The Man and a Mystery

The way, You shall follow it.

Success, You shall forget it.

The cup, You shall empty it.

The pain, You shall conceal it.

The answer, You shall learn it.

The end, You shall endure it. 

Dag Hammarskjöld ‘Markings’

I have found the journal writings of Dag Hammarskjöld* a rich source of comfort and help. A Swede, he was the second UN Secretary General from 1953-61. President Kennedy called him the greatest statesman of the century. Here is the late Kofi Annan, another Sect. General…

“His wisdom and his modesty, his unimpeachable integrity and his single-minded devotion to duty, have set a standard for all servants of the international community — and especially, of course for his successors — which is simply impossible to live up to”.

“Dag Hammarskjöld and the 21st Century” – Lecture. K. Annan, 6 Sept 2001.

With such high praise what lay behind this man?

He died whilst in office in Sept 1961 when his plane crashed in Ndola, Zambia on a peacekeeping mission to the newly independent Congo. What actually happened remains an enduring mystery and has generated conspiracy theories even to this day, almost 50 years later. 

After his death a diplomat friend published Hammarskjöld’s private Swedish journal ‘Vägmarken’ (‘Way Marks’). They were found in his New York apartment along with an undated letter saying: 

“If you find these notations worth publishing, you have my permission to do so – … concerning my negotiations with myself – and with God”.

Translated to English as ‘Markings’ they are available with a reader’s guide here. His generally short, stand-alone entries make no direct references to the backdrop of his office and the high stakes ‘peacekeeping’ during the Cold War and negotiations with the great powers of the day. The guide remarks do give some helpful background to geopolitical and personal events surrounding these private journal entries. The journal reveals a man grappling with his commitment to follow Jesus, the sacrifice that involves and the desire to serve his fellow man. There is profound joy, intense loneliness and deep honesty as to his failings. Also wistful longing for his homeland and his passion for the simple pleasures of nature and hill walking in Lapland. Much more I could recommend. Given what happened to him reading the journal you could be forgiven for thinking some of what he said was prescient. As a journal the daily entries are short and stand alone but if this is not for you you can browse some of his quotes.

However if you don’t want words dwell for a moment on the picture above. I took it when visiting DH’s retreat** in Backåkra, Sweden some years ago. A peaceful setting with a farmhouse and gentle, rolling fields down to the coast. Here dwelt one who visibly strode the world stage yet like an iceberg there was a hidden depth and solidity.

We may not choose the parameters of our destiny. But we give it its content. The one who wills the adventure shall also experience it — according to the measure of his courage. The one who wills the sacrifice shall be sacrificed — according to the measure of his purity. 

Dag Hammarskjöld ‘Markings’

*If you are not Swedish then you are probably sounding Hammarskjöld in your head wrong! 

** It was the venue for the current Secretary-General Guterres’s Security Council Retreat in Apr. 2018. 

Thank you to those who have signed up to ‘Follow’ my blog so far. I am encouraged! 

3 thoughts on “The Man and a Mystery

  1. Moira Robertson

    Thank you, Allan for introducing me to this amazing Swede. I had not heard of him, but find his quotations v thot-provoking and helpful. I am looking forward to exploring his markings in due course.

    This is quite a standard to live up to…….!

    Love Moira


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