It's not what you believe, it's how hard you believe it
Indiana Jones, Ancient Apocalypse, belief and certainty
"I’ve seen things. Things I can’t explain. I’ve come to believe it’s not so much what you believe, but how hard you believe”
Here we have the first quotable bit of Indiana Jones 5: Dial of Destiny. A classic Jones sentiment. This is a man who has seen the Ark of the Covenant melt the faces of his enemies, who has seen cultists rip the beating heart from the chests of his victims with nothing but their bare hands (Kali MA!) and watched with his own eyes as yet another Nazi’s face was turned to dust by drinking from the wrong Holy Grail.
I didn’t even mention the part where Indiana Jones watched a Mesoamerican temple collapse into the earth so a UFO could take off into space from beneath it.
This man has seen things. What remains so cool to me about Indiana Jones, is that this archeologist and adventurer has witnessed wonder, the paranormal, and the magical and yet his overall posture is still - yeah, I don’t know.
Let’s watch the trailer….
If I saw any of these things, I’d become a nut job. Guaranteed. Either some kind of religious radical or a UFO tracker who protests outside government facilities and shows up on the History Channel once a year.
Still, Indiana says in this trailer for Dials of Destiny, “-things I can’t explain.”
This sits somewhere between stubbornness and raw, untainted humility. On the one hand, you could see how what Jones has witnessed would make you throw your hands up and go, okay there is no one answer to the universe. One the other hand, maybe all those competing truths (Hebrew God, Hindu dark magic, aliens) would cancel one another out in a cocktail of universalist confusion.
What do you believe in? How hard do you believe in it?
The philosopher Epictetus wrote in Discourses (108 AD) about impression & perception,
“First off, don’t let the force of the impression carry you away. Say to it, “hold up a bit and let me see who you are and where you are from…let me put you to the test.”
Epictetus is writing primarily about first impressions and the way humans interpret events and the actions of people. The idea is to test impressions in the same way a merchant in Rome would test the authenticity of coin. They become trained to drop the coin and based on the sound, know if it is counterfeit. Their eyes can deceive them, but more investigation and general skepticism can save them from being swindled. You think someone said that thing to hurt you? Maybe not. Maybe they really were complimenting you and your read of their words and intention was false. We know this to be true.
This Is The Way is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Indiana Jones is clearly like this. He has every reason to be a conspiracy fanatic and religious zealot, but he stays firmly planted in doubt.
You should be too. I say this as a Christian and believer in the divinity of Christ, for the record. Doubt keeps us searching, thinking, questioning, and reaching higher. Sure, there is a place for faith. Remember, Indiana Jones had to try out faith in The Last Crusade when he stepped out onto an invisible bridge arching across a bottomless canyon. It’s a beautiful scene. Faith has a virtuous role to play in life, it demands things of us that are challenging and enriching. Doubt sharpens us though. It makes us better.
Whether in religion, politics (IN THIS HOUSE WE BELIEVE…), identity, or science…doubt is worthy. Cause how sure are you, really? And why is it so important to you that you be 100% sure?
There’s a great new special on Netflix called Ancient Apocalypse. Apparently, it is controversial. Reason being that the presenter is Graham Hancock, a journalist, author, and amateur archeologist (non-credentialed) who believes that there was an advanced civilization on earth that existed during the last Ice Age around 8600 BC.
Over the course of the series, and in Hancock’s books, he has done pretty damn interesting research and exploration that suggests human civilization is a wee bit older than the history books currently claim. You could understand how academics with their names in those history books would be upset at the idea they could be wrong, after all they’d have a lot to lose. But why would an everyday person with no stake or training in this field be married to the popular theory of civilization rising at 4000 BC?
I had a friend chew me out the other day because I talked about this theory to them. They’re not a scientist either. Why would my friend be so animated about 4000 BC being the earliest possible time that humanity could have learned to build large structures? That’s a weird thing to be dogmatic about.
Part of Hancock’s view about academia is that they have built a narrative of human history that hinges on “human progress” and steady advancement over time as our primary story. This is the foundation of Progressivism, by the way. We are always getting better as a species, moving forward, and therefore all of our advancements should be held as “good.” Don’t question it!
When in reality, or Graham’s possible reality, human civilization is in constant cycles of decline and advancement and decline and advancement. Civilizations rise, and civilizations fall. There’s more to be learned about who we are, buried underneath rock and hidden in the sea.
I’m not really sure what I believe about the origins of advanced human civilization. I know what the history books say…the cradle of civilization was Mesopotamia. But how hard do I believe that?
Not hard. You’d just have to show me something else, something worthy.
“Let me put it to the test” - Epictetus
Hey friends and readers, I don’t know how it got to be December 2nd and a technical First Friday. Life comes at you fast, or at least me. Since it is short notice and I don’t know how to use a calendar, we will hold our “First Fridays Lunch” next week on December 9th at 12:30PM EST. This is a monthly video conference hangout where Paid Subscribers and myself get together, have a bite to eat (or morning coffee if you’re out west) and talk about big ideas + get to know one another.
That invite goes out via email to Paid Subscribers. So become one today! Hope you all had a restful holiday. I know I did!