Show 101 – Orphan Wisdom featuring Stephen Jenkinson

Stephen Jenkinson shares why he pairs the words “orphan” and “wisdom” together and the implications for modern day folks, their families, and the prevailing Canadian and North American culture.

We also explore:

  • remembering where we come from and what it means to have a memory for something we do not have a lived experience for,
  • how we can be changed as we watch how our children proceed from our parenting examples and
  • how we might share stories with our children that convey deep understanding of where they come from

Stephen says, “You ought not to die trying to engineer the way you’re going to be remembered. To have any consequence in the future that you’re hoping for, is to have a heavy regard for that from which you came.”


He writes on his website, “Orphans are not people who have no parents: they are people who don’t know their parents, who cannot go to them. Ours is a culture built upon the ruthless foundation of mass migration, but it is more so now a culture of people unable to say who their people are. In that way we are, relentlessly, orphans. Being an orphan culture does not mean that we have no wisdom. But wisdom is being confused in our time with information. Wisdom is an achievement, hard earned and faithfully paid for; it’s not a possession.”


Stephen Jenkinson is a spiritual activist, teacher, author and ceremonialist. With counseling and ceremony, Stephen Jenkinson has for a quarter century been guiding individuals, couples, families and communities through all the human sufferings, sorrows and confusions in life.


He has Master’s degrees in Theology and Social Work. After an apprenticeship to a musician storyteller he worked with dying people and their families, with grieving people and with those unsure how to grieve. As a hospital programme director, an assistant professor in a prominent Canadian medical school, educator and advocate, Stephen Jenkinson consulted to palliative care and hospice organizations.

A sculptor and traditional canoe builder and whose house won a Governor General’s Award for architecture, Stephen is a sought after educator and workshop leader, and his work has been featured in national radio and television documentaries on care of the dying and rites of passage.

He lives and farms beside an old river in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada. His books and National Film Board of Canada documentary “Griefwalker”, a lyrical, poetic portrait of Stephen’s work with dying people and the redemptive power of deep love for life, when life glimpses its end, are available for purchase from his website


“If your life to you is a straight line, then it is a disaster when things repeatedly show up and a sign that you aren’t getting far. But if your life is a spiral, circling around the Ancient Tower, then each time they show up it is a blessing, and a chance to bring your wisdom to bear on living well.” Stephen Jenkinson


Aired live: Sunday, May 27th, 2012 0800-0900 Eastern Standard Time on CFRU 93.3 FM, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Listen to Pod Cast (click on the link to listen or save this MP3 to your computer)




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