Hammarskjold: The Longest Journey of All

          Pebble On The Tongue*

“The longest journey is the journey inwards …

        quest for the source of (one’s) being.”

            Dag Hammarskjold, fr. Markings

Almost 59 years ago, Dag Hammarskjold, Secretary General of the United Nations, his plane on fire, plummeted into the jungle near the Zambia-Congo border, losing his life while on a peacemaking mission.

In the late ’50s, Hammarskjold lands outside Tel Aviv, Israel, a reminder that, like his labors for the peace of the Congo, travels in quest of peace are a project of decades, even generations.  Turmoil still churns the Middle East, and the agonies of the Congo have hardly abated.  The wonder is that the dream of peace will not release us.  The journey, though long, continues.                                                                                                                    photo credit: United Nations   

His poet-friend, W.H. Auden, later quoted him as once saying,

In our age, the road to holiness 

passes through the world of action.

Or, given Hammarskjold’s story, his pursuits and journeys, and given our times:

          Stillness goes out to meet the fury of war.

Folded midst the leaves of a book taken from the wreckage they found a copy of his oath of office, a touchstone carried with him on his travels.

*Travelers in desert country have found that a pebble on the tongue eases the discomfort of a parched mouth.  (It also fosters a bent toward listening.) This ‘Pebble’ feature in ‘Traipse’ will periodically offer memorable citations and images about travel. 

8 thoughts on “Hammarskjold: The Longest Journey of All

  1. Thanks, Jonathan. Hammarskjold richly deserves to be remembered. He set the bar very high for his successors.


  2. While working in Ndola more than 14 years ago now, we took the time to go to the Dag Hammarskjold memorial just off the main Ndola-Kitwe Rd. For some reason we well remembered when his plane crashed and it was gratifying to find his memorial well looked after with a knowledgeable Zambian guide to tell us the story! His book “Markings” was in my library for years. With all the moves, who knows where it is now. Thanks for sharing such a unique story.


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