Fifty-two years ago today, Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations, died in a plane crash along with 15 others in what is now northern Zambia. His untimely death cut short the life of a man who was both a skilled servant-leader in world peace and what I can only call an engaged mystic.
Hammarskjold found deepest meaning in his life by a kind of self-surrender in which human beings “say yes to every demand which the needs of their neighbors made them face.” When I read the words of Hammarskjold, I don’t hear a man burdened by sacrifice and service. I hear the heart of one who has found deepest freedom in the gift of his service. He learned that freely giving renewed and restored his own soul. I suspect that he found the freedom to give without expecting anything in return. That the return came, that the return restored and renewed him was for him, and for any of us who dare this way, one of the deepest kinds of walking with the Divine.
So, on this memorial of his death, his words speak deeply to those of us still living: “Do not seek death. Death will find you. But, seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” Along these lines, in his diary later published under the title of Markings he writes: “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.”
What we will for today, do today, give ourselves to today becomes our destiny. Whether we realize it or not, we are leaving marks, every day, everywhere, on everyone that we encounter.