"You were right," I confessed to Uncle Spud. "Those guys down in Georgia didn't find Bigfoot after all. What they had was a gorilla suit dipped in road-killed possum. The whole thing was a hoax; just a way for a couple of red neck, good-old-boys to get their ugly mugs on TV."
"I told you so," Spud said with just a touch of sarcasm. "People are so gullible."
"But people want to find Bigfoot," I insisted. "We know he's out there somewhere. Dozens of people have seen him."
"Hundreds of people in Ireland have seen Leprechauns, too," Spud smiled. "And thousands of people from all over the world have seen little green men from outer space. Heck, right here in Carbon County I'll bet I could find a dozen old coal miners who saw the white lady of the mines."
"Are you saying those things don't exist?" I questioned.
"Not at all," Spud said. "Perception is truth until the perception is proven false."
"You make it sound so clinical."
"A whole lot of what we know isn't true," Spud smiled. "And a whole lot of what we don't know is true. For us, truth and reality are constantly changing."
"Do you mean there is no absolute truth?"
"Not at all," he said again. "The laws of God, nature, and science are absolute. It's just that we don't know or understand most of them yet. The more we learn, truth, as we understand it, changes. Someday, maybe, we'll know the truth of all things."
"What does this have to do with Bigfoot?" I asked.
"Bigfoot is a classic example of perceived truth," Spud explained. "It might be possible to prove that he does exist, but we can never prove that he doesn't exist. As long as some people believe he's out there somewhere, that possibility carries as much weight as the counter argument that he doesn't exist. Until someone really finds a Bigfoot we can't prove either hypothesis. We can have debates about the evidence, pro and con, but in the end, it's a matter of faith. Bigfoot is a reality for some folks and a bad joke for others. It all depends on your point of view; your perception of reality, if you will."
"Good grief," I groaned. "Believing in Bigfoot shouldn't be so complicated. Why can't we just believe he's out there and enjoy it?"
"That's what believing in Bigfoot is all about," Spud smiled. "People everywhere have always had mythical monsters to contend with. The earliest of human literature is filled with dragons, giants, and sea monsters. As people, we enjoy the mystery, the challenge of a perceived threat, and the telling of a good story. And besides, things that go bump in the night have always brought us closer as families, communities and nations."
"And," Uncle Spud continued, "we sometimes use mythical monsters to our advantage. They can be tools to ensure physical boundaries, social conformity and even moral training. For example, every year elaborately costumed and masked Kachinas come out of the sacred kivas of the Hopi to confront the children of the village about their behavior. Good children are rewarded while bad children are threatened with being kidnapped and taken away. It is the duty of the mother and grandmother to plead with the Kachinas on behalf of the unruly child and promise that if left alone this year, the child's behavior will be much better by next year. It works every time. In our culture, Santa's elves do almost the same thing, only much less dramatically."
"So how does Bigfoot fit into all of this?" I asked.
"Bigfoot makes a great campfire story," Spud smiled. "And like the Loc Ness monster, Chupachabra, space aliens, and black government helicopters, Bigfoot gives us a mystery to solve and a place for our boundless imaginations to go. Believing in Bigfoot is part of what makes us human."
"Whodathunk?" I mused.
"And besides," Spud smiled impishly. "Bigfoot is real, you know. There have been hundreds of sightings from all over the world and lots of physical evidence, too. Dozens of plaster casts have been made of footprints and half-a-dozen films made of Bigfoot on the go. Someday someone will really find a Bigfoot and we can tell the whole world we told you so."
Until then, all you tree huggers stay out of the forest. Bigfoot's gonna get ya.