Tuesday, 26 May 2009


'Markings' by Dag Hammarskjold: A Review
This book consists of the notebook of personal thoughts of Dag Hammarskjold, the Secretary-General of the United Nations who died tragically in an air crash. Yet these writings contain no reference to his life in politics, even though written at the time he was Secretary-General. Instead, they detail his experiences- the personal doubts and torments that assailed him and which he felt obliged to conceal from the world. "What makes loneliness share an anguish", he writes, "is not that I have no one to share my burden, but this: I have only my own burden to share"
Hammarskjold was a Lutheran, and his writings are impregnated with his strong, intense, Christian belief. It is this belief which time after time, restores him from despair to hope. After times of great doubt, he turns to the scriptures, and in particular, the psalms, and finds succour there. "If I take the wings of the morning and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there also shall thy hand lead me."
There is a severe contrast between Hammarskjold's own words, with their note of self- doubt, and his writing down of those verses from the psalms which speak confidently of God's graciousness. Yet there is a connection. Many of the psalmists begin by cursing a cruel and wicked world for injustice; they rage against evil. Hammarskjold knows that evils as pride and greed cannot be as simply externalised as that; they are part of one. So he considers, instead, the futility and falsity of the human condition. But, like the psalmist, he reflects from this to the hope that comes from God. In this way, he is a psalmist for today.


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