Thursday, August 17, 2006


Years back I had a copy of Markings, by Dag Hammarskjöld. Had it stored away at one time, and some mice got into it and chewed it up pretty badly. (Long story.)

Now the other day at a used book store I ran across another copy of Markings, and have been reacquainting myself with Hammarskjöld's often austere aphoristic musings:
To preserve the silence within— amid all the noise. To remain open and quiet, a moist humus in the fertile darkness where the rain falls and the grain ripens— no matter how many tramp across the parade ground in whirling dust under an arid sky.

The irredeemable in a man of power: vice versa, the power of the redeemed.

Autumn in Lapland. The warm rain-laden east wind rushes down the dried-up river bed. On its banks, yellowing birches tremble in the storm.

The opening bars in the great hymn of extinction. Not a hymn to extinction or because of it. Not a hymn in spite of extinction. But a dying which is the hymn.

God desires our independence— which we attain when, ceasing to strive for it ourselves, we "fall" back into God.

The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.

"Of the Eternal Birth"— to me, this now says everything there is to be said about what I have learned and have still to learn.

"The soul that would experience this birth must detach herself from all outward things: within herself completely at one with herself.... You must have an exalted mind and a burning heart in which, nevertheless, reign silence and stillness." (Meister Eckhart)
To read Hammarskjöld is to be reminded of a time, within living memory, when there was a Europe and a Western culture which, it seemed, would endure forever, even amidst a wide world of tumult and change: "Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine."

I'm still, in my own bearded post-Sixties "Birkenstocked Burkean" way, on the side of that once imperishable West. I'm still on the side of the stone edifices and the symphonies, the carefully measured philosophers and the essayists and the belle lettrists. But I must confess that, in these latter days, a stance like mine seems more and more like that of a Roman centurion, with Germanic blood and a Germanic name, who was striving to uphold Roman culture and Roman law and classical literature on the marches of the Western Empire circa AD 450.



Blogger The Tetrast said...

Pretty intense post.

Still, things were takking oop! . . . Do you remember the Yorkshireman who stood with his chin just out of water on Ararat Top as Noah approached. And: "It's boon to tak oop!" said the Yorkshireman. . . . It's bound to clear up!
    A great night, with room enough for Heaven to be hidden there from our not to perspicacious eyes.
--Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

Thursday, August 17, 2006 6:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Lucy said...

"To preserve the silence within— amid all the noise"

I love silence. Its a luxery too many of us have none of. That and sleep.

Friday, August 18, 2006 7:44:00 AM  

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