Dag Hammarskjold, Hero of the UN Charter

In Katanga 1960I cannot fully explain my fascination with this man and his life. He was never my friend in the flesh and yet he was, a vicarious one.  I have had other vicarious friends because of what they were, what they did, what they tried to do and failed, how they dreamed and died and were forgotten.  Few people today have even heard of Dag Hammarskjold.  He was not the martyred, eloquent reformer as Martin Luther King  was.  He was not the towering, martyred statesman as Abraham Lincoln was.  Hammarskjold never crusaded like Joan of Arc  There was no flamboyance in the man. His suit was a little rumpled. Quite the contrary, he was artistic. poetic contemplative — a quiet man who performed no miracles. An acquaintance of celebrity, he was no celebrity.  Hammarskjold was not assassinated in a theatre box, nor shot on the street nor burned at the stake.  His plane, the Albertina, just crashed in the heart of darkness near the source of the Congo in 1961.  His martyrdom is still unproved.

He was accused of having a Christ-complex  — a criticism now discredited.  He was simply an imitator of Christ as all Christians are asked to be.  But he did it. As a diplomat and negotiator little was more important than the use of language, the word. A man’s word is sacred.  If Jesus, as Hammarskjold said was the “hero of the Gospels,” this Secretary-General was the hero of the UN Charter.  He lived and died as a peacemaker,

As most of his advocates, I discovered Dag Hammarskjold sometime in the Sixties, but I cannot remember precisely when.  Over the years he has often banished my insomnia and inspired my soul.  You must know his diary, Markings,  to love the man — and much more.  Soon you discover that he’s a disciple of Christ in a summer suit behind a podium.  And his words are a threshold to Another Place.   I am just at the threshold.  David Milliken

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“Hammarskjold A Life” Recommended When the Climb Seems Endless

In Katanga 1960Mountain climbing  is a life metaphor for Hammarskjold, especially “when the leg muscles quiver under the strain, the climb seems endless, and suddenly, nothing will go quite as you wish — it is then that you must not hesitate.”(Markings. p.124)  For in life as well as in the complex prose of Hammarskjold A Life striding its way up slope through the complexities of diplomacy, international relations. history and world politics in search of a summit, the reader must not hesitate for clearings do appear.  But have no expectation of ultimate understanding and truth.  This book like its subject is about unrelenting perseverance and faith.  Lipsey’s journey is worth the studied effort required.  Frequent stops along the trail and slow sipping of water are necessary.

I do not recall exactly when or how I discovered Dag Hammarskjold, nor does Lipsey in his experience. I may have been as young as nineteen.  That was when the Albertina crashed in the Congo, killing all aboard.  More and more I am convinced that Dag Hammarskjold was martyred to the cause of peace and justice in the world.  I believe he lived his spiritual life and worldly mission in the imitation of Christ; yet nowhere can I find him self-righteous nor sanctimonious.  Like David he faced off against secular giants like Khrushchev, DeGaulle and Chou En Lai.  While he was thoroughly Christian, he could not and did not wear it on his sleeve.  He couldn’t because he lived and breathed the ideals of an enormous secular organization.  He represented the nexus of all the world’s religions where they meet in peace and justice.

And he was a poet.  Percy Bysshe Shelley in his “A Defence of Poetry” extols the ultimate poet as a person of action as well as beauty.  Hammarskjold represents that kind of hero as an “unacknowledged legislator of the world.”  I suppose one could place Lincoln and Martin Luther King in such a category, but they have been acknowledged by history.  Perhaps the pending investigation by the UN into the mystery of the  Hammarskjold death will finally make him one of the acknowledged.

If you want to know this man a little, start with his Markings, his conversation with God.  Next, take up Lipsey’s Dag Hammarskjold.  Lipsey’s work links Hammarskjold’s trail marks with specific events in the Secretary General’s life.                 David Milliken

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UN poised to open fresh inquiry into 1961 Dag Hammarskjöld crash | World news | The Guardian

The United Nations’ general assembly is set to approve a fresh inquiry into the death of the organisation’s secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjöld, in a 1961 air crash.

