Seventy years ago, cartoonist Chuck Jones created two epic characters who would go on to star in 48 short-run animated films (though there seemed like there were thousands of them): Wile E. Coyote and his arch-rival, the Roadrunner. Those of the Saturday morning cartoon generation, like myself, knew these characters intimately, and each episode by heart.
Granted, what wasn’t to know? The Roadrunner would “beep, beep” (or “meep, meep” as held in some internet strongholds) and escape, while Wile E. would go cascading off a cliff for the umpteenth time. What you may not know, is Chuck Jones intended it to be this way with a set of extremely narrow rules.
In his autobiography, Jones revealed a set of Coyote Commandments, we might call them, that strictly dictated the relationship between his two characters. Of most interest to me is rule #3: “The Coyote could stop anytime – if he were not a fanatic.” By design, Wile E. Coyote was fashioned to be obsessive, what we might call an addict.
Thus, all of Wile E.’s ACME contraptions, his outlandish schemes, and his relentless maneuvers to obtain what he could never possess (Jones’ 11th Commandment reads: “The Coyote is not allowed to catch the Road Runner”) are futility. He is powerless – on his own – to modify his behavior, to do anything differently.
What Wile E. needs is treatment for his disease. Such wholeness requires a real, spiritual awakening; it demands recognition of the problem, surrender to a Higher Power, and the courage to fearlessly stare one’s moral failings squarely in the face. That’s what makes recovery so damned difficult: The individual has to change.
The temptation for the one who suffers is to change jobs, trade relationships, or rearrange the external circumstances of life. Such coping efforts might bring temporary relief, but the real solution lies within. Transformation is a personal choice, not perfect circumstantial alignment.
Meister Eckhart said, “Truly, if you do not get away from yourself, then wherever you seek refuge, you will only find unrest.” If Eckhart sounds too sanctimonious for you, then I refer you back to Chuck Jones and Rule #2 of the Coyote/Roadrunner franchise: “No outside force can harm the Coyote. He can only hurt himself.”
We each have a little Wile E. Coyote in us, as we all want to blame the Roadrunner for our troubles. Or, it’s the fault of those many gadgets and people that failed us; or it’s the unseen cliff’s edge that caused our fall; or it was the bus we never saw coming. It’s just not that simple.
The short of it is, you aren’t impervious to pain, and you don’t easily recover from your self-inflicted wounds like a fictional cartoon character. But there is good news: You are not trapped living a life for which someone else wrote the rules. When you are ready – and willing – you can start living a life of recovery, wholeness, and restored sanity. Such a life begins with you.