“We were all absurdly out of place here, like a seahorse in the desert, or a flower on the moon. A dread began to form in my mind, an unformed thought that I was not yet able to verbalize: Life is an anomaly here, and the mountains will tolerate that anomaly for only so long.” – Nando Parrado
I just finished reading Miracle in the Andes, by Nando Parrado. This first-person account of the almost-insurmountable challenges faced by the survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes Mountains (first recounted in the book, Alive) was really powerful. I was going to say that reading this book transformed me – but that’s not quite right. Reading about other peoples’ transforming experiences doesn’t really transform us – but it serves to connect us to them. Although few of us have ever experienced the depth of suffering that Nando and his fellow survivors experienced in the Andes, most of us can relate, in at least a small way, to feelings of grief, hopelessness, and the need to “carry on ” even when the odds seem stacked against us. Reading *Miracle in the Andes* was oddly reassuring to me – it made me realize that none of us is alone in our challenges – that others have struggled against odds that seemed impossible, and survived. Reading about Nando’s struggles and incredible perserverance against all odds, helped validate, for me, the lessons and small triumphs of my own life.
I connected to the spirituality of this book. It was written by a man who no longer believes in the traditional God of his religious upbringing. He writes: “…I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence.” A little later, he writes: “It wasn’t cleverness or courage or any kind of competence or savvy that saved us, it was nothing more than love, our love for each other, for our families, for the lives we wanted so desperately to live.”
I guess that’s what stands out for me in this book – this acknowledgement of the power and presence of love, and our connection to our fellow beings. Through all the struggles and challenges, love was the one thing that kept Nando going. He committed to using every ounce of energy left to him to move his body closer to his home and father.
As Arturo Nogueira, a fellow plane crash survivor, tells Nando: “I want you to remember, even in this place, our lives have meaning. Our suffering is not for nothing. Even if we are trapped here forever, we can love our family, and God, and each other as long as we live. Even in this place, our lives are worth living.”
So long as we can love, our lives have meaning. So long as we can love, our lives are worth living.
“God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more?” – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy