For all that has been – thanks. For all that will be, YES!
I discovered Dag Hammarskjold as a fairly solitary 8th grader in a small school. My 7th grade teacher fretted because of my love of MacBeth, which she considered WAY too depressing for someone so young – she didn’t get that the mayhem & murders (although the tears always started on reading MacDuff say, “What, all my pretty chickens and their dam At one fell swoop?“) swept past me, that I lost myself in the play of words & interplay of personalities.
Everyone else was a character to me – MacDuff, whose humanity I sensed & whose pain I felt, was real. It was natural that I’d be drawn to the great Swede, appreciating even back then, several years after his tragic death, the complexity of Hammarskjold’s character, the contradictions he made work for his humanitarian ends.
From what I’ve read & what I learned from my mother, also an admirer, Hammarskjold was a very private man pursuing a very public purpose. He was proud of his Swedish heritage, yet acted as a citizen of the world rather than any one country, witnessed by his service as the second Secretary General of the United Nations. His family were nobles since 1610, yet he was every inch a man of the people. He had had the gift of connecting with others, yet let few people into his full confidence. He was a master diplomat & statesman, yet his focus was always on the outcome, never manueverings & machinations. He held out the hand of caring support, yet was careful to step when people needed to learn from their struggles. He was a man of peace, but died violently, many suspected due to forces who did not want him interfering in Rhodesian (now Zambia.
As an 8th grader, I fell in love with his posthumously published book, Markings (Vägmärken). I came across it again about ten years ago, in the library of a client who insisted that I take it. Reading through it – selections from his dairy, starting in 1925, when he was twenty, ending a month before his death. The source material was discovered in his New York apartment, along with a letter to one of his UN colleagues & a fellow Swede, saying they were the only “true” portrait of him, giving permission for them to be gathered into a book, “if you find them worth publishing”
When I share favorite quotes, which I hope to do regularly, most will NOT come with a long backstory, but I doubt I would be doing the work I am, doing my best to make the lives of all ages as expansive as possible, without Dag Hammarskjold. His life is an inspiration, his writing is in my soul.