Sweden will present a resolution to the assembly on Monday calling for the creation of an independent panel of experts to look at one of the great political mysteries of the 60s: why a plane carrying one of its most famous diplomats came down over what is now Zambia, but was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia.

The resolution cites the emergence of new evidence and calls for the UN panel to examine it “and to assess its probative value”. It also appeals to governments to release documents about the Hammarskjöld crash that have remained secret until now. The resolution has 20 co-sponsors from around the world and is expected to win overwhelming support.

via UN poised to open fresh inquiry into 1961 Dag Hammarskjöld crash | World news | The Guardian.

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Galapagos tortoise dies at Akron Zoo

AKRON — A female Galapagos tortoise that has been at the Akron Zoo since October 1992 has died.

Azul, which weighed 165 pounds and was 32 inches long, would have been 26 years old this June. Her shell was 16 inches tall.

She was one of two on exhibit at the Akron Zoo.

Zoo officials say animal care staff noticed a change in Azul’s behavior last week. After performing a CT scan and ultrasound, it was found that she had a “larger than normal amount of fluid around her heart.”

The fluid was removed and Azul was treated with antibiotics as staff monitored her heart daily. — more —

via Galapagos tortoise dies at Akron Zoo.

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Ohio Superintendent tells Ohio Department of Education enough is enough – The Highland County Press – Hillsboro, Ohio

In fact, I believe the following quote from the 1983 A Nation at Risk is most applicable to what is being done to public education: “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.”

Simply replace the phrase “unfriendly power” and insert our “state and federal governments.” In essence, the narrow assessment frenzy is moving us toward achieving the mediocrity referenced in the above quote.

via Superintendent tells ODE enough is enough – The Highland County Press – Hillsboro, Ohio.

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Governor Brownback, Let Us Bust One Sod at a Time

o-STRESS-TIPS-570Once upon a time, all Americans busted sod, even in Ohio where I was reared.  Because my stepmother told me that comparisons are odious, I’m not going to put either of my states down, but there are useful comparisons and contrasts when it comes to selecting a model. Brownback loves Texas and I will get to that awe-inspiring state in a minute.

First, there’s Ohio: history of agriculture and industry, especially heavy machinery and automobiles — commerce connected with big coal, big steel in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan — Rust Belt state suffered great job and population loss — benefits from river and lake commerce — labor-management strife — ethnically diverse —excellent location — drive-through Ohio on the way to somewhere else — Ohioans are roamers and love Florida — emerging from fly over status — professional athletics in big stadiums — Go Bucks! — beautiful scenery — good urban rural mix — nice place to live, not flashy — never been a hot spot — comfortable, temperate climate — bellwether microcosm — liberal-conservative balance — dense population — three dominating cities — income tax. Has its challenges and discontents.

Next, there’s Kansas — big time agriculture — fly over image — never been a hot spot — Go Jayhawks and Wildcats! — nice  place to live and work, but not flashy — sunflower summers — sunsets and skies to die for — moderate  winters and windy — sparse population — rural and suburban mix  —. big time FRIENDLY state — Republican bias — no dominating city — Tall Grass prairie — culturally dependent on Kansas City(Missouri)  excellent schools — fiercely independent —  Income tax. Has its challenges and discontents but nice place.

Both Ohio and Kansas like most states have “best kept secrets” and undervalued assets, i.e. know us to love us.   Flat Kansas resembles flat Texas without Dallas, Houston and the Gulf of Mexico. Varied Ohio resembles varied New York without New York City. In Kansas many love to hate Texas.  Many Ohioans love to hate Michigan.  Most likely both Buckeyes and Wolverines are content with their likes and dislikes and don’t care who hates them.  Texas will never be California and Ohio will never be New York and Kansas will never be Texas, so maybe work on national, mutual admiration should be a goal?  Let us not covet what each other has and, much lament what each other does not have.

