Alas, though the queen yet lives and the U.S. still rules the roost, the world now is probably too technological and too packaged to allow anymore for much of that independent panache. Too bad. Not even victory can ever be as precious as venturing into a time or a place that has previously denied our intrusion. "Even if I hadn't climbed Everest," Hillary says with complete assurance, "still, I know I would've lived an adventurous life."
But will anyone be able to say that about a 21st-century life? Ironically, the new wonders we create in laboratories serve only to reduce the majesty of the natural world, so that the past's adventurer becomes the present's tourist; yesterday's milestones, today's "highlights."
But what Hillary and Bannister pioneered is forever secure in the history—and the legend, too—of our whole time and place. This is especially true because both of the men who achieved these feats when they were young went on to live examined lives, full of generosity and curiosity, so that what they became serves even more to ennoble what they did once, for us all, so many springtimes ago.