Dag Hammarskjöld and freedom

More on the vexing questions of “freedom”…what is it? why desire it? how to be free?

I have long stood in awe of Swedish-born, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, whose personal journal was published under the title “Markings” (my copy translated by W.H. Auden, Faber& Faber, 1964) following his death in a plane crash in Africa in 1961. It immediately became a spiritual classic.

If anyone could be said to have lived a selfless life, convinced of a divine calling to serve humanity, heart and soul,  it was Hammarskjöld (the name means ‘Hammer-Shield’ and, I believe is pronounced hammer-shuld). His profound little jottings include the following two entries regarding humility, which, to my mind, just may express the essence of true freedom:

29:07:1959 Humility is just as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exaltation. To be humble is not to make comparisons. Secure in its reality, the self is neither better nor worse, bigger nor smaller, than anything else in the universe. It is – is nothing, yet at the same time one with everything. It is in this sense that humility is absolute self-effacement.

To be nothing in the self-effacement of humility, yet, for the sake of the task, to embody its whole weight and importance in your bearing, as the one who has been called to undertake it. To give to people, works, poetry, art, what the self can contribute and to take, simply and freely, what belongs to it by reason of its identity. Praise and blame, the winds of success and adversity, blow over such a life without leaving a trace or upsetting its balance.

Towards this, so help me, God –

04:08:1959 To have humility is…to see, judge and act from the point of rest in ourselves. Then, how much disappears and all that remains falls into place.

In the point of rest at the centre of our being, we encounter a world where all things are at rest in the same way. Then a tree becomes a mystery; a cloud, a revelation; each man [sic] a cosmos of whose riches we can only catch glimpses. The life of simplicity is simple, but it opens to us a book in which we never get beyond the first syllable.


~ by Garry on January 10, 2011.

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