I know little about Ohio’s governor.  I assume all Americans get what they vote for.  In Kansas some got what they voted for. Most voted for a politician who wants Kansas to be like Texas, especially income tax free.  I suspect that Gov. Brownback would be happy to see Overland Park -Wichita become Dallas-Ft. Worth. Such an expectation is not unrealistic for this man.  I believe Gov. Brownback covets Texas. I believe that is a problem.  I tend to covet John Steinbeck and that is a problem. Over expectations can be debilitating and belittling of what assets one has.

Before Brownback dreamed about being more like Texas and hallucinated about ending Kansas income tax overnight, Kansas had its problems, particularly funding education and job growth — just like every other state.   Ohio had a near constitutional crisis over its schools and job loss has plagued the entire Rust Belt.  Too many folks moved south and southwest. No news there.

Unless Brownback has a way to move beautiful mountains, an ocean, Silicone Valley and the Las Vegas Strip to Kansas, I think it’s time for him to make peace and settle for just a better home on the range or a bluff overlooking the Ohio River.  Be a happy Midwesterner, Sam, or move to Texas.  We are what we are, also what we can become..  .

By all means, Governor, work a lean, mean, progressive budget. Work hard to provide for the poor and the elderly. Make a generous state and they will come.  Keep our education among the best. But let’s do it our way, huh?  Bust one sod at a time, chop it down, rake it fine, water and fertilize it. Bless the seasons. Ad Astra per Aspera. You want the Presidency, but many of us, if any, do not.

David Milliken

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Deflategate Recalls the Strawberry Incident Aboard USS Caine


“We ought to have some fun on the ship for a change, what with our little detective work to do,” said Captain Queeg to the officers assembled in the USS Caine wardroom. I doubt that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are anticipating such pleasant bemusement as Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice-president, begins his investigation of Deflate Gate.. Nor can I imagine either man being paranoid about anything; let alone some frozen strawberries or loose football needle — besides such egos tend to know their real enemies. But someone on board the USS Patriot has got to be paranoid about now — perhaps someone at a lower level like a Navy mess cook. Queeg would have a theory to explain the lost air..

After some 40 interviews Pash is just about where Queeg was when he launched his great, ship search. The crew has been interrogated. Remember? Someone aboard the Caine must have made a duplicate key to the minesweeper’s reefer. All that was necessary was to find it. Somewhere in someone’s locker, pocket, even hidden in a helmet or jockstrap there’s a football needle. So, let’s get on with sleuthing Deflate Gate..

There are contrasts between the Strawberry Gate and Deflate Gate. The Caine was an old obsolete tub assigned to duller aspects of war like towing practice targets. The minesweeper is obsolete, its officers and crew, cynical, demoralized, bored and apathetic. Ethics and morality in the wardroom permitted little leeway for stone throwing. No one aboard was a hero, including Ensign Keith. From a distance they watched through binoculars a very real war with modern ships and modern battles, vital war and real death. The New England Patriots, the flagship of the NFL, plies the waters of football with red, white and blue unfurled to self-esteem and their glorious past on the gridiron. They have the best quarters and equipment money can buy. All the Caine had was a bridge displaying battle ribbons from her past and a shell-shocked skipper.

It did not occur to Queeg that if there was a duplicate key. It would have been deep sixed seconds after the missing strawberries had been noticed; and so would the missing football needle And so the farcical “investigation” will continue until there’s a scandal revealed or created. Perhaps a ball boy will be hanged from the yard arm or keel hauled.

Perhaps the NFL officials should just take over management of game balls. Or better yet, both teams could play with the same balls, benefiting from their mutual chicaneries. Hanky panky evens out. That’s often just good business. Unfortunately that would prove as promising as good sportsmanship in Congress. In all these tempestuous teapots and venal venues, can we not find bigger minds somewhere? Really important matters to resolve? The NFL could declare ball needling an honored part of the game like concussions. And the fans could be let alone to enjoy the play of consenting adults.

