174: Are Indiana Jones’ Old Tools of the Trade a Pathway to Our Global Future?

nd now, our series on “Tools of Discernment” comes to three extremely famous tools:
    Brown fedora.
    Bull whip.
    Handgun in a leather hip holster.
    Whose are they? Awww, come on! You know.

    For an hour before the stroke of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, I sat waiting in a 450-seat suburban theater with my popcorn and my note pad for the debut of “Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.”
    I was fascinated by the platoon of wannabe Indiana Joneses scurrying around the aisles, comparing hats, leather jackets and whips. A couple of guys had added the distinctive brown holsters with the flap over the top. But I didn’t see any guns, thank God.
    These costumed young people all were teens or early 20-somethings. Most of them were hospitably letting other people try out their accouterments. I overheard one young fellow tell a friend that he’d spent hundreds of dollars equipping himself properly. Another was letting friends try on his leather jacket and hat — and occasionally I could see distant flashes as people photographed each other.
    What was stunning about this is that there were hundreds of excited fans — most of whom weren’t even born when the last of the Indy trilogy hit theaters in 1989. In the middle of the night, these young people were so geeked that they simply couldn’t sit still as they waited — and for what?
    They were waiting to see a 65-year-old actor spend two hours connecting the lessons of the 20th Century with the children of the 21st.

    Does a review of this film belong in the pages of ReadTheSpirit?
    Quite simply: Yes! No question!
    In fact, teachers, preachers, parents, journalists, students — anyone interested in the shape of the culture yet to come — should have been somewhere in a theater at 12:01 a.m. Thursday as the distinctive music swelled and whoops, whistles, applause and cheers rocked the floorboards.
    Still skeptical there’s a spiritual theme here?
    Well, consider this: The previews last night rolled out glimpses of one super-hero movie after another waiting in the wings to rock theaters throughout the summer. If you’re following important voices like Fareed Zakaria, whose new book “The Post-American World” we’ve strongly recommended, then you realize that America and the rest of the world are in the midst of a turbulent period of social, cultural, economic, environmental and political change.
    We are — as Americans in the heat of a presidential election after too many years of war — also in the heat of redefining who we are as a people. We’re asking ourselves this summer, as these blockbuster films roll out of Hollywood, what values will guide us in this rapidly changing new century.
    We’re also asking ourselves: What deep spiritual themes will sustain us in the years ahead?
    Still skeptical about Indy as a marker of spiritual change?
    Well, I might question this line of argument, as well, if this weren’t a film by Steven Spielberg — the creative force behind such cinematic milestones as “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Amistad” and “Munich.” Currently, he’s working on “The Trial of the Chicago 7” for a 2009 release.
    For better or worse, Spielberg has done more than Zakaria ever will to redefine our understanding of America and the world.

    I don’t want to spoil a moment of suspense by revealing any of the movie’s secrets, but I safely can describe a scene that is likely to define my own memories of this movie for years to come:
    Early in the film, Indy stumbles into a distinctive landscape in the American Southwest that’s infamously burned into the psyches of Baby Boomers who had to learn “Duck and Cover” drills in the 1950s and 1960s. If you’re of that vintage, then this imagery in the new Indy Jones movie will connect to your childhood memories with an almost audible “ka-chunk”! The moment you see that imagery on the big screen, you’ll understand what’s about to happen.
    Without revealing the suspenseful secrets of the scene — I can describe one minute that will endure in my memory:
    Indy is shaken. He’s still nearly as rough and tough as a superhero, but the guy is in his 60s now — and he’s picking himself up in a desert gully. He’s bruised and battered. He walks like an old man whose joints ache as he starts to climb a dusty desert slope toward something that’s unfolding just over that ridge. At the top of the ridge, he is stunned to see — rising above the desert expanse — the vast mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb. We see Indy only from the back, but he is deeply shaken by the sight.

    Now, there’s no question that this fourth Indy Jones movie is, once again, a slam-bang, cliff-hanger action flick. (The whole series is an homage to early movie serials, which is a little odd at this point in the 21st Century because even Baby Boomers didn’t see the original ’30s and ’40s serials in movie theaters, although those early serials now are all available in DVD collections.)
    So, on one powerful level, the two-hour movie is a series of high-action “set pieces,” each one a suspenseful grab bag of special effects and clever stunts. There’s even a full-scale sword fight set in a jungle, fought from speeding vehicles — as the deadly cliffs loom on the horizon!

    Appropriately, then, I’m going to leave you today on a spiritual cliff — where I think I’m poised myself, still chewing over this new movie.
    I know our readers enjoy thinking about these things over time. I’m still getting emails and occasional notes on Facebook about our earlier coverage of “Iron Man” and “Prince Caspian.” And, please, Keep ‘Em Coming! We’re planning a cumulative round up of your comments on these films.

    Here’s a list of some of Indiana Jones’ Spiritual Lessons that I spotted in my first viewing of the new movie. PLEASE, we’d love to hear what you think. Add to the list. Disagree with me. Fine tune these points.
    Click on the “Comment” link at the end of the online version of this story — or send me an email — or stop by my Facebook page.

The Gospel According to Indiana Jones (in his 21st-Century incarnation):

    Formal education is essential.
    But, we also need to get out into the world and learn about other lands, cultures and languages.
    Don’t kill the people you meet, even if they seem terrifying at first glance. (There’s a scene late in the movie in which Indy dramatically demonstrates this lesson — in stark contrast with the choices made by others.)
    Learn to pack light.
    Never steal someone else’s treasure. This can spell doom for all concerned.
    The religious issues of the past often aren’t as important as new spiritual movements emerging around us — partly because we don’t know as much as we think we do about these cosmic issues. (I won’t explain this point right now, so that I don’t spoil the movie — but you’ll understand this point after you’ve seen it.)
    One person’s insanity — is another person’s clarity of vision.
    The government rarely knows what it’s doing — whether it’s our government or someone else’s government.
    You’re never too old — or too young — to make the world a better place.
    And, finally, it’s never too late to repair broken relationships and rebuild community. (I love these last two points, because they echo points in our own ReadTheSpirit founding principles.)   

    So, there are 10 Lessons from the new Indy of “Crystal Skull.”
    BUT, we want to know what you think, now!

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