Archive for the ‘News’ Category
I have lived long enough …
No. You don’t want to leave a sentence like that, sitting all by itself, without a back end. Unless you really mean that you have indeed – as of that moment – lived long enough (and writing it down in an email seems a lurid anti-climax to the allotment), then you want to push through the pause that drops in after “enough”. It’s not a bad thing to hear yourself say, though. For practice. So that the real thing doesn’t catch you unawares, as if you’d no way of knowing.
You do have multiple ways of knowing, as do I. All the limits and all the frailties, and all the endings, for example, and all the little camouflaged mercies that at first seem brutal and arbitrary, sending some reaching for a refresher course on the Serenity Prayer, are ways of knowing. Deciding that you don’t know about endings, that you’ve no way of knowing or caring about them, is a way of knowing. I’ve had many people in their fifties over the years tell me that they haven’t known anyone who’s died. Which is straight up impossible. It’s a confession that they’ve kept their distance, so as not to sorrow too much. It doesn’t sound like it, but that’s a way of knowing, too.
Sudden endings are for amateurs. They’re understandable, but they’re not really how it is. “How it is” is that we have plenty of notice that our corner of the enterprise will not last, cannot last. It isn’t kept from us. Just because we might duck some unwanted thing doesn’t mean that it is hiding from us. The “when” and the “how”: now, those tend to be kept from us until five minutes to our own personal midnight or so. And there’s mercy in that, I’d say. What do you imagine you’d do with the information, should you find yourself to be up closer to the front of the line than the rest of us? Most of the people who’ve spoken about this with me imagine that they’d begin firing on all cylinders, bucket-list style, crossing off the Big Doings. Well, I have seen what “knowing the time ahead of time” does to people, an awful lot of them, and based on the panic and the sense of betrayal that showed up I’d say that nobody really needs to know more than they already do about all this, and that more information probably won’t make most of us more capable. It’s like global warming that way: more information won’t make it more true. We have enough information, more than enough, to plot a course towards engaged, passionate, sorrowful sanity. We have more than enough information to oblige us to behave as if there are generations to come that will need some example of grace under considerable pressure when it’s their turn.
Anyway, I intended to begin with this: I’ve lived long enough to see the day when dying and death has become – what else could you call it? – sexy. There’s a bit of rock star status that gathers around dying people these days, and around their helpers. People press in to be closer to them, as if dying people know more about life because they’re dying than the rest of us who aren’t dying right now do. I don’t think I saw a terminal diagnosis confer sagacity and a measuredness not otherwise practiced by people before they were “dying people”. It tweaked what was already there, intensified it often, sometimes to an unendurable degree.
Would-be helpers, advocates and death-trade workers are banging on the bars and the walls to get in. Not everywhere, of course. Not everybody. But enough to notice it. There are alternative death conferences all over that are keen on going mainstream. Somebody should bear in mind what happens when ardent and revolutionary things go mainstream. They tend to disappear. Or they become what the next round of revolutionaries are keen on bringing down. But going mainstream is enormously compelling, enchanting. It’s hard to resist: all those new chances to be heard, to get the message out, to change the discourse, to be an opinion leader. So don’t be surprised when dying has become passe, and boring. That’s what’s coming, I’d say. Maybe the spotlight will settle on elders next, and elderhood will get “the treatment” for a while, and legions will line up for their elder papers, and the whole business will go mainstream – sexy, in an unsought sort of way.
Sexy isn’t very sexy anymore. The dominant culture has done sexy by now. Done it to death, you could say, so that it’s become white noise wallpaper. The part of the culture’s adrenal apparatus called “sexy” seems mostly spent at this point. So it’s being politicized beyond recognition at this very moment – another sign that there’s not much left to wring from it, for now.
That’s an arresting thought, if you give it a chance to have its way with you. That’s how much sustained attention to detail the public discourse seems interested in. There’s only so much novelty you can bring to the daily architecture of our lives, only so much notoriety. After that, well, the hypesters and the hipsters move on to the next attraction.
