Medicine Path with Brian James
MPP93 Longing to Belong: Stephen Jenkinson
Wondering about belonging, mystical experience and religion with writer and activist Stephen Jenkinson.
On this episode I welcome back Stephen Jenkinson for the fourth time on the podcast. If you’re not already familiar with Stephen’s work I recommend checking out episodes 14, 45 and 69.
For those of you who are familiar with Stephen’s work, you’ll know that he is a special kind of teacher. I know he prefers not to think of himself that way, but my interactions with him always stretch my brain in really productive but often challenging ways, and that to me is in essence what it means to be a teacher.
This conversation was no different.
We got together on the occasion of the release of a new book that he collaborated on with Kimberly Johnson, called Reckoning. We touch on what brought about that work, but the bulk of our conversation centers around Stephen’s journey to obtaining a Master’s in Theology from Harvard Divinity School and how that lead him to start working as a Social Worker and eventually to the work he’s best known for as a Palliative Care counsellor.
Along the way we hear about his mysterious encounter with an angel at the Notre Dame Cathedral following a near death experience at sea, and wonder together about what it means to belong to a place, particularly for those of us who are relative newcomers to this land called Turtle Island.
As it often happens after speaking with Stephen, I’m left with some questions that continue to haunt me. In particular, what it means to belong, and the question that we end with, does Christianity belong in North America?
As usual, it’s better not to expect any clear cut answers from Stephen but be open to having some new questions to consider. Personally, I take the advice of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who suggested the following in his letters to the young poet Franz Kappus back in 1903:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
Stephen's website: http://orphanwisdom.com