Throughout his graduate career, Dag suffered because he
felt that his ideas were not as well accepted as they
should have been. He was always exploring new approaches
which were not welcome in the traditional academic setting.
His academic interest began to shift over from an emphasis
in research and economics toward that of government service,
where he became most successful. It was also as a student,
when he was in his early 20s, that Dag began to develop
a real spiritual life. It was an inner search and was
completely secret from those around him. He began to write
a diary which was published after his death as Markings,
a beautiful book on his thoughts and philosophy. In this
book he wrote about everything that he thought and felt,
especially about his devotion to God. Dag was also influenced
by another Swede at this time named Bertil Ekman, a student
who died at the age of twenty six. Dag copied something
from this young Swede which reflects very well what they
both were feeling at the same time: "It is not enough
to believe in immortality with mind and heart alone. That
belief must be part of the will which may then be wholly
directed towards death." He then wrote: "Death must inspire
longings toward life, not away from it." At a very young
age, Dag did not have a morbid fear of death, but saw
it as the great challenge of life. Part of a poem he wrote
in Markings illustrates this idea when he writes:
"Tomorrow we shall meet, death and I." And death, he adds,
"shall thrust his sword into one who is wide awake. But
in the meantime how grievous the memory of hours frittered
Death as a companion, as a reminder of the preciousness
of the few hours we have on this earth, was an important
concept to Dag. He was a very self-disciplined person,
and the social behavior of most of the people he came
into contact with bothered him greatly. He felt that too
many people frittered hours away talking about things
that were not really important. He was very disappointed
in people who did not want to talk about anything serious.
He had a real love for the inner, spiritual life and was
not able to find anyone to share this love. He felt that
it was a terrible thing, to waste time. This high standard
he maintained throughout his lifetime. It was something
that he never talked about publicly, and his view of society
and the superficial ways in which people related were
not revealed until after his death. Many people criticized
him for this because they were offended by what he said.
They thought that he was a very hard person. But actually
Dag Hammarskjold simply had a desire for perfection for
others and for himself.
Much of his early writing centers on this idea of perfection
and his preoccupation with his own imperfections. He tended
to be very critical of himself and had high personal expectations.
He was a very strong person to be able to look at himself
so honestly. It was a sign of real integrity, which came
out in other aspects of his life, particularly his work
in the United Nations.
Dag was influenced by the writings of Martin Buber. Dag
developed a personal friendship with Buber, and they wrote
many letters to each other. At the time of Dag's death,
he was in the process of translating Buber's book, I
and Thou into Swedish.
He was especially interested in Buber's views that in
modern society we habitually distrust other people. What
Buber called "existential mistrust" is an ingrained way
of relating that is very distant and defensive. Dag agreed
with this approach and recognized it as a real problem.
He expanded the notion of Buber's idea-which referred
to relationships on a person-to-person level-to that of
relationships between countries, and he carried this out
in his work as a diplomat.
He had a fine career in public service. He worked as a
government advisor and for the Bank of Sweden. He was
also a part of the group known as the Stockholm School
of Economics, an organization of young economists who
were developing new ideas. Apparently, Dag Hammarskjold
was the first who coined the words "planned economy,"
an approach which Sweden later adopted.
He was not involved in the political arena very much because
he was such a mixture of political ideas. Labels did not
seem to fit him. People thought he was conservative and
social democratic all in one. But he did reach a high
level in government by becoming Secretary of State in
the Swedish foreign office.
He was also famous for his ability to work. He was the
one who would undertake the most difficult problems and
finish them off, finding a solution to improve them. Dag
Hammarskjold was also known for his moral stature, sense
of justice, integrity, and wholehearted commitment to
responsibility, all balanced by friendliness to co-workers.
Three words that seemed to sum him up were trust, reliance,
and good will. He was an extremely popular person in his