David Milliken

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All the Befores and Afters Lead to Now: Thinking about the Absurd

o-STRESS-TIPS-570When you are seventy, there is one helluva  lot of “afters.”  And historically speaking there are just as many “befores.” Futuristically speaking, there will always be a diminishing supply of both.  Inevitably such  considerations lead to the absurd, even ridiculous, which can be depressing or amusing — sufficiently so that one wonders why bother with such thoughts. Without caution and discipline a man can make of his Golden Years either a heaven or a hell.  Retirement can be either opportune or inopportune for discovering the absurd.

My dictionary of philosophy and religion does not define absurd which seems absurd in itself.  The term must not be considered philosophical or religious so let’s go with Wikipedia which says “absurdism” expresses the conflict between human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and human inability to find any. Oops, I changed the word,  Very well, I changed the word, but the idea is still with us.  Anyway, this is what I want to write about: absurdism.  So why, you ask, are you considering this at seventy?  The answer may be that I thought too much in the sixty-nine years before or I haven’t settled on a good story to explain life, yet I know I have.  I’ll get to this. Oh, I would add that the absurd must also be unreasonable and incongruous.

I have to admit that I have been obsessed with a need for inherent value and meaning in life.  And I haven’t been entirely satisfied in finding anything absolute either. Perhaps, meaning can only come through imagination. Oh, I can see meaning in being fruitful, multiplying and parenting, in being soldier or policeman, lawyer or pharmacist, in farming, teaching, in short in most any calling or decent human endeavor.

It has taken me a lifetime and perhaps to this very moment, to realize that all of these specific, relative and contingent callings give life its meaning and value.  Teaching a dog to play ball has its value. and inherent meaning.  A taste for the little in life is required.

We value the befores for the promise of accomplishment.  In the before we begin naively, perhaps romantically, and then in the after take reward in the triumph of experience and realism and that we survived from before to after.  The before is a place of mystery and illusion that gives way to truth and understanding.  The process is what makes regret absurd.

No, it is the pursuit of absolutes that makes life messy and us miserable; and desperate whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim.  In the afters we learn children can be mean, priests sinful, parents ignorant, teachers wrong, soldiers savage, politicians lying and ourselves silly — so on it goes.

By seventy I have learned that logic and reason also fail. I shall always be incredulous regarding Immaculate Conception, Resurrection, Damnation, Beatification, Incarnation et cetera. As Spock would say, “They are not logical.”

” But Spock, the logical fails, too.”

After logic, reason and  the absolutes all fail, what remains is story,  narrative, gospel.  Nothing explains the afters and befores better than the story if it be a good story.  And only the story makes sense of Now.

David Milliken


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I Need a Laugh: WUMO

Today, I read WUMO again.  It’s  a comic strip that’s growing on me. Steve faces an alligator playing a trombone and the caption reads, “Feeling absolutely nothing upon encountering an alligator playing the trombone, Steve knew he had lost all interest in life.”

It was the morning after the State of the Union address.  Years ago I used to watch and listen to the State of the Union and, oh how seriously I took it. For me that goes all the way back to Eisenhower and well before deja vu, cynicism — skepticism at best, had set in.  My parents used to play gin rummy or Scrabble as well as chatter when they watched the annual address to the nation.  For them there was more sense and gravity when the president was Republican.

Last night, when the speech was over, I regretted not spending two hours reading or playing catch with my new terrier.  My feelings and thoughts about our President and the loyal opposition had nothing to do with my mood.  It was, rather the whole ritual and especially the bored journalists who commented vacuously on everyone’s  vacuous palaver. And I didn’t feel like an engaged, voting citizen — as I used to.  Speech that is non-speech causes my apathy. .  It has to be that way, you know, because we expect no real content from no one.  Content loses elections.

Right now, I see two images: a terrifying man in a black mask holding a knife over two Japanese citizens dressed in orange and an alligator playing a trombone.  I have not lost my interest in life which the image of terror  renders so very precious.  Both images are absurd, but WUMO makes me laugh.  I need a laugh.

David Milliken

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