The more mysterious the better

Commentary by
Joe McWilliams

Let’s be trivial for a moment and spare a thought for bigfoot. If he exists, his habitat is on fire right now. If bigfoot is ever going to be flushed out into the open, now would be the time. Keep your eyes peeled and your cameras cocked, you Pacific Northwesterners.

Okay, I’m being silly. But there are legions of bigfoot believers. Or maybe not that many true believers; but the wannabe believers seem to be large in number. It’s sort of like climate change. If you don’t believe in it, it magically doesn’t exist. If you do, it does. It probably does, though, regardless of what you may choose to believe.

‘I studied the Patterson film,’ a reporter for a newspaper in Wales told me, over the phone, a year or two ago. ‘I had set out to prove that it was a hoax, and instead I ended up believing in it!’ That of course is the celebrated moving image of a big hairy beast shot in 1967 in northern California.

Well. Good luck in tracking the big fella down.

The thing is, people want to believe. And where the desire to believe is strong enough, things appear before your eyes. It has something to do with human nature. Probably because for X number of millennia, magical explanations for pretty much everything were all our ancestors had to hang onto.

Then again, mysterious things do exist. Science doesn’t have all the answers, and (so I hear), candid scientists confess that the more they understand how the universe works, the more they realize they don’t understand. Whatever that means.

But getting back to the sasquatch or the yeti, how about this story? Slawomir Rawicz and a handful of his gulag companions escaped a Siberian prison during the Second World War. They walked south, clear across Mongolia, Tibet and finally, scrawny and half dead, they wandered into British India. They saw a couple of hairy humanoids on a mountain ledge in the Himalayas, Rawicz writes in ‘The Long Walk.’ He believes it was the legendary yeti.

Some people around here definitely believe in mysterious forest creatures unknown to science. Somebody reports an unusually large footprint in the bush north of the lake and you can almost hear the ears pricking up. It’s the same sort of thing that happens when a strange light is seen in the night sky. Or a crop circle. We’ve had both of those in these parts. Some people are comfortable enough with not knowing. I’m in that category, for better or worse. ‘Let the mystery be,’ as Iris Dement said memorably in her song of that name. She may have been referring to bigger fish than bigfoot or UFOs, but it applies.

The crop circle happened in a grain field near Flatbush. People came from far and wide. By the time I got there, it had seen a lot of traffic and the farmer was getting tired of the whole thing. I was talking to somebody about crop circles and found she really wanted to believe in the extra-terrestrial explanation.

‘Don’t underestimate human ingenuity,’ I said. It made sense to me to look at it that way, but what do I know?

Of course Slave Lake’s famous UFO incident of the early 1980s has been revealed (I’ve written about it in this space, I believe) as a prank by a couple of Canyon Creekers. But the true believers will go on believing, because the most exotic explanation is always preferable.

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