From the bowels of the earth to a tour of the world

Yesterday on my way to do Xmas shopping I heard a heart-warming* National Public Radio report on the Chilean miners who were trapped for more than two months underground, believing they were on the verge of death. Instead of dying, however, they were spectacularly rescued, and are now being feted all over the world.

Yesterday they had just been to see a Man United match and have photos  taken with the footballers. They were excited. They’ve been invited to the Greek islands, to travel with the Bolivian president, to a Real Madrid match in Spain, to Disneyland, to Hollywood… They have received lifetime passes to their favorite Chilean soccer team and gifts from prominent well wishers all over the world… They appeared on CNN Heroes, saluted with a standing ovation.

Chilean miners on CNN Heroes

Some of them expressed their disbelief at what was happening, and some said it was very dream-like, hard to see it as real. They also said that being rescued was “the end of a nightmare”.

Sometimes it is obvious, isn’t it, that life is completely changeable?! Not to mention that we have no clue what’s going to happen next. Everything is always changing, never lasting even a second moment. Nothing is fixed, even when it appears to be. Sometimes the change is not obvious, for example in settled parts of our lives, so we can get lured into complacency, grasping things as solid, permanent, fixed, real… Other times it is hard to hold onto that thought as things are moving so fast or in such strange, unexpected directions, in which case people say “This is like a dream!” or, when things suddenly turn from riches to rags, “This is like a nightmare!”

“All phenomena are like dreams”, said Buddha. Nothing is as real as it appears. At times when we are confronted with this in dramatic ways, like the miners, we can get natural glimpses of the dream-like nature of phenomena, even without having received philosophical teachings on this.

Since I wrote this article, I have now written an article on how all phenomena are like dreams: Am I dreaming?

*Postscript: “Heartwarming” was then ~ “We were like rock stars. People climbed trees to see us,” said one of them. This is now, August 2011, and their dream has turned from riches back to rags:

“One year after the cave-in, however, most have been returned to poverty, and some are even worse off than before the disaster. Several are struggling with the psychological and physical trauma of their ordeal, and all are struggling with the mixed blessings brought by instant – and unsought – fame.”