Dag Hammarskjöld relieves my unease

Saturday, May 02, 2020

These days and particularly on these uncharacteristically sunny Vancouver days I feel this empty thing in my stomach. I feel uneasy.

Both my Rosemary and I are more or less in good health. There is money in the bank and we live in a nice neighbourhood. Our deck garden is about to explode in the blooms of our roses. Food is good and simple to make. Breakfast in bed, every day with our Vancouver Sun and the New York Times in our hands is satisfying. And more so with the presence of our brother and sister cats, Niño and Niña.

This unease runs concurrently with thoughts into my past with all those people that are now gone.

There is one person who can, I believe, put some sense into my uneasiness. This is Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary General of the United Nations.

It was around 1966 when I was a conscript in the Argentine Navy that I disobeyed the order of an Argentine Lieutenant Commander. He said he was going to arrest me and put me in the brig for a few days. He told me that he was going to be kind in giving me until the next day to get ready and order whatever I had to order in my life.

I decided I needed reading material. I went to the nearby Pigmalion (Pigmalión in Argentine Spanish) bookstore on Calle Corrientes 515. I was much too ignorant to notice a blind old man who was there frequently buying books in English. In this occasion I bought two books. One was the Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the other a slim volume that attracted my eye called Markings by Dag Hammarskjöld that was translated into English by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden.

In that dirty brig I very quickly found interesting stuff by the Swede that I immediately underlined. Some years ago I had the book re-bound in leather in Mexico City. I often take it out from my living room bookcase. This is something I did today and I knew where I would find the relevant quote:

Because — when opportunity gives you the obligation to

Create, you are content to meet the demands of the moment,

from one day to the next.

Because — anxious for the good opinion of others, and

jalous of the possibility that they may become ‘famous’,

you have lowered yourself to wondering what will happen

in the the end to what you have done and been.

How dead can a man be behind the façade of great ability,

loyalty — and ambition! Bless your uneasiness as a sign

that there is still life in you.

Originally published at http://blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.