This morning my daughter Amelia announced that today’s the day that I learn about the coyote.
I was like: ha ha, what. Really? The coyote? Girlfriend you are asking me to learn about the coyote? That’s like introducing me…to me, you know?
Because I love my daughter, and because she’s prone to episodes of frequently auspicious wisdom, we sat and watched a Nature special, and she eagerly ensured I missed not a single detail
But, bruh. I know well the coyote and her ways.
I lived a Huck Finn childhood in the thick forests which drape the mountains overlooking the banks of Oregon’s Columbia River.
As a child taking advantage of the ocean’s tide, navigating rafts in concert with that mighty waterway’s endlessly complex currents, or running from shadow to shadow in the riverbank’s forests, I’ve been around the coyote for much of my life.
One might say I’ve been cheek to jowl with coyote since I was old enough to spend my days and nights beneath the huge ferns at the base of trees that reach 150+ feet into the sky.
My grandfather Henry and grandmother Ruth would tell me stories about the coyote when we walked hand in hand through the forests next to their home.
And it was from them that I learned to avoid use of flashlights when traveling the forest at night, because once your eyes grow accustomed to the dark, you can more readily see the light within others, bringing into focus the rich variety of those who occupy the forest.
Interesting aside, within the first two minutes of my very first phone call with my friend Trudy, a coyote literally trotted down the middle of NE Klickatat street, right next to my home in Portland, in the middle of the afternoon.
Trudy and I agreed that this was not insignificant, and likely even a little bit auspicious.
And yet families out on a weekend bike ride were like meh; a coyote, and continued on their way.
Funny how people take the coyote for granted, for they are nearly ubiquitously present and yet incredibly capable.
So: here’s few cool coyote factoids:
Able to survive often alone, when hunting large prey, the coyote often works in pairs or small groups.
This corresponds at a high level with holonic philosophy.
What’s that, you say?
I’ve written much about the influence of holonic philosophy upon my decades-long experiment with anti-fragile expressions of self-governance, both inside of private industry (technology) and within the realm of hacktivism and grassroots advocacy.
Long story short: when you organize a network of small expressions of autonomous self-governance (teams) in a manner aligned to coyote, you end up with a dramatically potent collective that contribute to a “whole” that’s both united as one, and divided by zero, referencing computer science parlance.
A holon (Greek: ὅλον, holon neuter form of ὅλος, holos “whole”) is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part.
It’s been observed that complex systems evolve from simple systems much more rapidly when there are stable intermediate forms present in the evolutionary process (eg: holons) than if they are not present.
Which is why we emphasize phased adoption of disruptive new systems, as an aside.
Interestingly, although it is easy to identify sub-wholes or parts within any system, wholes and parts in an absolute sense do not exist anywhere.
Ergo: a state of connective “oneness” currently exists, and our belief to the contrary is nothing more than the byproduct of a consensual illusion otherwise known as “cultural knowledge.”
For whatever reason, the spirit of holonic organizational philosophy has long resonated as intuitive, and perhaps that’s why I’ve always considered coyote and her kin as mere physical embodiments of echoes and aspects of the forests’ aggregate orchestration, to use metaphor.
And as shared elsewhere, metaphor is my preferred framework for reconciling perception to reality.
In other words, if Pythagoras was correct in his contention that “matter is solidified music,” then coyote and her kin serve as irreverent tones of emphasis within the broader collaboration.
Holons are self-reliant units that possess a degree of independence and can handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions, eg: they have a degree of autonomy.
Coyote beds down alone or in pairs in the shadows during the day, and at dusk they emerge, seeking prey.
They sing lovely songs of aspired collaboration as need arises in the orchestration of a coordinated hunt.
Likewise, holons are also simultaneously subject to control from one or more of these higher authorities.
The first property ensures that holons are stable forms that are able to withstand disturbances, while the latter property signifies that they are intermediate forms, providing a context for the proper functionality for the larger whole.
As an interesting acknowledgement of wisdom’s importance to holonic anti-fragility, younger animals usually avoid participating in such hunts, with the breeding pair typically doing most of the work.
Unlike the wolf, which attacks large prey from the rear, the coyote approaches from the front, lacerating its prey’s head and throat.
Coyotes have been observed to kill porcupines in pairs, using their paws to flip the rodents on their backs, then attacking the soft underbelly.
Only old and experienced coyotes can successfully prey on porcupines.
Coyotes may occasionally form mutualistic hunting relationships with the notoriously ruthless, fearless badger, assisting each other (‘tis conspicuous metaphor).
The amicable interactions between coyotes and badgers were known to pre-Columbian civilizations, as shown on a Mexican jar dated to 1250 — 1300 BC depicting the relationship between the two.
In terms of mythical archetypes, the coyote is a prominent character in Native American folklore, mainly in Aridoamerica, usually depicted as a trickster that alternately assumes the form of an actual coyote or a man.
As with other trickster figures, the coyote uses deception and humor to rebel against social conventions.
This loosely parallels the role of Loki within Norse mythology.
For it’s been observed that within a society that’s fetishized the lie, if you want to tell the truth, make them laugh or they’ll kill you (George Bernard Shaw).
Coyote was especially respected in Mesoamerican cosmology as a symbol of military might.
For the past 150 or so years, the coyote has been hunted relentlessly, and yet is listed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to its wide distribution and abundance throughout North America, southwards through Mexico and into Central America.
The species is versatile, able to adapt to and expand into environments modified by humans, and lives in the shadows of humans in modern cities.
Despite its unprotected status and the fact that it is hunted and trapped relentlessly, the coyote is actually enlarging its range, with coyotes moving into urban areas in the eastern U.S., and was sighted in eastern Panama (across the Panama Canal from their home range) for the first time in 2013.
One might argue that the species is “anti-fragile,” which transcends mere resiliency, becoming more intelligent and strengthened under worst-case conditions.
So when you are honored by a visit from coyote, say hello and send her my regards, for we have a lot to learn from her counsel.