Markings by Dag Hammarskjöld: A Response

“To be “sociable”—to talk merely because convention forbids silence, to rub against one another in order to create the illusion of intimacy and contact: what an example of la condition humaine. Exhausting, naturally like any improper use of our spiritual resources. In miniature, one of the many ways in which mankind successfully acts as its own scourge—in the hell of spiritual death.” – Excerpted from Dag Hammarskjöld’s Markings, Pg 63


There is something about sound that brings comfort even when a false sense or when dressed in chaos. It becomes the backdrop of life, the white noise that soothes when the room goes dark and quiet and we are alone there staring at the ceiling. To whom do we reach for in the dark when there is but the sound of our own breathing, the rise and fall of our chest quickening in motion chasing after a Monkey Mind running fearfully afraid of being abandoned.

At early ages, we are taught to socialize. One’s natural inclination to sit and discover the body, the mind, and the extremities overridden by the voice of parentals with their well-intended guidance that too often suffocate and stifle. They keep an ear out for sound, and when the backroom where the adolescent is housed falls quiet, they call out afraid that they’re up to something. They don’t know you well enough to know that you can be left to your own devices, and that you secretly crave the quiet. 

We learn to hide in plain sight, in the room where the crowd expands and meaning contracts. The illusion of being a part, of fitting in, and of having someone, is the face we’ve learned to wear, the mask we have not come to recognize and so startle in the dark. We wear it for them—parentals, faux-friends, colleagues, relationships—whomever they are without knowing that in time we will forget the face in the mirror. We wear the mask until it’s worn to fit, and we’ve shrunken into the face of an imposter, distancing ourselves from the truth.

Silence got silenced. The brilliance of voice and its ability to manipulate and persuade, and to write a sellable description of the mask, won. We got lost in the wording until the day comes swift like a boomerang with a message. There’s the feeling of having been there before, like we remember something, a sort of déjà vu reminding us of our true presence, the one who sat in the quiet and investigated self discovery before the mask was known, before we were made to socialize.

No matter how far we have walked from the truth of whom we are, we can turn again toward and reunite with ourselves. The moments of our incremental enlightenment are the moments that lead us closer to that reunion, and we return there again and again knowing the impossibility of our spiritual resources going shallow.


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