The Interview: It is a strange conceit. Someone is drawn to you because of something you said in another interview, and they want you to say it again, but this time more achievedly, or more clearly. The unenviable occupation of the interviewer is to work you around to a handful of moments wherein you outdo yourself, and in so doing eclipse what drew that person to you in the first place. And you, the interviewee, must allow yourself to be drawn into imagining several thousand chairs gathered semi-circularly and devotedly, occupied by several thousand willing conscripts who have been raised up out of their ordinary and mortal days by the sudden out-of-the-blue chance to overhear the unlikely and blessed murmurings that your life has entrusted to you, and all of you gathered round this imaginary fire of subtle salvation in this dark night of the collective soul that the current regime not very secretly has become. That might sound a little overblown, but that’s what’s come my way. In a consumer culture interview you are obliged to imagine people out there, assembled by torment and by the hope that someone has it All Figured Out, and somewhere in the interview you are called upon to deliver the goods, and get it sorted, to sell certainty, to put up a road sign that reads: ‘The Way – a few moments ahead’.
I have submitted to probably several dozens of interviews over the last decade or so, not many by the strange standards of celebrity, but enough to conjure in an unsuspecting interviewee’s mind rumours of personal glory and the possibility of notorious swagger. The interview is a seduction in the way that pornography is seductive: it is a conclave of strangers fated, probably, to remain strange, gathered by the rumour of spectacle but conjured by the isolating concern that they’ve been left out of the procession of beauty and insiderhood. The talk show is the overweight child of the interview, and the person being interviewed is encouraged to eat all the attention, all that ‘centre of the universe’ status temporarily served up to him or her.
In the early going I’m sure I went along with it all, not very informed by the machinery and the chicanery of what is called these days The Conversation, throwing my two cents into the maw of opinion, watching it disappear without a trace. What made interviews more troubling for me as I got older was the heady and ludicrous obligation to have The Answer, to show people The Way, to solve the thing I had showed some concern about. To be able to wonder about what troubles, to craft a consternation which is articulate or a sorrow faithful to what sorrows: I treasure these things, and on my good days I practice them. But it is the lot of the interviewee to be asked in some way or other to collude with this bit of fog: sorrow or wonder or troubledness are preparatory, preliminary steps on the royal road to The Answer, The Fix. The truth is that in our time it tests patience and endurance to set off on an hour’s worth of wonder and perplexedness and grief without trafficking in grievance, and without the infantilizing saccharine drip reward that promises the bright horizon at the interview’s end, the new dawn, where everything – anything – is Great Again.
Steer your way past the truth You believed in yesterday Such as fundamental goodness Or the wisdom of the Way
That’s the recommendation of one patron saint of the Orphan Wisdom School (unawares), to get hip to the seduction of conviction and belief system and fix. It is an old woman’s or man’s wisdom. You could mistake it for bitterness or cynicism, but it has the tone of something road weary and road tested, something counterintuitive that has earned its keep. It is a grown-up’s way of going on, sometimes scarcely being able to.
Anyway, I write all of this to you by way of saying: Yes, here comes another interview. The interlocutor here was kind – not always the case – and he was concerned about what he was asking – also far from inevitable. A little behind-the-scenes for you about this one: the audience was one accustomed to finance-related themes, as I understood it, and I cautioned the interviewer that I had no useful notions or experience where ‘peak prosperity’ is concerned, and that I shouldn’t be relied upon to translate anything I’ve seen into that vernacular. That didn’t stop me from trying, as you’ll hear. Perhaps once or twice you’ll hear a ‘lord of the universe’ tone come in (some would say more than once or twice). But mostly what you hear is me trying to make some useful sense, again, of the trouble of the day, taking my respectful lead from those who invited me, carrying myself as if, perhaps, a few of you might be out there, listening.
So you have here a few moments pause from the fray, me turning the questions back upon themselves so that they could earn their keep as something worthy of the time you might give to listening, so that I could earn my keep. I like the laboured-over feel that shows up in this one from time to time. There is something here that reaches out to the possibility that you might recognize what I’m being asked about, or how I’m responding. I’m talking as if you’re out there. There isn’t a lot of ‘upswing’ to the thing, and you’ll not likely feel like dancing after listening. But at this darkened end of the year in the North, where I am, as the Litany of the Illumined and the Light banishes anything but obligatory joy from any family encounter, maybe the uncertain, brailed-out tone of the thing might be a welcome pause in the festivities. Afterwards, you can return to the merriment, perhaps with another take on happiness, another tempered and tuned gravity to lend to the frollick.
