Markings is the spiritual memoirs of Dag Hammarskjöld, a public servant who put service to others over his own self-interest. Written while he was Secretary-General of the United Nations, his memoirs speak to the humility and devotion to a higher power/higher cause one needs in order to serve in positions of power.
While serving at the UN, Hammarskjöld upheld the dignity and worth of the individual. He shook the hands of as many workers as possible in every department, frequently ate in the cafeteria, relinquished the private elevator designated for his office for general use, and planned and supervised the creation of a "meditation room" at the UN headquarters.
While in his second term, he was tragically killed in an airplane crash while en route to cease-fire negotiations during the Congo Crisis. JFK called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century" and he is only one of four posthumous Nobel Prize recipients.
In an era where we are hungry for selfless leadership, Hammarskjöld's writings have never been more timely. Written as short vignettes in diary form, his thoughts need no interpretation or expansion. Below are a few of his entries which resonate deeply in our present time:
Life only demands from you the strength you possess. Only one feat is possible--not to have run away.
He bore failure without self-pity, and success without self-admiration. Provided he knew he had paid his uttermost farthing, what did it matter to him how others judged the result.
At every moment you choose yourself. But do you choose your self? Body and soul contain a thousand possibilities out of which you can build many I's. But in only one of them is there a congruence of the elector and the elected. Only one--which you will never find until you have excluded all those superficial and fleeting possibilities of being and doing with which you try, out of curiosity or wonder or greed, and which hinder you from casting anchor in the experience of the mystery of life, and the consciousness of the talent entrusted to you which is your I.
The consequences of our lives and actions can no more be erased than they can be identified and duly labeled.
Don't be afraid of yourself, live your individuality to the full--but for the good of others. Don't copy others in order to buy fellowship, or make convention your law instead of living the righteousness.
The present moment is significant, not as the bridge between past and future, but by reason of its contents, contents which can fill our emptiness and become ours, if we are capable of receiving them.
Dare he, for whom circumstances make it possible to realize his true destiny, refuse it simply because he is not prepared to give up everything else?
Never, for the sake of peace and quiet, deny your own experience or convictions.
Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.
The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.
He broke fresh ground--because, and only because, he had the courage to go ahead without asking whether others were following or even understood.
In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.
Without the humility and warmth which you have to develop in your relations to the few with whom you are personally involved, you will never be able to do anything for the many.
Everything in the present moment, nothing for the present moment. And nothing for your future comfort or the future of your good name.
Do not look back. And do not dream about the future, either. It will neither give you back the past, nor satisfy your other daydreams. Your duty, your reward--your destiny--are here and now.
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.
Forgiveness breaks the chain of causality because he who "forgives" you--out of love--takes upon himself the consequences of what you have done. Forgiveness, therefore, always entails a sacrifice.
I don't know Who--or what--put the question, I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone--or Something--and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal.