Resonating Lessons from the Chilean Miners
The imagination of millions of people across the globe has
been captured by the daring rescue of the 33 men trapped deep
in a Chilean copper and gold mine for more than two months.
Men and women everywhere are talking about the ordeal, the
heroism, the persistence, the near miracle of surviving despite
the trying circumstances. Many story lines have been written,
and many more to come. Books will be composed, films produced
– and of course money made, as the commercial wheels
begin to exploit the story. Every human story of such drama
and tension grabs our attention and offers us many life lessons.
Yet, I cannot help but wonder whether this particular story
may perhaps carry a special type of resonance for all of us.
Something touches a deep chord in each of us when we hear
how these people were trapped 2300 feet into the earth, and
their entire survival was dependent on a rescue diet threaded
down to them through a tiny borehole. How Chilean doctors
ministered to them through tubes leading almost a half a mile
into the earth’s belly!
What is it in this story that rings so true for us? As I
was thinking about it, something jogged my memory that I could
not quite place. Until this morning. As I was researching
and preparing some copy for a particular project I am working
on, I came across the opening of the chapter on Redemption
in my book Toward A Meaningful Life:
Imagine that you have lived your entire life in a dark
tunnel. Your parents and grandparents lived here too, and
so did their parents and grandparents. You have grown accustomed
to the darkness and developed the necessary skills to survive.
You move through life, sometimes staggering in the dark, at
other times feeling your way along. You are totally resigned
to the fact that that is what life is, and that it will continue
to be so.
But you have been told or have read in some ancient books
that long ago, your ancestors lived in very different, well-lighted
place. You have heard that there is indeed a light at the
end of this tunnel, that you don’t necessarily have
to spend your entire life in darkness. However, you are skeptical
-- after all, this darkness is the only life you know. After
so many generations have lived in this tunnel, can you really
believe some old tale about the possibility of a life on the
outside? And besides, you have learned to cope here, to make
yourself comfortable in the darkness, so why would you want
to risk changing things?
And yet, something inside tells you that the darkness
is just not right for your life. No matter how accustomed
you have become to it, you still feel restless and insecure.
You realize that, although the darkness may be a part of life,
it is not life itself.
As we stumble and feel our way along through life, we
have all wondered if we will ever find true happiness. Will
we ever find peace within ourselves and lead a truly meaningful
life, or are we destined to a life fraught with fear and confusion?
Will virtue and kindness really prevail? If not, how can we
justify to ourselves and our children the need to adhere to
moral and ethical principles? After all, even though human
nature craves a higher purpose, what is the point of working
so hard to live a virtuous life if it is not leading anywhere?
The answer to all these questions is just one word: redemption.
Redemption is the light at the end of the tunnel. Redemption
is G-d telling us that the reason for which He created the
universe will indeed be realized -- that goodness will prevail
and that our lives can be meaningful. Redemption is both an
integral part of G-d’s plan and an integral part of
human life. Without redemption, our lives would indeed be
meaningless -- a never-ending tunnel of darkness, with little
awareness of an alternative existence and no hope of ever
reaching the light.
I remember vividly the late (or early, depending on your
life style) hour when I wrote those lines. It was deep into
the night, the time when even the busy streets in New York
quiet down. With most of the world asleep, the epiphany of
this tunnel metaphor came to me – based on an analogy
cited in Chassidic texts – capturing the story of our
Perhaps this is what is resonating so deeply in the hearts
of so many of us captivated by the ordeal and the rescue of
these 33 miners: Their story is our story. We all live in
a dark mine, and most of the time we are clueless to the fact.
We have gotten accustomed to the rituals and routines of our
respective “caves” and “tunnels.”
Sometimes the darkness is so deep that it conceals the very
fact that it is dark. Even cracks of light – the rain
from heaven, the blessings of life that nourish us through
tubes that come from on high – can be dismissed as simple
“nature,” shrugged off as “that’s
just the way it is,” without the slightest appreciation
of the miracle of existence. That’s how shrouded life
can be in the heart of the abyss. Indeed, the mystics use
the metaphor of a thin “thread” of light to explain
how the light of higher consciousness seeps into our veiled
existence, cloaked in the dark mantle of the great “tzimtzum.”
And yet, there are moments when we capture a glimpse of a
higher presence than the one we are so accustomed to in our
dark tunnels. The key is not dismiss those moments as anomalies,
but to recognize that the dark mine is the aberration. By
holding on with faith and hope, we too will be “rescued”
and finally reunite with the light outside the tunnel.
Maybe this is what is touching so many of us as we witness
the miraculous rescue of the 33 Chilean miners in the previously
unknown city of Copiapó.
The miners have been rescued and reunited with their families
and civilization on Earth. The question is will we on Earth
recognize that we too are in need of being rescued and freed
from the illusionary traps of our own dark existence? Or will
we return to the status quo, convincing ourselves that the
only reality is the one on this side of the curtain? Will
we realize that there is a higher perspective that look from
above at our lives in the “mine” of planet earth,
or will we delude ourselves into thinking that the only true
perspective is the tunnel vision of own myopic existence?
As you envision the scenes of the miners trapped 2300 feet
underground -- aided by the visuals, maps, replications and
all the other images that will surely fill newspapers, magazines
and TV in the coming days -- think about your own life: Are
you perhaps trapped -- not 2300 feet but far more psychologically--
in your own emotional quagmires, fears and insecurities? As
they survived there for two months, perhaps you too have learned
sophisticated coping mechanisms to deal with the harshness
of life on earth -- not just two months, but a lifetime?
And perhaps, just perhaps, your perceived reality is not
your natural space. And just as these miners did not give
up hope and did not accept their prison as "natural,"
so too, the key for us to discover redemption is recognizing
that our present circumstances is not the way it was meant
to be; that we are trapped in a tunnel, and we firmly believe
that freedom is just minutes away.
Which perspective will you embrace?
The choice is yours.