In this episode I speak with Stephen Jenkinson - founder and lead instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School and the author of numerous books, including ‘Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul’ and most recently ‘Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble.’
In this discussion, we discuss how the dominant culture of North America, as Stephen frames it, is awash in aged people, but bereft of elders, in the truest sense of the word. Stephen “argues that elderhood is a function rather than an identity – it is not a position earned simply by the number of years on the planet or the title ‘parent’ or ‘grandparent.’”☨ Why is it that the dominant culture of North America has been unable to produce the conditions necessary for elderhood to flourish, especially in this time of trouble we find ourselves in? Stephen discusses what the historical and cultural conditions have been that has lead to this unexplored and unexamined crisis, and points to what elderhood in our time of great crisis (ecological, spiritual, political, and otherwise) would possibly look like, framing it within the profound realization that elderhood can only flourish when the appetite exists for it.
Stephen states it better than I ever could: “I am making the case for elderhood, not for easy agedness. I’m doing so mostly by wondering what happened. Because something happened. Something happened to ancestors and elders and honour. There’s work to be done, and there’s an old wisdom to be learned where there used to be the wisdom of old, and you can’t fix what you don’t understand. That’s where we’re headed: to grievous wisdom. Let us see if we can bear the sound, the particular sound, of no hand clapping. This is a plea and a plot for elders in training.”☨
Stephen Jenkinson (MTS, MSW) is a culture activist, teacher, author and ceremonialist. He is the author of numerous books, including ‘Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble’ and ‘Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.’ Stephen teaches internationally and is the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School, founded in 2010. With Master’s degrees from Harvard University (Theology) and the University of Toronto (Social Work), he is revolutionizing grief and dying in North America. Apprenticed to a master storyteller, he has worked extensively with dying people and their families, is former program director in a major Canadian hospital, former assistant professor in a prominent Canadian medical school, consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations and educator and advocate in the helping professions. He is also a sculptor, traditional canoe builder whose house won a Governor General’s Award for architecture. Stephen Jenkinson is also the subject of the feature length documentary film Griefwalker (National Film Board of Canada, 2008), a lyrical, poetic portrait of his work with dying people.✧
- Everything you need to know about Stephen Jenkinson and his work can be found at the Orphan Wisdom website: https://orphanwisdom.com
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