By Daniel Giamario
Every so often I love to share about books that I have been strongly influenced by. During this plandemic time, I have much gratitude to have a safe and comfortable residence with a compatible partner, and be well supplied with year’s worth of supplies, all in anticipation of the extraordinary events of 2020. I have also been fortunate to have my usual number of clients and friends to share with, albeit, virtually. We are now in our 33rd week of lock-down/lock-step here in the Philippines. Consequently, I have had lots of time for reading, researching and reflecting. This month, I will share about the author Stephen Jenkinson and two of his fabulous books.
I have been at this now for a long time, and I am always learning and love researching subjects that have interested me since my first Jupiter return at age 11-12, when I decided to read every science fiction book that I could find. I have now passed my 6th Jupiter return, and another wave has come over me. It had been a while since I had read any authors that had done something other than either confirmed views I already held or had just added ammunition to those views. But the books I will now share about have expanded my awareness into totally new and unexpected areas. When reading these books, I had no idea where they were taking me next. Quite interesting and fascinating was this. Here is a brief account:
Come of Age: The Case for Elder-Hood in a Time of Trouble 2018
Die Wise: A manifesto for sanity and soul 2015
Stephen Jenkinson is Canadian, and the founder of the Orphan Wisdom School. He worked for many years in what he calls “the death trade” in our society’s systems for caring for those who are dying. His views are nuanced and profound. He perceives that we live in a “death phobic” culture. His solutions are radical and quite confronting to many of our culture’s (and my own) unrecognized beliefs. One of his teachers was Martin Prechtel, possibly the person, in my experience, that he most resembles. He also loves Leonard Cohen, and often punctuates his books with Cohen’s song lyrics. I consider Die Wise to be the seminal work on death and dying.
I read Come of Age first. This is the book about elder-hood and its demise and near extinction in the modern world that I had been waiting for (without fully realizing it). I consider this book to be particularly essential (albeit challenging reading) for anyone 52 years old or older. Stephen’s message certainly needs to be heard, particularly as we are at the bottom of the Kali Yuga, and in a global configuration/global crisis that has not been experienced by global humanity for possibly 12,800 years.
On one hand, his books are an astute critique of the origins and devolution of the Western world, together with a beautiful embrace of the indigenous knowledge that has influenced global humanity for a far, far longer time than the scientism and materialism of the last 500 years or so. Another thing that I love about his books is that he engages in deep dives into the meaning of words, into their etymology, and how the more recent versions of the English language have distorted the original meanings. And this is without even delving into the debacle of texting and Twitter!
I want to offer one example of a nugget that I truly love from Die Wise. For most of my life, when considering God, Goddess, or Deity, I have always gravitated to the phrase “Great Mystery.” Page 217 of Die Wise has the following section: “..our willingness to wonder is where mystery goes for shelter from the steady attack it endures from our demand for information, clarity, and certainty, and from our rarely questioned right to know what we demand to know. Wonder serves mystery with grace and a humble approach. Resolving mystery is like dissecting someone you love to find out how they got so lovable. You might know something you didn’t know before, but what you loved gets lost in the inquisition. Malidoma Some, the DAGARA writer and teacher, has written that in his language, there is a word, yielpongura that is quickly and inaccurately translated into English as ‘mystery.’ He says that this word should more accurately be translated as ‘that thing which your knowledge cannot eat.’ Here is an indigenous understanding of understanding. And one our culture must learn: Mystery must have a proper place, a fundamental place in learning.”
There are so many deep insights in these books, and they inspire repeated readings. I was deeply confronted about long held beliefs, as well as being prodded into inquiries that I had never made before.
I invite you to risk the adventure Stephen Jenkinson leads you on.
Die Wisely definitely sounds like an adventurous endeavor to read. Your quote echos a message I heard from daughter recently as my curious desire to seek and understand most things annoys her. She lives with complete acceptance and love of mystery just as it is. There is definitely a lesson here.
Thank you for enticing and tempting me into a perspective that reminds me how often silence can says so much more than words and can feel more tender and peaceful since just breathing together can complete and join us.
Thank you Daniel — I love Stephen Jenkinson! I first heard him interviewed on the Future Primitive podcast & immediately bought Die Wise. We are fellow Canadians; his farm is close to where I grew up in Ontario. I went to hear him lecture in Los Angeles & attended his Nights of Grief and Mystery. Stephen Jenkinson is a wisdom keeper, provocateur, story teller & incisively insightful. Reading/listening to him is soul-homing & transformative.
My sister invited Stephen to Wales. He spoke and did a workshop in Cardigan one year, and brought his band over and did an evening at Fishguard theatre – a tiny venue for him but he feels a connection to the welsh land. I love the passage in Die Wise where he talks about the heart being a seed that must break open for us to grow. Thank you for reminding me about this great wordsmith!