Feb 6, 2011

Bigfoot stakes

It’s never been clear to me what is supposed to be at stake in the hunt for bigfoot.

I am officially agnostic about whether there is such a creature out there, but more than that, I’m can’t figure out why it would matter. I am very interested in people, in this subculture and their passionate search and obsession with bigfoot, but I still can’t figure out why, to them, the search feels to be of consequence.

It wouldn’t, so far as I can tell, change anything about my life or about my understanding of the world, nor can I conceive of any other understanding of the world that would be shaken or even challenged by the discovery of bigfoot. One more species on the planet, even on a part of the planet pretty near to us, might be interesting, but wouldn’t reshape our understanding of life, so far as I can tell.

I have asked a number of people interested in bigfoot -- hunters, researchers, authors of books and blogs -- why it would matter, and each of them assured me it would, but thought it was self-evident, and couldn’t explain why. Generally, they told me it would be “huge,” “earth-shattering,” and “the biggest thing in our life time,” but they couldn’t say why it would be bigger or more significant than the discoveries of other new species that have happened without any world-altering results.

I suspect that at one point bigfoot was spoken of as a kind of living missing link in the evolution of man, a species half way between man and ape on the family tree, and thus the discovery would be as important as, say, discovering Neanderthals camped out in a field. That isn’t how bigfoot is normally talked about though – as a missing link or something like that – so I still don’t know what the import is thought to be.

When I asked Whitton and Dyer, they used exactly this same language of significant impact, “huge,” “shocking,” etc., but really only repeated the discourse as it stands. It’s not clear when the two men started thinking about or talking about bigfoot, or when they began to pay attention to the “bigfoot world,” but by the time I talked to them they had definitely acquired the language.