Volume 4 Number 1
01 January 1991
'After praying to know what was right, I felt I should accept,' he said. And so his diplomatic career began - unsolicited.
Archie Mackenzie took part in the founding conferences of the UN. He went on to become British Ambassador to Tunisia and then British Minister for Economic and Social Affairs at the UN at a particularly decisive period of the NorthSouth dialogue.
During 30-plus years as a diplomat he was no stranger to decision-making.
His ideas are rooted in his Christian faith, which he has held since his youth. He maintains that God can direct each human life. He quotes Abraham's servant, who was given the seemingly hopeless mission of finding the right wife for his boss's son. Having travelled to Mesopotamia, he succeeded after many adventures and said, `I, being in the way, the Lord led me.' Such direction, says Mackenzie, is more clearly perceived by those who are already consciously trying to find God's will.
Not that God's will is always obvious - and the search for it is no substitute for thinking responsibly about decisions. When a moment of decision arrives, the mountaineer's affliction of `apprehensive paralysis' may strike. The answer is not to contemplate the dizzy heights but to concentrate on the immediate next step, he says.
He has adopted the habit of making time at the beginning of the day to think and pray about pending choices. `This can save a lot of energy, and it leaves you freer to deal with the decisions that you cannot anticipate,' he says.
`Try and keep a sense of perspective,' he advises. `Sometimes you get into a great froth about a decision. But the tragedies of the present often do, with hindsight, become the comedies of the past.'
Mackenzie recognizes that motives of self-advancement can come in, but says he has always consciously put them aside when making decisions. In any case, he maintains, those who scheme to reach the top rarely stay there long.
So how did he get to be an ambassador? He was studying English literature in Glasgow University in the 1930s when his professor told him he was so good at philosophy that he should switch courses midstream. `I couldn't see for the life of me what sort of job I would get with philosophy,' he recalls. But inwardly he felt it was right and followed the suggestion. `A remarkable series of steps' unfolded and he found himself studying in Harvard at the outbreak of World War II. When wondering whether he should return to Britain, he was unexpectedly invited to join the British Embassy in Washington. `After praying to know what was right, I felt I should accept,' he said. And so his diplomatic career began - unsolicited.
He remains convinced that diplomacy - and world affairs generally - needs a divine input into the decision-making process.