Like the rest of the world I have been gripped and bouyed up by the incredible rescue of the Chilean miners this week.
I have been struck by some astounding details within the astounding big story.
Firstly, it is impossible to ignore the extraordinary, surreal symbolism of the whole event. 33 miners swallowed by the earth, like Jonah into the whale, and spat out again 1,600 hours later. Together, 33 men gestating in the belly of the earth, finally to be born, staggering and blinking into the daylight via a lonely 16 minute journey up a shaft, and into the arms of emotional families, sobbing with relief and joy. The President greeted each miner with the words, "Welcome to life", the re-birthing complete. What the 'new' life will present to each man is impossible to guess, but surely their lives will be marked and changed forever by their experiences.
People talk of it being a miracle, Diego Maradona was apparently tweeting from Argentina yesterday, "Miracles do exist". I think there have been so many miracles in this story - miraculous patience and discipline of the miners (who apparently survived on two spoons of tuna and a sip of milk every 48 hours for the first 17 days), the miracle of modern engineering and science that enabled the rescue, the fact that one man could watch the birth of his child via a video-link sent down a bore-hole no wider than an orange, the miracle that none of the men lost their minds or the will to live, never knowing for sure if they would survive...so many miracles in the face of dire predictions and unimaginably dreadful possibilities.
Most poignant of all to me, having a 7 year old son myself, was to see the son of one of the miners, crying on seeing his father emerge, hugging him, crying some more and finally laughing with him. Well done to The Times for finding the words of Chile's most famous poet, Pablo Neruda: "My struggle is harsh and I come back with eyes tired at times from having seen the unchanging earth, but when your laughter enters it rises to the sky seeking me and it opens for me all the doors of life".
It is a story, and a set of smaller stories, of what is possible, what miracles can be found when human skill and will and heart is utterly committed to positive action. Some of the miners have pointed to God as the bringer of this miracle and individual faith has clearly been a huge factor for many of the men. Science has also saved them. God and science brought together in the Atacama desert. Faith, hope, leadership and solidarity have been shown to be vital, the President of Chile has reminded us. Not fashionable words, or new, but a reminder. The eldest miner, as if to shed light on life for the rest of us, said, "Sometimes you need something to happen in your life to really reflect and understand that we only have one life. I am a different person". Words to live by.