Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Los 33
This morning I would like to reflect on an event that had captured the imagination of the whole world few weeks ago. I am referring to the story of ‘Los 33’ Chilean miners trapped inside the mine of San Jose.

Thanks to the great media coverage, we were all able to see the dramatic pictures of the rescue. We were touched, moved, inspired.... We even wept, as one miner after another was freed and welcomed by their relatives. After weeks of anxious uncertainty, finally they were back to their families – safe.

As I watched the remarkable events on television, I began to notice something interesting: I realised there were two different narratives taking place at the same time. One was about technology and engineering; the other was about faith and mystery.

On the one hand, we had the impressive rescue operation. An incredible display of engineering and technology. An effort that excelled by its rigorous and meticulous attention to detail. It was a masterpiece of efficiency. A great achievement for a small nation like Chile.

On the other hand, we have the people and their world view. As they shared their stories and articulated their experience, we discovered a fascinating world view: a beautiful away to explain life through allegories and metaphoric language, where the supernatural elements blended into reality without any conflict.

These two separate narratives were not at odds, but quite the contrary. It is amazing that all the advances of the modern world have not taken away this beautiful way to explain, interpreted and understands reality.

In their world view HOPE, FAITH, GOD, MIRACLE, MYSTERY sit together comfortably with high power drills, advanced technology and complex engineering. As they see it, the real and the fantastic can live together, as the material and the spiritual, the visible and the invisible, the natural and the supernatural, secular and sacred – Heaven and earth – God and technology.
The American news network CNN broadcast this story:
One of the miners wrote a letter to his brother telling him what happened before the accident. In the letter, he explained that on the day of the accident he was driving a vehicle trough the tunnels when suddenly something compelled him to stop suddendly. It was a display of white butterflies flying around. In all his years working in the mines he never have seen anything like that. He was stunned by the beauty and unusual nature of this incident. He had to stop. Seconds later the sealing of the mine collapsed in front of him, blocking the way out. If he had not stopped to admire the white butterflies, he would be buried. The white butterflies saved him. When the story become known in Camp Hope, people interpreted this incident as a miracle. They started to refer to the white butterflies as the ‘angelitos blancos’ – little white angels.

This story encapsulates the essence of this world view, where miracles and unexplained things can happen any time. Sadly, in the West we have lost this way of seeing things. That is why sometimes we feel at odds when we read the Bible, because the Bible is full of this kind of stuff. Our culture in the West has numbed our ability to see the world in a more holistic way.

One of the psychologists from NASA who had been advising the Chilean government explained that, in his opinion, the reason why the miners survived such as tough and hostile conditions was their faith. These people survived because they had a faith that gave them hope and strength in unbearable circumstances. Faith kept them alive.

This story of 33 men trapped in the dark womb of the earth maybe is a metaphor for all of us. Something we can learn from this story is that a holistic world view is the key to our survival.

Maybe that is the reason why this story has resonated and captured the imagination of the whole world.

Technology rescued the miners, faith save them.

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