And that’s when you can begin deciding where you intend to live out your realizations, your discoveries, your awakenings. When things become ordinary again, and the glare is gone and the heat is off, maybe (as Nick Cave put it) God is in the house. And that would be very good news. Or no news at all to those who’ve made their way through the squalls of notice and blame and trending and made landfall in the land of an ordinary day.
Where there could be grief there’s rancour. That’s often true. Where there could be mystery, there’s conviction abounding, and opinioneering. That’s true too, and it isn’t easy to live through. Here’s one antidote: imagine that ‘ordinary’ is the proper place for sex, and for death and for elderhood, and for all of the other sacred things. Imagine that ‘ordinary’ is where mystery lingers now, waiting to see if we’re willing to learn it again.
Imagine too that the sacred and holy things and all the Godly things are frail and vulnerable in their way, and that they won’t endure come what frigging may, and that they have a survival instinct, the same kind entrusted to all living things, and that their way of enduring is to go to the unGodly and the non sacred and unholy places to hide out for a while, waiting for the madnesses to spend themselves. In troubled times, maybe it is that the the Gods move to the suburbs, to the blight, to the ordinary places, to the places unbecoming. If any of that is so, then maybe the ordinariness of love making and of sorrow, the ordinariness of aging if you do and dying when you do is where you go to find the Lords of Life.
They used to be called’ records’. It’s old-timey. It has a good sound to it. A record, a sign that something happened, proof, a faithful witness: These stories and songs were recorded live on tours of Australia, New Zealand, Wales and England in early 2017.
Concerts for Turbulent Times they surely were, sonorous hours and rapture. Our times were served by whatever talents of tongue and timbre have been granted the band and theard, by the reckless labours of friends and accomplices met and unmet who fashioned genuine gigs in their home towns from their dreams for a better day, and by the raucous willingness of the sold out houses to be drawn into wonder and poetry and the kenning.
The doors were pried at night’s end, and still many lingered and couldn’t leave or wouldn’t, and there was something like victory in the air, and a weary, luminous midnight rumour that people heretofore unknown to each other could still join for the sake of the young among them and for the world entrusted to them, and that the Mercies count us kin, and that wonder is the currency of the Gods.
It was powerful business. We got home, couldn’t settle in. The recordings turned into something like dry lightning, like something somebody who wasn’t there might want to know about. The band went back to business, made offerings to the dance hall Gods, gave them their proper seat at the proceedings, brought all the road-tested learning to bear, tuned the whole thing up. What you have in your hand is something like thunder and a far-off storm, faithful to those strange, merciful nights.
A storyteller. A band. An evening of mongrel sorrow, dappled by magic and wonder, fringed with regard for the gift of the tongue, harkening and hortatory and bardic and greying, steeped in mortal mystery, uprooted from its uncertain home in the North of America and cast divination-style like bones on a dusty proving ground down under and over in the old dirt. What would you call such a thing? We called it Nights of Grief and Mystery.
Available October 29th, 2017. Pre-orders on sale now. All CD version pre-orders made before the official launch will receive a signed copy from Stephen and Gregory. Order online exclusively on orphanwisdom.com
Dying well is not a matter of enlightened self-interest or personal preference. Dying well must become an obligation that living people and dying people owe to each other and to those to come. Dying could be and must be the fullest expression and incarnation of what you’ve learned by living. If you love somebody, if you care about the world that’s to come after you, if you want somebody to be spared the lunacy of what you’ve seen, you’ve got to die wise. From his two decades of working with dying people and their families, Stephen Jenkinson places death at the centre of the page and asks us to behold it in all its painful beauty. Dying well is a right and responsibility of everyone. It is a moral, political, and spiritual obligation each person owes their ancestors and their heirs. It is not a lifestyle option. It is a birthright and a debt. How we die, how we care for dying people, and how we carry our dead: this work makes our village life, or breaks it.
