ⓘ Orphan Wisdom

Orphan Wisdom

ⓘ Orphan Wisdom

Orphan Wisdom is a method of inquiry gathered together and wondered about primarily, but not exclusively, by Stephen Jenkinson. Jenkinson expresses his experience in seeing what modern Western people "suffer from most is culture failure, amnesia of ancestry and deep family story, phantom or sham rites of passage, no instruction on how to live with each other or with the world around us or with our dead or with our history." Orphan Wisdom wonders about the origins and consequence of this state and contending with building skills to be in the presence of this fact. Before his 2010 founding of the Orphan Wisdom School, Jenkinson directed palliative care at Mount Sinai Hospital of Toronto. Orphan Wisdoms teachings push against "death phobia and grief illiteracy" to promote acceptance of death well before death in order to "participate emotionally in their deaths as they participate in other big life events".

The documentary film about Jenkinson and Orphan Wisdom, Griefwalker, was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and filmed over twelve years by Tim Wilson.

First published in 2002, the book Money and the Souls Desires: A Meditation makes a language to explore questions about the role of money in both a personal and a cultural context.

The 2009 book How it All Could Be is part meditation and part guided study, a companion to the film Griefwalker as well as a stand-alone workbook for anyone trying to approach dying with soul and intelligence intact.

The 2015 book Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul is Jenkinsons history, explication and exploration of his approach to coming to terms with death. Its dense and sometimes poetic prose is both a critique of dominant Western cultural practices and denials - in part gleaned from his years the "death trade," as Jenkinson calls it - as well as what the author has learned elsewhere, particularly from indigenous peoples. His ideas also have an affinity with Buddhist teachings, which have their origin in the Buddhas confronting the reality of suffering and death.

Published in 2018, the book Come of Age. The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble makes the case that we must birth a new generation of elders, one poised and willing to be true stewards of the planet and its species.

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