“The end approaches, but the apocalypse is long lived” – Jacques Derrida
The physicist and the preacher are equally certain the world will one day end, although their timetables differ slightly. Once you grasp the imminence of your own death, it’s only a short philosophical hop to everyone else’s. I think, therefore I am. If I don’t think, therefore you aren’t. The dubious ability to contemplate our own mortality no doubt led to troubling questions, or as Andrew Lang said, “consciousness must have reached a more explicit stage, when man began to ask himself what a person is, what life is, and whence he arrived at the conclusion that life is a spirit”(Lang, 1894, p333). We then proceeded, according to “The Ghost Theory of the Origin of Religion”, to endow all manner of inanimate and insubstantial entities with volition and anima. Yet mountains eventually erode, lakes dry up, stars burn out, and entire species go extinct, suggesting a fundamental impermanence to existence, even to the guy with the biggest brow ridges and stunningly prominent occipital bun. Thus sentience ultimately has to come to grips with the apocalypse, irrespective of whether it whimpers or bangs. Whether you’re waiting for the heat death of the universe or find yourself in more immediate expectation of the Rapture, the basic end of the world motif is the same – your universe inexorably and gruelingly grinds to a halt. Maybe some fancy celestial bureaucracy weighs your merits and decides on your eternal dispensation in the divine equivalent of an appointment with a tax accountant, but our Armageddon mythologies simply serve to give structure to the sneaking suspicion that we will inevitably and collectively be extinguished. I started drinking early today, so these musings led to the conclusion that much of the behavior of the elusive Bigfoot would be easily explainable if he represented a remnant anthropoid offshoot of our evolutionary tree, and his folklore suggested to him that his species was living in the Sasquatchian equivalent of “the End Times”. In short, we ourselves are the dread antagonists of the Bigfoot Apocalypse.
It’s a tough moment when you recognize that you’re the embodiment of malevolence in the narrative, much like the pivotal moment in the movie Falling Down, where Michael Douglas’ embittered everyman on a shooting spree disbelievingly asks Robert Duvall, “I’m the bad guy?” We thought we were just successfully clambering up the evolutionary ladder, but since ecological niche competition tends to be a zero-sum game, for Homo sapiens to become king of the hill, odds are we would have had to ride roughshod over some of our genetic cousins. DNA comparisons of modern humans and Neanderthals suggest that we only differed genetically by about .12%. By way of comparison, dogs and wolves differ by about 2%. Since, according to biologists, there seems to have been some interbreeding between man and Neanderthal at least as recently as 60,000 years ago, at least for a time we coexisted. Additionally, there is some evidence that Neanderthals exhibited ritual burial behaviors, and you don’t really bother with that sort of nonsense without a solid theological justification. The bottom line is that we outcompeted and marginalized Neanderthals, and whether we ultimately wiped them out due to interbreeding, climate change, or violence, there must have come a time when our hairy cousins realized the end was nigh. As their cranial capacity was largely comparable to our own, odds are this apocalypse was mythologized.
Flash forward to the 21st Century A.D. In dark forests and remote areas at the edge of civilization, we occasionally glimpse a hairy anthropoid who exhibits no curiosity about us, rather makes every effort to get as far away from us as possible whenever a chance encounter occurs. With bulldozers and chainsaws we eat away at virgin wilderness. Our factories belch pollutants into the sky. Our population soars, and we demarcate our territory with walls, fences, roads, and buildings. Camera crews and armed vigilantes police the edges of civilization, stalking evidence of cryptozoological monstrosities. And those rare survivors of the Bigfoot Apocalypse know that they are living on borrowed time as the forests shrink, the resources vanish, and the ever-dwindling population of a once proud people that imagined itself to be the pinnacle of evolution faces ultimate extinction. Do they still pray to their gods for salvation from the demon Homo sapiens? Perhaps one day we will find and translate Bigfoot’s Book of Revelation, and in utter amazement discover that his folklore held us to be the monsters.
Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912. Cock Lane and Common-sense. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1894.
Wilford, John Noble (December 16). “Neanderthals and the Dead”. New York Times, 2013.