Stephen teaches internationally and is the creator and principal instructor of the Orphan Wisdom School founded in 2010. With Master’s degrees from Harvard University (Theology) and the University of Toronto (Social Work) he is redefining what it means to live, and die well. Apprenticed to a master storyteller, he has worked extensively with dying people and their families, is former program director in a major Canadian hospital, former assistant professor in a prominent Canadian medical school, consultant to palliative care and hospice organizations and educator and advocate in the helping professions. He is also a sculptor, traditional canoe builder whose house won a Governor General’s Award for architecture. He is the author of Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul (a book about grief, and dying, and the great love of life, released March 2015), How it All Could Be: A work book for dying people and those who love them(2009) and Money and The Soul’s Desires: A Meditation (2002). He was also a contributing author to Palliative Care – Core Skills and Clinical Competencies (2007). Stephen is the subject of Griefwalker, a National Film Board of Canada film (2008).
The Sand Emergence Series
The Emergence Series is a constellation of conversations with SAND speakers and teachers, intended as an exploration of the emergence palpable in the collective field at this time and an opportunity to connect with others in our community holding a ‘large vision’ and dedicated to the evolution of consciousness on the planet.
Old structures are being shaken up, old stories have come to their limits, old systems are failing us. What is emerging, where do we go from here, how do we hold it all in the tenderness of the awakening heart? What wisdom do the worlds great lineages and traditions have for us and what does the meeting of science and nonduality contribute to the emergent conversation? How does a mystic respond to a world in crisis?
Through the magic of technology, the Emergence Series is open to the participation of the entire global SAND community, LIVE! There will be opportunities to have personal interaction and ask questions of our guests. Our intention with this online series is to foster conversation, connection and community in between conferences and to offer windows of contact, wisdom and heart.
We invite our teachers to engage us from a perspective of embodied, living wisdom, and offer practical guidance that can support us in our relationships, our work, our community and our world at this time.
The Emergence Series is facilitated by Vera de Chalambert, a Harvard-educated religious scholar, spiritual story teller and fellow SAND speaker.
Watch the Video Below
There are days that come – and surely they have found you – when assuredness about the aim and the reasons for your life is the first casualty of the giddy good fortune of awakening again and heaving to uprightness and bringing anything in particular to mind. You are suddenly awash in wonder at the ordinary unlikeliness of your days and your place in them. It isn’t confusion, exactly, that comes round. It is more the entirely mandatory happenstance encounter with The Reign of Chance. You wake up once more, but all the habits of your mind have not yet done so, and you come to first light as an amateur again, bereft of order and the easy stride it grants. You have a lightness to your limbs and to your first contemplations, an imprecision you’d never seek, so much like ‘sudden nothing’ does it seem, like the end of the old purpose and of the old clarity, and the beginning of something older.
I have, thanks to the persistence of he Mankiller Tour that began in earnest in 2015, become a denizen of the road. And so I’ve become prone to these kinds of encounters. As on many another strange morning, I have washed ashore just now from ten weeks on the road, from the Oceania Tour, and awoke in this arrhythmia at yesterday’s first light. It began as you’d expect: “Okay. Where am I? Is there a gig tonight? Interview? Does today have an airport in it somewhere? Will I make the weight limit? What is my business? Is there anything of the Old Life standing?” But there was only a room not at once familiar, and a view of the river I once knew now free of ice and risen over its banks, and the particular quiet of an off-grid house that I’d over these months learned to live without. And the grace that comes with the end of momentum. In that quiet, I considered and reconsidered.
