In this episode, I speak with culture activist, teacher, author and ceremonialist Stephen Jenkinson. We discuss his most recent performative project ‘Nights of Grief & Mystery,’ made in collaboration with “song and dance man” Gregory Hoskins — as documented in the recent short film ‘Lost Nation Road,’ directed by Ian MacKenzie.
After watching Ian MacKenzie’s short documentary film ‘Lost Nation Road,’ I finally began to understand more fully the real spirit and essence of Stephen Jenkinson and Gregory Hoskins’ exquisite and subversive project ‘Nights of Grief & Mystery.’ By that, I mean the immersive and ritualized nature of this performative act. To describe this act merely as a storytelling/spoken word and musical performance is to reduce the unifying purpose to its individual components. ‘Nights of Grief & Mystery’ subverts our notions of what performance is and could be in this time of deep trouble, and as Stephen elaborates in this interview, this act taps into something far older than that of theatrical performance — ritual. Ritual engages with the collective, requiring the participation of all involved — which stands in contrast with proper theatrical performance as we often conceive and experience it, which as Stephen expresses, is a disfigurement of ritual, creating an arbitrary division between the “audience” and the “performers.” In subverting our notions of performance, Stephen and Gregory conjure an experience that alludes to the question: In these times of deepening trouble, how do we conduct ourselves? “These are nights in which love letters to life are written and read aloud. There’s some boldness in them. They have that tone. These nights have the mark of our time upon them, and they’re timely, urgent, alert, steeped in mortal mystery. They’re quixotic. They have swagger. What would you call such a thing? We call them Nights of Grief & Mystery.”
Stephen Jenkinson (MTS, MSW) 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 Masters 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.
- Show times, locations, and information on the ‘Nights of Grief & Mystery’ tour: http://bit.ly/GriefMystery
- Watch Ian MacKenzie’s short film ‘Lost Nation Road’: https://www.lostnationroad.com
- Learn more about Stephen’s body of work: https://orphanwisdom.com
- Purchase John Halstead’s book ‘Another End of the World is Possible’: http://bit.ly/2Mr1Uur
- The intro features audio from ‘Lost Nation Road’: http://bit.ly/2Z1ImhW
- The outro features the song “Take A Little Walk / All The Songs of Love” by Gregory Hoskins and Stephen Jenkinson from the album Nights of Grief and Mystery: http://bit.ly/2Z8BNtO