Saturday, June 15, 2013

the Real Thing and to be real alongside it

Dag Hammarskjold trekking in the Swedish far north.

(Photo: Gosta Lundquist, in the collection of Nordiska Museet)

"The mountains became his retreat, sometimes with friends, sometimes on his own - retreat from pressures of work, society, and family, retreat into a world that cleansed and clarified.  An entry in Markings for 1951, two years before he became secretary general, relflects some part of what he found above the Arctic Circle:
Lean fare, austere forms,
Brief delight, few words,
Low down in cool space
One star -
The morning star.
In the pale light of sparseness
Lives the Real Thing.
And we are real.
"The poem suggests the extent to which Hammarskjold acquired a sense of the sacred not only from religious literature and from those around him for whom Christianity was alive, but also from experience in Nature.  The perception of the real, faithfully recorded here, cuts through theory and ideals to make itself known as the first fact. ... In summer he wrote of "the sacrament of the arctic summer night", in autumn of "the opening bars in the great hymn of extinction".

... "The mountains provide a new solitude", he wrote " ... It wasn't solitude for its own sake or in fearful withdrawal; it was solitude for the sake of more acutely perceiving "the Real Thing" and to be real alongside it."

- from "Hammarskjold - A Life" by Roger Lipsey, c. 2013, University of Michigan Press, p. 34


  1. Thank you, Beth. This is a soul-inspiring entry.

    1. thanks, Claire! I am somewhat of a long-time Hammarskjold afficionada


From Dorothy Day’s editorial in the Catholic Worker on the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.