What I Learned from Indiana Jones

I am sitting on my couch with my laptop over my knees and my headphones by my side; off of my head but still plugged into the audio jack of my computer. On the coffee table next to me is my cell phone patiently waiting for something more interesting to happen. Indiana Jones is hopping from train car to train car on the television. My phone wishes we were there instead.

“That cross is an important artifact. It belongs in a museum.”

And there he is, standing in front of his college class, professing the honest truth of archaeology to wide-eyed students. Audrey the Betta, at her new location in front of the TV, finds nothing dashing about this adventurous professor.

Little does she know that I grew up with this film like a third sibling. While Mom cleared away dinner, Big Sis and I cleaned the living room and retrieved the VCR tape from the movie cabinet (right-hand door. Pull pretty hard. It’s the 3-tape set). Dad cleaned off the countertops and began to prepare the food. Popcorn bubbled out of the big black popcorn machine before being drizzled with butter. Malts were being made by the hand-held blender rattling the countertops with a WHRRRRRRRRR…. RRR…. RRRRR….. R…. RRRR!! I swept my Legos into their big bucket, and Big Sis put the tape into the shiny rewinder on the floor next to the TV stand, which looked like a small animal and made a similar noise as the blender. Yes, Indiana Jones took some serious preparation, and we were professionals. That shit went down like a well-oiled machine.

Dad never liked it when all of the lights were turned off, but sometimes he let it slide. After the tape was rewound, I scooped a bowl of popcorn, held the precious, cold malt in my hands, and waited for the VCR to kick in. First, the room was lit bright blue. This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen. That was the orchestra’s overture. Quiet down, it’s about to start.

And start it did! From deep darkness, the first bright sunlit scene illuminated the room in every corner as though the desert sand was beneath your feet. The music of John Williams rumbled over the popcorn being chewed, the sound effects of punching and whip cracking over the clanking of our spoons, and the sophisticated way Sean Connery aspirated every h in words like which, what, and where kept us silent and attentive. We soaked up every bone, every blonde, every betrayal.

“Dr. Jones? I knew it was you. You have your father’s eyes.”

“And my mother’s ears. But the rest belongs to you.”

Don’t fall for her. She’s the bad guy. But boy, that was a great line.

I am mostly sure that this is where my sister learned to spell archaeologist before she read her first chapter book—though the two weren’t that far apart. For me, Indiana Jones fostered a respect for history, honesty, and National Geographic. Without these things, I may not have become the person I am today.

We could have been in the midst of financial burden during job switches and the end of Clinton’s surplus, but Indiana was just about to find the Holy Grail and exorbitant riches. We could have been waiting for a phone call from a hospital which could end up shaking us to the core, but Dr. Jones Sr. had been kidnapped and could only rely on his cunning son to unlock the clues in his journal. Children in China could be starving, but Shorty was in serious trouble.

As the years come, the moments where such complete submersion into another world and out of my own become more and more scarce. I am expected to always conduct myself professionally, to use a delicate, thoughtful sense of humor, and to work. Hard. Everything I have done has of course been beneficial to my learning and my development. I have spent and will be spending a large amount of money and time on the education I am receiving. I want it to be worth it. I want it to be good.

On top of that, my generation keeps changing. Sometimes I change with them, and sometimes not. Sitting with a cell phone, laptop, headphones, and television all trained in my direction shows you how I am changing with them. My lack of knowledge on the Top 40, reality TV, and clothing fashions are examples of how I am not. Not only is it a change in my age, but a change in America’s cultural currents, and that’s okay.

Change hurts, change is uncomfortable, change is slimy and off-green in color. At other times, it is smooth, sleek, and refreshing. We could all be in that moment when a change will be our tipping point. An easier life may be coming our way. It might be signaled by a peak in the strain of intolerable repetition like a breaking dam, or it might not. It might not be signaled by anything and leave no trace behind it. That type of change is something that goes unnoticed until an unrelated or consequential event happens that causes us to reflect and discover that we have, in fact, grown and altered ourselves over the course of time. You can never notice how much someone has changed unless you look at a photograph from their childhood.

I certainly believe that I am on the brink of a tipping point, and I think that tipping point is the hand that holds the photograph. The headphones, the laptop, the cell phone, the television… how did it come to this point? How did I ever come to watch Indiana Jones in this way? After he pulls himself out of an underground river of petroleum, he holds up a photograph and points at me. “Look at this,” he says. “You used to watch me and my adventures with such devotion and dignity. You haven’t realized it, but this changed through the years.” The petroleum lights on fire and the rats in the ancient tomb scatter, but Indie isn’t fazed. “Nothing used to distract you from me, just the way nothing distracts me from my discovery.”

Yes, you’re right, Indiana Jones never said that. But there is a man who can teach any man to hold the door, stand for a guest, take off his shoes, and shake hands like it’s an art.

How things have changed.

2 thoughts on “What I Learned from Indiana Jones

  1. Without a doubt, we will be watching a movie with popcorn and malts this very month. The method of popping the corn might be different, the movie might be different, there will be no Legos to pick up (or will there?), but you’ll be surrounded by the same family who loves you and “big sis” the real-life archeologist.

  2. Man, I wish being a real-life archaeologist was as glamorous as Indiana Jones makes it seem…. I do miss those movies…

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