from man. They were grizzly bear, wolf, mountain lion, and coyote. Grizzly bear and wolf have been eliminated, although grizzly bear ironically still appears on our state flag.

Lion keeps to its secretive ways. I know that I am being watched, but I don’t quite know from where. Coyote just keeps on keeping on through guile and perseverance. We’re never quite able to put our finger on him. Coyote of course is the trickster of Native American myth, along with Crow. Ethnologists have always been trying to pin him down. He is this thing, but no, he’s that. Coyote is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of the mind, the quantum trickster.

[ADBLOCKHERE]In the past, I have had an uneasy relationship with Coyote. I found it difficult to maintain a close relationship with a God that can allow Coyote to exist in the infinite wisdom of things. Where in the realm of love is there justification for some scurrilous Coyote who would just as soon take your money and laugh and run as do anything else? How do you maintain a relationship with that? Where are love, compassion, and kindness when Coyote is always lurking around?

I’ll tell you what I now know of old Coyote. Coyote represents our own capacities for constant self-deception and also represents God’s attempt to shock us out of our stupor of predictability. As soon as I think that I know something fully, Coyote will quickly, unceremoniously let me know that I don’t. If I am unawake, Coyote will steal me blind, but it is only because I am blind and asleep. He will always bite me in the ass if I am not aware. Always.

When I form an opinion about reality it turns out that I leave a whole sector of the compass ignored and unexplored. Because I’m not even aware of the existence of that region of reality, Coyote stalks me from within my own shadows, reaches up and gives my balls a yank and runs back into the darkness laughing. So wearing an opinion is about the same as wearing a smiley face when it comes to being duped. The more opinions I have, the less aware I am.

Now these opinions can be of any stripe: political, religious, racial, or maybe just a personal opinion about teenage pop singers. It’s all fodder for Coyote. The real trick is just to watch and see like a hunter, not fantasize, opine, and discourse about what you want to see. Watch in all directions unflinchingly.

Sad to say all our leaders operate in this opinionated fashion, and we have a President who is guided by his opinions of reality, formed by wealth and politics and religion. He hasn’t bothered to sit by the trail and watch history, watch the patterns of other cultures, watch their joys and sorrows. He hasn’t really watched his own culture.

He thinks he is safe within the fortress of his opinion and thinks to watch in all directions would be some kind of retreat or sign of weakness. His unidirectional fixation creates opportunities for attack from a multitude of directions, and old Coyote is having a field day. He simply has to sneak up at will and give the Presidential testicles a pinch, then listen and watch in glee at as the man suddenly chokes on his syntax and stares vacantly into space wondering what in the hell just happened.

I’ve studied several different martial arts. In Aikido I had to do a randori for my black belt. In randori, three or four attackers come at you from all directions. There is no time for opinions. Take care of this, watch, take care of that. The attackers are neither good nor bad. It all turns into a fluid dance and direct awareness is both the music and the step. Without venom, posturing, and anger on my part, even the attackers are changed, yet I’ve also taken care of myself. In T’ai Chi I’ve done push hands. In push hands, you remain connected to your attacker by touch through the back of your hand. By doing so, you can read his intentions, even on a minute level. To break off contact means a loss of knowledge of your opponent and it becomes more difficult to know his next move.

Through these things I’ve learned several things. Watch in all directions. Always keep Coyote in front of you and, if possible, stay in direct contact with him. You might get your feet stepped on, but it leaves other more vital areas of your anatomy intact.

On a seemingly strange note, I’m going to mention God again. But be warned that the God of which I speak is not the God of which you think I am speaking. I also must always keep God before me and stay in direct contact. It’s neither worship nor supplication. It’s pushing hands with a flow of Energy that resists definition, conforms to no opinion, and cannot be possessed by any person, place, or thing. It’s just a fluid thing, a randori with life.

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About John Spivey

  • gonzo marx

    domo orrigato John-san

    ..:::bows, hand over fist:::..

    an excellent Insight into the Trickster, who has always been with Man…trying to show us the Way

    why am i not suprised that you have played both akido and T’ai Chi?



  • My thanks to those who are parting with their hard earned money to support my writing. I do hope the book meets your needs and standards.

    Purple Tigress–Although I know of O’Sensei’s history and his relationship with Shinto, I know little of the stories of the kami. Tricksters exist in stories around the world, so they must serve a purpose. Fox is also a European trickster. I grew up near the foothills of the Sierra, so I rely on the stories that spring from that landscape.

  • It seems odd to bring in aikido without talking about the tanuki. The tanuki is the trickster of Japanese folklore and the fox is also a trickster although often changing form into that of a beautiful woman.

    As for the coyote, he has adapted far better than other predators. With the loss of wolf packs and their geographic territories, the coyote has been allowed to spread geographically–even as far as New York. By cross-breeding with the dog, he has increased his fertility–the possibility of two litters a year instead of one.

    His name doesn’t instill people with the fear of the wolf or the grizzly and by being adaptable he has survived.

  • Another great article, John.

    I bought the book the other day…I’m disappointed it hasn’t arrived yet! I can’t wait to get into it.

  • Richard, just bought the book on amazon–waiting impatiently for it to arrive!

    In Jameson Veritas

  • Nice story and I really liked your description of god.

  • I thank all you guys for your comments. I have this coyote fantasy that a lot of people will circulate this story around so that as the President stumbles with his words one more time everyone will just look at each other knowingly and chuckle.

    for SonnyD: A hunter who studies the habits of animals is not forming an opinion. I really don’t have an ideology as such, I just study the President’s actions and see a deer caught in the headlights. About the yogi thing…The leaders of the Plains tribes used to mark their shields for how many giveaways they had conducted. Imagine our leaders selected on how much they have given away rather than how much they have taken or allowed their friends to take. We the people are at fault for not selecting for wisdom in our leaders. And yes, there will be more Coyote stories.

  • SonnyD

    John: I forgot to add, I really enjoy your coyote stories.

  • SonnyD

    John: Confusion has set in. First you describe in “painful” detail what happens when you form an opinion. Then immediately give your opinion on the ability of the president to govern.

    Have you taken into consideration how much a president, any president, is curtailed in accomplishing the goals he has in mind by the Congress?

    Second, have you considered how much any president has to rely on the accuracy of others to provide information {intelligence} that he needs?

    Finally, you say he hasn’t sat by the trail and watched history go by. Agreed, he isn’t a wise old yogi but how many wise old yogis do you see running for the office? If you can find one I’ll vote for him!

  • Mark, if you liked this than you really should buy John’s book a) because this is an expanded excerpt from it, and b)his whole book reads like this and much along the same lines.

    Don’t be frightened of Coyote, because that’s when you are in serious trouble, repsect him, don’t completly trust him, but always remember he thinks he’s telling the truth, especially when he’s lying. Truth exists for Coyote in the moment of talking, so everything is true while it’s being spoken, it only becomes a lie after he’s finished with it…he’s a sneaky so and so that way…You may catch him with his tail in his mouth but never with his pants down.

    Richard Marcus

  • One of the most beautiful, enchanting articles I’ve read in a long, long time. My only complaint is that it’s too short. You certainly know how to weave a web to capture the reader.

    In Jameson Veritas