Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I cry when I watch the Olympics, profoundly moved by the human spirit that makes people go beyond what they believe to be possible.

Tonight, I am hoping to cry such tears but not simply about games. Tonight 32 Chilean men and a Bolivian man will be - God willing - raised a kilometre through the rock that has entombed them since August 5.

I can think of two other stories that resonate deeply in the same way: one is the story of Ernest Shackleton whose ill-fated 1914 trek to the South Pole resulted in the most remarkable story of courage and survival I've ever heard. The bottom line with this story is that despite three years under horrifying and isolated conditions as well as a nearly-impossible rescue, every single man survived. You can read his story here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Shackleton

The other story is that of the Apollo 13 space mission. You've seen the movie. You've seen how ingenuity coupled with courage and providence made all the difference in getting them home. That and hope.

I want this one to be the third. I wonder which conditions would be the least hospitable - living in pack ice in the antarctic winter, being isolated in a small capsule in space, or being deep in the bowels of the earth. I suppose space is truly the least life-sustaining but really, I don't choose any of the options.

People keep using images of birth for tonight's rescue. I think it is apt.

What moves me most here is that no one ever gave up. The miners persisted in their tasks with stoicism and deep unyielding faith. The families have camped out at the site, wives and mistresses alike. There has been a baby born - named Esperanza. No expense has been spared and people from around the world have shared their expertise. For 33 men.

It is also a picture of salvation for me. A very clear picture. A rescue of people who cannot rescue themselves, and who have to believe that rescue is coming and entrust themselves to their rescuers. How far would you go to rescue someone who could not rescue themselves, I ask. And how far did someone go to rescue me.

Tomorrow, if all goes well, hope will turn to great rejoicing.

The Apollo 13 astronauts went on to careers in business and politics. Ernest Shackleton, by contrast, had a hard time returning home after the grueling conditions he faced and died prematurely from heart conditions caused by his years on the ice. I have to wonder about the 33 men being reborn tonight - what their futures will hold. I've heard there are television and movie contracts being negotiated, visits with royalty and politicians, and financial rewards. I hope there's more for them too - not stuff and ceremony - but more.

Something that kept them hoping these 68 days,


  1. It did look like a birth--in fact there were so many metaphorical resonances. It looked like a journey from the underworld to above. From darkness to light. From tomb to life. The tiny capsule made it necessary for each journey to be private, alone, individual. It was almost impossible to stop watching, once I'd let myself start (yeseterday afternoon after supper).

    I also enjoyed watching the live feed and listening to the Spanish (and understanding it!). La fe, la fuerza, la comunidad, y la esperanza. May it go well with these men and their families.

    (I must admit that my storyteller self is deeply interested in what comes next ... what will the unpredictable changes be in their lives to come, how will they be changed?).