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Watch > Episode > Stephen Jenkinson - How To Understand The Meaning Of Death

Stephen Jenkinson - How To Understand The Meaning Of Death

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Thoughts On Dying Well In A Death-Phobic Culture

Stephen Jenkinson is an American storyteller, teacher and author. He holds a Masters degree in Theology from Harvard University and a Masters in social work from the University of Toronto. During two decades of working in palliative care, he counselled over 1,500 people at their deathbeds. His work led him to identify a “death-phobic society”, which provided the framework for his award-winning book Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. His most recent book, Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, explains the need to birth a new generation of elders, willing to be true stewards of the planet and its species.

Stephen Jenkinson is an American storyteller, teacher and author. He holds a Masters degree in theology from Harvard University and a Masters in social work from the University of Toronto. During two decades of working in palliative care, he counselled over 1,500 people at their deathbeds. His work led him to identify a “death-phobic society”, which provided the framework for his award-winning book “Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul”. His most recent book, “Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble”, explains the need to birth a new generation of elders, willing to be true stewards of the planet and its species.

In this milestone episode, Stephen joins London Real host Brian Rose in the studio to discuss why people should take ownership of their last act, why no-one means to die badly and the philosophy of grief itself.

Stephen Jenkinson’s journey into the realm of death and grief began with his work in palliative care. He served as the program director at the Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care in Toronto for over a decade. In this role, Jenkinson worked closely with individuals facing terminal illnesses and their families, gaining valuable insights into the emotional and spiritual dimensions of the dying process.

In 2010, Stephen Jenkinson founded the Orphan Wisdom School, an organisation dedicated to providing teachings and guidance on how to live and die with integrity. The school serves as a platform for Jenkinson to share his perspectives on mortality, grief, and the importance of reclaiming a meaningful connection to life’s profound moments.

At the heart of Stephen Jenkinson’s teachings is a profound exploration of grief as a necessary and transformative part of the human experience. He challenges the prevalent cultural attitudes towards grief, emphasising its importance in navigating loss and change. According to Jenkinson, the ability to grieve deeply is a testament to a life well-lived, allowing individuals to honour the significance of what is lost.

Stephen’s book, “Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul,” serves as a comprehensive exploration of his philosophy on death and dying. In the book, he confronts the cultural denial of death and encourages readers to embrace a deeper understanding of mortality. “Die Wise” is not just about the end of life; it is a profound reflection on how we can live more purposefully, acknowledging the inescapable reality of our finite existence.

Jenkinson also writes extensively about the importance of reclaiming the concept of eldership in society. In a culture that often marginalises and dismisses the wisdom of the elderly, Jenkinson calls for a reevaluation of the role of elders in guiding communities through the challenges of life and death. He suggests that eldership is not merely a function of age but a way of being that involves a deep understanding of the cycles of life and an ability to offer meaningful guidance.

The documentary “Griefwalker,” directed by Tim Wilson, follows Stephen Jenkinson as he navigates through conversations about death and dying. The film captures Jenkinson’s unique approach to grief, showcasing his ability to confront uncomfortable truths with compassion and wisdom. “Griefwalker” provides an intimate look into Jenkinson’s teachings and his profound impact on those facing the complexities of mortality.

Stephen Jenkinson’s legacy lies in his unwavering commitment to addressing the often-neglected aspects of the human experience: grief, death, and the pursuit of a meaningful life. Through his teachings, books, and the Orphan Wisdom School, Jenkinson has become a guide for individuals seeking a more profound connection to their mortality and a deeper understanding of the human journey.

Stephen Jenkinson stands as a philosopher of grief, challenging societal norms and encouraging a reevaluation of our relationship with death. His teachings inspire individuals to embrace the inevitability of mortality with grace, purpose, and a profound connection to the cycles of life. In a world that often shies away from discussions about death, Jenkinson’s work serves as a beacon of wisdom, offering guidance on how to live and die with authenticity and meaning.

Chapters

00:00 | Trailer
02:56 | Brian’s thoughts on the episode
04:46 | Brian’s introduction
05:24 | Stephen has only a superficial view of London and is uneasy about the effect of large conurbations
08:45 | How to start talking about a subject no-one seems to want to talk about, but we all experience
20:32 | The utter refusal to submit to death has a long history amongst humans
24:50 | Stephen has seen more death than those in active combat see, but he is not traumatised
25:44 | Stephen relates a familiar response to terminal cancer, explaining why he thinks it misguided
33:23 | The benefit of that person taking ownership of the last act
35:42 | The consequences for society of refusing to die well
37:22 | Stephen’s thoughts on euthanasia and the effect on society if it becomes the norm
41:52 | Stephen explains what he means by “what has to die is your refusal to die”
46:06 | Nobody meant to die badly
47:08 | How we witness death, or don’t, affects the way we live life and currently society is death phobic
54:17 | Will Stephen fight death when it comes to it
55:50 | People’s worst fear vision of death
1:02:33 | His view on desire to live to 200 or futuristic ideas to upload consciousness and preserve ourselves
1:03:37 | The deep radical hospitality of including in your life its end
1:08:22 | What grief is
1:16:14 | A conversation to have with your children as you approach death
1:22:20 | Story of young child approaching death illustrates parent’s misconception of what they grieve for
1:28:56 | Stephen defines what he thinks should be the cultural role of Elderhood
1:41:22 | Could LSD help the dying to remove the ego to see the bigger picture and connect with the Deity
1:43:20 | Pain medication in the last days of life
1:45:38 | Are environmental issues and global warming related to our relationship with death
1:50:03 | Does Stephen see elders in the world and is it too late for older people to understand his message
1:55:13 | Stephen’s background which perhaps influenced some of his decision making
1:57:38 | The best and worst days of his life
2:03:55 | What scares Stephen
2:05:55 | What keeps him awake at night
2:06:29 | Success secrets
2:08:37 | What keeps awake at night
2:12:32 | Advice to the 20 years old listening
2:16:42 | Brian’s summing up.

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