“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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Dag Hammarskjold, Tough Mentor in “Markings”

Only tell others what is of importance to them.  Only ask them what you need to know.  In both cases, that is, limit the conversation to what the speaker really possesses — Argue only in order to reach a conclusion. Think aloud only with those to whom this means something.  Don’t let small talk fill up the time and the silence except  as a medium for bearing unexpressed messages between two people who are attuned to each other.  A dietary for those who have learned by experience the truth of the saying, “For every idle word . . . ” But hardly popular in social life.

– – – Dag Hammarskjold, Markings, p.44

“But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

– – – Matthew 12: 36-37

I do not recall when I first read Dag Hammarskjold’s Markings, but his words have been with me for years.  I may have been a teenager or certainly a college sophomore.  My copy of Markings has nearly more bookmarks than pages which means his every thought struck me as profound.  Hammarskjold has had an honored place in my bed stand.  He was profoundly spiritual, poetic and a great man of state.

Dietary? Yes and a lean one at that.  And Matthew’s words, also, are austere and tough as well.  Obviously neither man had much truck with gossip and idle drivel.  But does it mean we are not to enjoy a little small talk, hanging out with friends?  No, enjoy it seems, if friends can attune to each other.  That’s the meaning of hearing unexpressed messages.  What expectations for friendship!  On some rare occasions I may have been attuned in this manner.  Still, how can a man be sure he has truly understood an “unexpressed message?”  Anyway, who has time for judicious language, let alone thought? There’s danger here.  Best to chat about the Chiefs or the Royals, eh?

By our words we are both justified and condemned.  Think what this means these days when stupid use of words flows daily in torrents of misuse, abuse, intent and non-intent.  No, serious, careful, judicious speech is colorless and boring.  So what is “telling it like it is?’  Who can presume to know truth?

David Milliken


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