Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Local Hero

A tribute to Sir Edmund Hillary, who died 11 January, one half of the team that first reached the summit of Mt. Everest or Chomolungma to its local Nepalese population, from Time magazine's 100 Heroes and Icons series dated 14 June 1999. Read the entire article here

In the words of Jan Morris who wrote the article:

"Both, of course, were showered with worldly honors, and accepted them with aplomb. Both became the most celebrated citizens of their respective countries and went around the world on their behalf. But both devoted much of their lives to the happiness of an archetypically unprivileged segment of mankind: the Sherpas, Tenzing's people, true natives of the Everest region. Tenzing, who died in 1986, became their charismatic champion and a living model of their potential. Grand old Ed Hillary, who is still robustly with us, has spent years in their country supervising the building of airfields, schools and hospitals and making the Sherpas' existence better known to the world. Thus the two of them rose above celebrity to stand up for the unluckier third of humanity, who generally cannot spare the time or energy, let alone the money, to mess around in mountains.

I thought their brand of heroism — the heroism of example, the heroism of debts repaid and causes sustained — far more inspiring than the gung-ho kind. Did it really mean much to the human race when Everest was conquered for the first time? Only because there became attached to the memory of the exploit, in the years that followed, a reputation for decency, kindness and stylish simplicity. Hillary and Tenzing fixed it when they knocked the bastard off."

Sigh.....we could do with a few more like you and Tenzing. Rest in Peace, Sir Edmund.