Would that the Mercies crowd the fortunes at your doorstep. Would that the Ornery Deities be granted their seat at the feast table this time around, so that they don’t claim all the others.
Listen to Stephen’s recent interview with Chris Martenson from Peak Prosperity.
Read the full transcript of the interview visit valuewalk.com
You die in the matter of your living. In poetic and soulful language, Stephen Jenkinson speaks of the moral imperative to contemplate and reconcile death as a way to inform how we live, reclaim our ancestral roots, redeem our past, and leave a legacy for those we love. Join Stephen at his upcoming Hollyhock retreat on July 31 – Aug 5, 2016.
What constitutes dying well in a death-phobic culture? Stephen Jenkinson looks squarely in the eye of death. It is his experience from working with hundreds and hundreds of people who are actively dying, that, for the most part, we are encouraged by those around us not to let our dying be a big part of our life. He points out that this death-phobic culture “…prescribes [that] our understanding of the best dying is the one that messes with you the least, and the only way you can achieve that is to establish some kind of firewall of awareness whereby the realities of dying don’t intrude, and when they do, you’re losing a positive outlook that you have to reinstate.” In other words, in a death-phobic environment you are not allowed to know that you are dying when you are dying. Families are besieged by arguments over whether or not to tell their loved ones they are dying. In this dense and profound dialogue, Jenkinson offers this perspective when asked about wrestling with death as opposed to fighting with it: “As you are dying you get an opportunity to live in a way that your normal life has not granted you… [you] answer the bell and testify deeply to how radically blessed you were to be able to live long enough to realize how fine it was to be alive… You’re under no obligation to accept that you’re dying when you are, which is the current mantra. Hopefully you’d be heartbroken about the fact that you don’t get to live a lot longer, hopefully you wish it were otherwise, and occasionally you demand that it be otherwise. This is in keeping with dying well.” He also adds that life is a time-limited offer and the “obligation is to obey. Obey doesn’t mean submit; obey means attend to. What is this asking of me now?” There is much to ponder in this dialogue whether or not you are actively dying.
We are thrilled to share news that Stephen Jenkinson’s DIE WISE – A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, his new book about grief, and dying, and the great love of life published by North Atlantic Books is a recipient of the Nautilus Award.
Honourees are selected for their exceptional literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership, and positive social change as well as to the worlds of art, creativity, and inspirational reading for children, teens, and young adults. In recognition for his contribution to the genre of death, dying, and grief, Stephen Jenkinson’s Die Wise was awarded the silver medal.
Nautilus Book Awards Silver and Gold Winners are carefully selected in a unique three-tier judging process by experienced teams of book reviewers, librarians, authors, editors, book store owners, and leaders in the publishing industry.
Nautilus award winning authors include Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Marianne Williamson, Thich Nhat Hanh, Eckhart Tolle, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Naomi Wolf and many other leading writers, speakers and thinkers. Learn more about the awards at nautilusbookawards.com
About the Author
Stephen Jenkinson, MTS, MSW, 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. Formerly a program director at a major Canadian hospital and medical-school assistant professor, Stephen is now a sought-after workshop leader, speaker, and consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations. He is the founder of The Orphan Wisdom School in Canada and the subject of the documentary film Griefwalker.
Stephen Jenkinson interview with Bodhi Be’s Doorway into Light radio show about life and death as it explores the wonder in the fields of aging and dying and death and what brings meaning and purpose to life. Doorway into Light Founded by Reverend Bodhi Be, Leilah Be and Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert), Doorway Into Light is engaged in advocacy and educational programs on Death and Dying on Maui, with families and professionals in the field, as well as actively engaged in helping dying people, their families and care-givers.
Looking like Willie Nelson on a good day, Stephen Jenkinson is ‘on the road again’ telling our death-phobic culture that all the solutions for death that we come up with reinforce our fear of it.
After 20 years working alongside the dying, his manifesto, Die Wise (2015), tells us to stop making death ‘acceptable’ and learn to openly grieve it.
Grief Walker is the title of the Canadian National Film Board documentary about him, but Stephen answers to ‘Grief Monger.’