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Miners, sinners and the Saviour

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 20:59 UK time, Wednesday, 20 October 2010

At our latest editorial meeting, which in BBC slang is called a "post-mortem", we discussed the big stories we had covered last week.

Naturally the main focus was on the Chilean miners story.

One by one journalists around the table described aspects of the story that made it relevant to millions of listeners, viewers and readers.

It's a human story, which has economic and business angles. It was also about the race against time, pitting the engineering effort against nature's deadlines. The rescue operation brought not just the whole nation, but the world together, and it became a truly global story. It changed the image of Chile to the world.

What I think made this amazing story relevant - not even to millions - but billions of people, is its 'salvation' element/archetype.

Salvation is one of the most ancient and deepest archetypes of the human psyche. It is reflected in the oldest myths and poems like the Epic of Gilgamesh or Hades, and placed in the very core of many world religions, particularly Abrahamic ones.

Look at the story of rescuing Chilean miners and it has all the elements of 'salvation': caught in the underworld by a deadly disaster, they find themselves at an obscure border between life and death. After a month they receive a message of hope, they are there for another 40 days in purgatory, not knowing if there is a Hereafter or what their fate is. Finally there is a happy end.

For some of people it's just an efficient engineering and rescue operation, for others - a mystical miracle with lots of symbolic signs, like those 40 days, and the 33 miners. Here's an excerpt from the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and his fairy tale King Saltan:

Once home again, he told the swan about old Chernomor and the 33 knights, and lamented that he had never seen such a wonder. "These knights are from the great waters that I know," the swan said. "Don't be sad, for these knights are my brothers and they will come to you."

Later, the prince went back and climbed a tower of his palace and gazed at the sea. Suddenly, a giant wave rose high and deep onto the shore, and when it receded, 33 knights in armour, led by old Chernomor, emerged, ready to serve Prince Gvidon. They promised that they would come out of the sea each day to protect the city.

I have even read that some churches of different denominations are claiming their part in the miraculous outcome, but for me the rescue of Chilean miners has now set a benchmark against which other rescue efforts will be measured, be it Chinese miners or Russian submarine crew.

What are the stories - real or fictional - that resonate with you?

The note from the Chilean miners. It reads

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