Shambhala Sun | November 2013
Stillness in Action:
Reflections on Dag Hammarskjold
The late Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations, was both a deeply spiritual person and a highly effective diplomat. His biographer ROGER LIPSEY tells us why we need more leaders like him.
Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1953 to 1961, had a keen sense of above and below. For example, in the fall of 1958 the Swedish diplomat wrote in his private journal:
Lord, Thine the day,
And I the day’s.
Despite its few words, it is a provocative and memorable poem. In our troubled era, don’t we need political leaders who would understand this poem: its implicit promise of selfless service, its uneasiness and willingness, its scope? Don’t we need inspiring examples of men and women who have led public lives by the light of deep spirituality?
Hammarskjöld united two lives in one. He was both a spiritual seeker and the leading diplomat of his era. Somewhat forgotten today but admired nearly worldwide in his time, Hammarskjöld created important peacemaking methods such as shuttle diplomacy and UN peacekeeping forces. More than that, he endowed the United Nations with a heightened sense of its mission through his clarity of mind, breadth of vision, unshakeable integrity, and quiet eloquence.