The Parable of the Coyotes
By Stephen Terry
“If someone asks, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ they will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’” Zechariah 13:6, NIV
As a coyote, I have learned many things that are expected of coyotes. Some are more important than others. Perhaps one of our greater truths is that the great order of things requires that we howl at the moon. Night by night, this ritual must be completed. While no one is quite sure how our howling relates to the moon, most are sure that the moon appreciates it.
At times, when we are not out hunting or caring for our whelps, we talk about it. Some are sure that our howling keeps the moon on its course, waxing and waning as it goes. Others are positive that the moon might fall from the sky if the howling did not keep it there. Still others think the moon responds to the howling by blessing the hunt. But I am not so sure.
My doubts began when I started to ask the pack members how they knew these things to be true. Some told me that I can be sure they are true as every coyote believes them and questioning them would only lead me astray. Others told me that the howling had been handed down to us by great coyotes of the past. Certainly I would not question my great coyote forebears. Still others said, “What does it matter why, as long as everyone benefits from the unity that the howling brings to the pack?” Yet, I would continue to ask, “Why do we howl at the moon?”
I noticed over time that whether few or many were howling, the moon did not slow or hasten its passage. The success of the hunt also did not seem to coincide with the amount of howling. I only noticed that the howling grew more desperate when the hunting was poor, often without any improvement in the results. As I noticed these things, I began to share my findings with the other adult coyotes. When I suggested that perhaps there were other reasons the hunt was not successful, they could not listen. They assured me that howling harder always works, and I should trust the wisdom of coyotes far more experienced than I.
I tried to be a more faithful coyote, but I found that I could not ignore my findings. I felt compelled to discuss them with whomever would listen. While some listened at first and even parroted my questions to the pack, they were pressured to avoid conversation with me and be loyal to the pack. Eventually, although I was tolerated because I was a fellow coyote, the rest of the pack ceased to listen. Some pack members even engaged in what I would call “aggressive howling” as they would howl whenever I was around, even if the moon was not, to remind me to toe the line.
Eventually, I was ostracized from the hunt, as my lack of faith was determined to be displeasing to the moon and therefore a threat to the hunt’s success. While the others would hunt and howl with abandon, I was expected to care for the pups to earn my keep. I was depressed that the others would not listen to me. I was sure that if we studied these things, our understanding of the moon and everything else in our world would improve, and that improved understanding would bring greater blessings.
While the howls were sounding in the distance, and I was pondering all these things, I was surprised when a pup came bounding up to me with the question, “Why do coyotes howl at the moon?” At first, I was so taken aback that I did not know what to say. At first, I said, “I don’t know.” But she responded with the same question children bedevil their parents with everywhere. She asked “Why?” Then, I realized that somehow the same question that had troubled me for so long was also awakening in this young pup’s mind. So I shared with her what I had discovered. Even though I had more questions than answers, her precociousness drew all I knew from me. Little did I know the price I would pay for answering that “why.”
When the pack returned, the pup asked her mother about howling and my findings. Her mother, feeling that I was leading her pup astray, went to the pack leader with her concerns. The pack leader, incensed that I had continued to question the howling and was now “infecting” the younger members of the pack with my findings decided he needed to deal with things once and for all. Calling the pack together, he confronted me.
“You have continually questioned the howling of the pack, even though we have made it clear that your “findings” are unwelcome. You have been ostracized and relegated to the lowliest job we could think of, and still you have not learned. We cannot tolerate your questioning of the wisdom of the pack or that of our great ancestors. You leave us no choice but to expell you from the pack.”
Trembling I replied, “But the pack is the only life I have known.”
“For the good of the pack and your own safety you must leave! You need to go now! You are no longer a coyote as far as we are concerned!” Then with eyes like burning embers and a sharp, toothy grin, he asked, “Do you remember what we call those who are not coyotes?”
Too frightened to speak, I meekly shook my head “No.”
“We call them prey!”
This Article is a Service of Still Waters Ministry
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