If you came to your age of majority labouring under the gaze of two parents who managed a steady fondness for you and your errancy, that’s probably because they managed a stout fondness for each other, and I trust you count yourself in fortune’s company and in something grown rare. And if as you came to the gates of your life’s saunter and sojourn as a young man or woman one or two others raised up the dragging hem of your soul and all its allegations and became your soul’s parents, then the Graces themselves had their way with your days. And if you awakened as you went to some retroactive reasons for your birth and the persistence of your pulse against the entropic odds of this jangled time of ours, you may sometimes be by turns giddy with the assignment of real purpose, and you may sometimes be rent asunder by only a glimpse of how the radical ramshackling beginnings of wisdom are more rarely sought it seems than they might have been in former times, and that they traded in so often now for personal style or for dominion. In those days the longing for companionship for your purposed soul is heavy.
And if you’re gone away for a legion of days at the firm beckoning of the Old Worthies and the Ancients of Days, and if you arrive at a home where someone waits, candle in the window and heat in the hearth, and affords you a bit of room afforded should you have to find yourself again, you are of course fortune’s son or daughter. And all of this, all of it, comes bounding to you as portents and wonders, and signs that the Gods of Chance have rolled the knucklebones of fate and your worthiness has been agreed upon, and that you’ve only to submit, to wear the raiment afforded you by the travails and the truing of your time, burdensome and telling as it often is.
Now, for all of that, should the road find you in conclave with those who will conspire to take all your reasons up with theirs and prize a better day with them, you might just reel from the strange mercy of it all. And you might plead for mercy from that strange, Godly mercy. And that is what happened. The Nights of Grief of Mystery were granted me by the kindness of the peoples of Adelaide and Melbourne, Newcastle, Wentworth Falls, Sydney and Hobart and Auckland, Gold Coast, Brisbane, Bangalow and Coorabell, Yandina and Fremantle, and Bali and Maui, and all the other good places these last months, that is true. Still, the gold and the glint of those long days was finding myself in companionship of the Round Table kind. Companionship: it means – and still means – the way of being with bread, the table fellowship of kin. Scoring my mischief and my muse I had the good graces of a band, one Gregory Hoskins, and a road apprentice, one Aaron Berger. Concerts for Turbulent Times they surely were, sonorous hours and rapture. I will tell you that these times were served by whatever talents of tongue and timbre granted the band and the bard, and by the raucous willingness of the sold out houses down under to be drawn into wonder and poetry and the kenning of these times. The doors were pried at night’s end, and still many lingered and couldn’t leave or wouldn’t, and there was something like victory in the air, and a weary, luminous midnight rumour that people heretofore unknown to each other can still join for the sake of the young among them and of the world still entrusted to them, and that the Mercies count us kin, and that wonder is the currency of the Gods. To all of you who wondered aloud with us these last two months over that vast country in the south: would that the storehouse of mystery out behind the house of your ordinary days be full, no matter how threadbare you’d grown certain it was, and that your neighbours hear tell of it and find their’s full too.
And now this caravan of consequence and conjure, these Nights of Grief & Mystery, are bound for Wales and for England in May (Fishguard, Totnes, Brighton, Norfolk, London, Sheffield and Bristol). Would that some of you come to hear these tales that those who parted from your Old Countries in centuries past came for in Oceania. Would that you grant us, two more sons Come From Away, the honour of your evening.
Stephen Jenkinson and Gregory Hoskins – Oceania Tour 2017. Stephen is a Harvard Educated Theologian, Culture Activist, founder of The Orphan Wisdom School, author of DIE WISE: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul, subject of a National Film Board of Canada documentary, Griefwalker. He comes with teachings of the ramshackling kind, about honour and grace under pressure, about elderhood in an age of age-intolerance, about the withering World Tree, about how we might learn our darkening times. And there will be evening concerts too, because he has Gregory Hoskins to lend his music and his road-tested grace to the cause. Picture it: A storyteller. A band. An evening of mongrel sorrow, dappled by magic and wonder, fringed with regard for the gift of the tongue, harkening and hortatory and bardic and greying, steeped in mortal mystery, uprooted from its uncertain home in the North of America and cast divination-style like bones on a dusty proving ground down under. What would you call such a thing? Video courtesy of ianmack.com. Tour, dates, locations, teaching descriptions and online tickets.