Life Is a Festival Podcast: Stephen Jenkinson: Personal Growth Won’t Save Us

Life Is a Festival Podcast: Stephen Jenkinson: Personal Growth Won’t Save Us

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Today’s conversation is a serious one, yet it is approached with the poetic grace that only Stephen Jenkinson can deliver. Personal growth and healing alone won’t shield us from impending catastrophes, but perhaps embracing them might… just maybe.

In this episode, we discuss why personal growth for its own sake can resemble a tumor and examine the issues surrounding healing culture. We discuss the concepts of wholeness versus goodness and listen to Stephen’s experiences in Cadiz, Plymouth, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We also explore how catastrophe can lead to a period of descent and introspection. Stephen enlightens us on how hope functions like a mortgage, and I have the audacity to ask him what’s next.

Stephen Jenkinson, a cultural activist, worker, and author, teaches internationally and serves as the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School. Since co-founding the Nights of Grief and Mystery project alongside singer-songwriter Gregory Hoskins in 2015, Stephen has taken this musical, tent show revival, storytelling, and ceremonial performance on tour throughout North America, the UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. He has authored A Generation’s Worth: Spirit Work While the Crisis Reigns (2021), Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble (2018), the award-winning Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul (2015), and other works.

Stephen Jenkinson is also the focus of the feature-length documentary film Griefwalker, which provides a glimpse into his work with the dying, and Lost Nation Road, a shorter documentary chronicling the creation of the Nights of Grief and Mystery tours.


:09 – Personal Growth for its own sake and tumors
:18 – The etymology of healing
:27 – I’d rather be whole than good
:37 – Three beginnings: Cadiz, Plymouth and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
:46 – Catastrophe is a going down and going in
1:03 – Hope is works like a mortgage
1:22 – If not hope, then what next?