S02E17 Stephen Jenkinson on Nights of Grief & Mystery


Stephen Jenkinson is an activist, teacher, author, and farmer. He has a master's degree in theology from Harvard University and a master's degree in social work from the University of Toronto. He is the author of many 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. For the past few years Stephen has been touring the world with musician Gregory Hoskins and their Nights of Grief & Mystery.

Some of you might remember that I had Stephen on the podcast last year around this time, talking about his book on elderhood. That conversation left me with a lot to wonder about and this one is no different. What is different perhaps, is that in this episode I think you hear more of Stephen’s lighter side, in part because it’s an aspect of him that really comes out on stage when he’s with his band and it’s something I wanted to talk to him about. We also talk about what it’s like for him to find a new vocation as frontman at this stage in his life; the creative process behind Nights of Grief and Mystery; the connection between grief and joy; and Stephen offers his thoughts on another provocative Canadian figure, Jordan Peterson.

Stephen’s website: https://orphanwisdom.com/
Tour Dates: http://nightsofgriefandmystery.com

Lead-in music: ‘Take a Little Walk’ by Gregory Hoskins
Outro music: ‘Everybody Knows’ by Leonard Cohen


Seamus Heaney
“From the Republic of Conscience”


At immigration, the clerk was an old man
who produced a wallet from his homespun coat
and showed me a photograph of my grandfather.

The woman in customs asked me to declare
the words of our traditional cures and charms
to heal dumbness and avert the evil eye.

No porters. No interpreter. No taxi.
You carried your own burden and very soon
your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared.


Fog is a dreaded omen there but lightning
spells universal good and parents hang
swaddled infants in trees during thunderstorms.

Salt is their precious mineral. And seashells
are held to the ear during births and funerals.
The base of all inks and pigments is seawater.

Their sacred symbol is a stylized boat.
The sail is an ear, the mast a sloping pen,
the hull a mouth-shape, the keel an open eye.

At their inauguration, public leaders
must swear to uphold unwritten law and weep
to atone for their presumption to hold office -

and to affirm their faith that all life sprang
from salt in tears which the sky-god wept
after he dreamt his solitude was endless.


I came back from that frugal republic
with my two arms the one length, the customs
woman having insisted my allowance was myself.

The old man rose and gazed into my face
and said that was official recognition
that I was now a dual citizen.

He therefore desired me when I got home
to consider myself a representative
and to speak on their behalf in my own tongue.
Their embassies, he said, were everywhere
but operated independently
and no ambassador would ever be relieved.


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About Brian James
Brian James is a yoga teacher, transformational coach and psychedelic integration counselor currently living in Montréal, Canada with his wife, astrologer Debbie Stapleton and their Boston Terrier Kingston. He has been exploring the intersection of yoga and shamanism for over 25 years.


tags: brian james, stephen jenkinson, gregory hoskins, jordan peterson, music, grief, elderhood