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Super Miners

Random Thoughts

The rescue of the Chilean miners who were buried underground for almost 70 days was so big, so dramatic, and has meaning on so many levels, there’s almost too much to talk about. These are just a few random thoughts.

• The story was so inspiring because these 33 men reminded us of the best that humanity is capable of. They showed us that it’s possible to endure and survive under the most challenging circumstances—and with grace. Usually when we hear about heroism it’s in battle, with blood and gore and malice for all – but here we have heroism of an entirely different kind. For the first 17 days of their entrapment the miners each ate two teaspoons of tuna fish a day. None of them jumped the foreman to grab the can, nobody argued over it (as far as we know); they cooperated. They respected their foreman, and followed him as their natural leader. They maintained dignity and self-discipline, and consistently acted in the best interests of the group, not as the ol’ “rugged individualists” more commonly praised for their egomania. I just hope the inevitable TV movie doesn’t go for false drama by inventing violence where none occurred.

• One thing that did not thrill me was all the super patriotism. The men’s stamina and exemplary behavior kept being attributed to their nationality, “the spirit of Chile.” The scene was a riot of chauvinistic jingoism: in between political slogans, President Piñiero kept saying things like they’d shown the world “the best of Chile.”  I’m not saying the same thing wouldn’t happen elsewhere: if it had been the United States you’d never hear the end of this kind of mawkish super-patriotism. To my mind, though, the men’s extraordinary behavior and survival, as I said, shows what human beings are capable of, regardless of which borders surround their homes. Merlin taught King Arthur “to see as an eagle sees.” What does an eagle see as he flies above Earth? No borders!

• Besides, the rescue was an international effort, another cause for celebration. NASA engineers acted as consultants, on the assumption that being confined in outer space is similar to confinement undeground. Companies and governments from around the world sent equipment, advisors, assistance—even designer sunglasses for the miners’ first entry into daylight! It just goes to show that when they want to, people can let go, at least temporarily, of blind attachment to nationhood, and cross borders to solve problems together.

• Prior to the rescue, crazy rumors abounded about the condition the miners would be in: some “experts” even predicted they’d get the bends during their elevator ride to the top. I wonder if they were disappointed to see one robust man after another emerge from the hole in the ground, laughing and/or crying, each looking healthy as a horse. Like the early astronauts, these miners possess The Right Stuff; no wonder NASA’s expertise fit the situation.

• Preparing for leaving day, the miners fought one another about the order in which they would go up and out. Were they jockeying for an early position? These guys? Nope, every one of them volunteered to be the last one to leave! In the end, their foreman / leader won the right to do so.

• I heard somewhere that all 33 made an agreement not to write books or give permission for competing projects, but that all would participate in any projects created out of their experience. If they can stick to that now that they’re back among the media moguls, movie spinners, publishers and agents, it will be yet another miracle. I just hope they make a fortune, every single one of them, from the Elvis idolizer to Super Mario, from the medic to the poet. Let every one of them make enough money so they never have to go down into the mines again.


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