You might be familiar with the story of the soccer players who survived a plane in the Andes from the movie “Alive.” The most sensationalistic part of their story is that some of them resorted to cannabalism to stay alive for two months in the snowy mountains.

 I read an article about Nando Parrado, one of the survivors, and he said the most amazing thing. It comes at a part of the story when he and another survivor decide to hike out, thinking that they are not far from civilization. When they crest a mountain, they find out that they are very wrong and that they are very, very far out in the middle of a mountain range:

The horizon was crowded in every direction with snow-covered mountains, each as steep and forbidding as the one I’d just climbed. I understood immediately that the Fairchild’s copilot had been badly mistaken. We had not passed Curicó. We were nowhere near the western limits of the Andes. Our plane had fallen somewhere in the middle of the range.

In that moment, all my dreams, assumptions, and expectations evaporated into the thin Andean air. I had always thought life was the natural thing, and death was simply the end of living. Now, in this lifeless place, I saw with terrible clarity that death was the constant, and life was only a short, fragile dream. I felt a sharp and sudden longing for my mother and sister, and for my father, whom I was sure I would never see again. But despite the hopelessness of my situation, the memory of him filled me with joy. It staggered me—the mountains could not crush my ability to love. In that moment, I discovered a simple, astounding secret: Death has an opposite, but it is not mere living. It is not courage or faith or will. The opposite of death is love. How had I missed that? How does anyone miss that? My fears lifted, and I knew that I would not let death control me. I would walk through that godforsaken country with love and hope in my heart. I would walk until I’d walked all the life out of me, and when I fell, I would die that much closer to home.

The opposite of death is love. The only way we make a life, a real life, is to love.

The original article was published in Outside Magazine in May 2006.

Nando Parrado has a book called Miracle in the Andes.