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Thursday, March 08, 2007
(9:46 AM) | Stephen:
Coyote Outside My Door, Coyote In My Mind

I've started several posts in the last few days only to find them all stillborn on the screen. So let's turn to autobiography for a bit. Maybe someone will see themselves and find some encouragement.

Coyote is one of the Navajo (Dinee) Holy People. Coyote is a trickster. Coyote is humanity's foil, the pinprick when we are puffed up, the way to keep our feet on the ground.

Coyote, though, has a darker side as well. Coyote is connected to witchcraft - his fur drapes the skinwalker, his power allows the witch to change form, his malevolence imbues corpse powder. Coyote can make a man forget he has any relatives. Coyote shows a woman the path of greed and selfishness.

They say that Coyote is always waiting. And Coyote is always hungry.

The Hebrews knew Coyote. They just called him Sha-tan, the Accuser. We made that a proper name and ascribed all sorts of ridiculous qualities to Satan, giving him horns and making him Lord of the Damned, Ruler of the Underworld. Peter said that our adversary is like a lion roaming the earth, seeking whom he may devour. God told Cain that sin crouched outside his door, ready to control him.

Those of us who have seen our minds declare war upon ourselves, who have a cancer that eats away at our souls, do not need to look outside our doors or even ourselves for Coyote. Coyote lives in our minds. Coyote is our minds, always hungry for more, never satisfied, always waiting for the opportunity to attack.

When I'm sick all of my carefully constructed defenses start to crumble. The watchtowers against encroaching depressive thoughts are left unmanned. My body uses its energy to fight the infection, taking precious resources away from the front lines, as it were, of the fight against my own psychosis.

That's when Coyote pounces, his sickly-sweet Voice once again filling my head, his claws sinking into me, finding their age-old marks, piercing through the protective scar tissue to wound again and again, his breath hot and stinking of loathing and fear.

Coyote is not a strong as he once was, though. I know his tricks, I can anticipate his attacks. I can draw upon all of the things that have helped me fight through the years. I can improvise; Coyote cannot.

Recently I was ripping some of my older CD's onto my computer. I went through a pretty long period when I listend to "Christian" music. I thought it was necessary. I thought "secular" music would lead me astray. I grew out of that, and finally became sick of the mediocrity that passes for talent in the "Christian" music business. I learned that if a Christian band or artist can be placed on one of those silly Christian vs. Secular music lists, then they probably aren't worth hearing.

But there are some that are worth hearing, of course. Keith Green, Rich Mullins, Steve Taylor. Sweet Comfort Band, whose music is pretty much impossible to find now. And there's Derek Webb. Webb has consistently pursued a path that seems designed to reduce his fame. He just doesn't seem interested in record sales or contracts. He just is there to make music.

For a while Webb was the lead singer and main songwriter for Caedmon's Call, a Christian band that did gain some success. On one of their earliest albums, he wrote a song called "Center Aisle." It's a song about going to the funeral for the sister of one of his best friends. The girl committed suicide, and Webb lays out a stark, painful account of his impotence to help his friend, his pain at the loss of a wonderful young woman.

This song saved my life. I've had my share of suicidal thoughts; every depressive does at one time or another. Always there's been something that brought me back from the edge, and at a couple of points it was this song, specifically the chorus:
What crimes have you commited, demanding such penance,
That couldn't wait for five more minutes and a cry for help?
Someone could have told me to be objective, to take stock of what I was thinking. They could have given me an intellectual argument that said what these lyrics communicate, but at that time I didn't trust my own mind or that belonging to anyone else. But these words, this cry sent out from a broken heart was able to get through the haze and fog. This song was able to silence Coyote and send him hiding.

Here's the song. Be aware, though, that you won't hear the song so much as you will be wounded by it. It's one of those rare moments when lyrics, music and voice combine perfectly. It's devastating. It can destroy you if you let it, and then rebuild you again, slightly stronger and better able to love.

Center Aisle

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