Friday, October 22, 2010

Alive

I've always enjoyed the story told in the movie/book "Alive," about the members of an Uruguyan rugby team whose plan crashes on a flight over the Andes in 1972. The survivors were stranded at 13,000 feet. Of those who survived, some succumbed to their injuries. Others died in an avalanche days later. They learned from the radio that the search for them had been called off. Starving, they resorted to eating flesh off the bodies of their friends. Finally, two of the strongest men decided to hike down, somehow, and find help.

A horrific story indeed, and the macabre part of me in the past would always dwell on the gory details. But as I was watching a documentary on the experience the other night, the lightbulb went off. This is a survival story! There is so much more to it than the tragedy.

The men who went hiking down the mountain had to first climb up a practically sheer wall of rock, the whole time climbing without gear or proper clothing and with the misconception that they were on the edge of the Andes and just over that peak would be the beautiful green Chilean countryside down below. They did not realize that their plane had crashed in the middle of the Andes, and so when they reached the top of that peak, after three grueling days, all they saw, as far as they could see, were mountains, more mountains, the glare white of impossible snow-capped peaks. They sank to the ground in despair. But then they got up again and kept walking. Said one of them in retrospect, "The only reason we went forward is because we knew we couldn't go backward. We felt we would die out there, but we knew we had to at least die trying."

They hiked nearly 40 miles in 10 days. They didn't die trying, even though every step felt like it. The men encountered a rancher and were rescued, 72 days after crashing in the Andes.

As I was watching I kept staring at the jagged peaks, the solitude, the awful beauty, the impossibility. How many of us have had those moments where we think we are past something, have accomplished something, are close to our goal, only to suddenly reach the top and realize the journey will be so much more difficult, heartbreakingly difficult? How many times have we pushed forward only because we know we can't go back? There are moments that all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and know we are moving even if it doesn't feel as if we're making any kind of dent in the distance.

At the end of the ordeal, in retrospect one of the men said, "Life is so much more simple than I thought." The journey was complex, but life was simple. Life is simple. "Life is love," he said. "There are so many things I thought were important that were not."

Words to remember, as we journey through this life. What we value, what we treasure, what we hold close to us, can make all the difference in the trip.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. - Colossians 3:2

1 comment:

rhemashope said...

i've never seen the movie or read the book, but what an inspiring story (and post)! i am so relating to this right now, in more ways than one: 'How many of us have had those moments where we think we are past something, have accomplished something, are close to our goal, only to suddenly reach the top and realize the journey will be so much more difficult, heartbreakingly difficult? How many times have we pushed forward only because we know we can't go back?'

thank you for this.