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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Dag Hammarskjöld, Reflection 1

In Katanga 1960

Certain people have  affected me profoundly.  For this reason I post a reflection on Dag Hammarskjöld(1905-1961).  Hammarskjold was the third secretary-general of the United Nations during the Cold War period. Prior to that he was secretary of the Bank of Sweden and under-secretary in the Ministry of Finance.  He earned a degree in the humanities and a doctorate in economics at Upsala University.  Highly privileged he was also highly humbled. Hammarskjold embodied the mind and spirit of scholar, diplomat, international leader, poet and mystic —  fundamentally Christian but well-versed in Islam, Buddhism and Judaism.   I believe he pursued the  One.

Hammarskjold opens his famous Markings with a quotation from Meister Eckhart(1260-1327):  “Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.”

I believe Hammarskjold used this quotation first because Eckhart was a soul mate and second because Markings is neither strictly an autobiography nor memoir. Markings is not a diary or journal either.  His markings are  trail marks through his poignant,  shaping experiences.  There is evidence that he also constantly changed his marks throughout his life.  This indicates a man constantly reflecting on  truth, truth in his  own intellectual and spiritual growth and his utter  commitment  to  international harmony.

I picture a little boy in school, his tongue licking his lips, diligently writing with a pencil and then with equal ardor erasing and correcting  his tablet.  He would have been someone dedicated to “getting it right” in all that he did personally and publicly.  He was less interested in recording events than in how his hike was evolving. Most likely he did not ever find “the true thing,” but I must believe he came very close.  I can see this avid hiker in Lapland earnestly making his way to the top,  finding many truths which he hoped would cohere into one Truth — all in the adventure of solving the Mystery. What a wonderful trail mate he would have been.

 

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