Orphan Wisdom

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Orphan Wisdom is a philosophical system invented and promoted by Stephen Jenkinson that believes what modern people "suffer from most is culture failure, amnesia of ancestry and deep family story, phantom or sham rites of passage, no instruction on how to live with each other or with the world around us or with our dead or with our history."[1] Before his 2010 founding of the Orphan Wisdom School, Jenkinson directed palliative care at Mount Sinai Hospital of Toronto.[2] Orphan Wisdom's teachings push against "'death phobia' and 'grief illiteracy'"[3] to promote acceptance of death well before death in order to "participate emotionally in their deaths as they participate in other big life events".[4]

The documentary film about Jenkinson and Orphan Wisdom, Griefwalker, was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and filmed over twelve years by Tim Wilson.[5]

The 2015 book Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul is Jenkinson's history, explication and exploration of his approach to coming to terms with death. Its dense and sometimes poetic prose is both a critique of dominant Western cultural practices and denials - in part gleaned from his years the "death trade," as Jenkinson calls it - as well as what the author has learned elsewhere, particularly from indigenous peoples.[6] His ideas also have an affinity with Buddhist teachings, which have their origin in the Buddha's confronting the reality of suffering and death.[7]



  1. ^ "Making Wisdom" on the Orphan Wisdom website. Accessed 28 September 2015.
  2. ^ "Man sees gifts in terminal diagnosis," Peak Online. 4 June 2014. Accessed 28 September 2015.
  3. ^ "Is This Yom Kippur Prayer Designed to Confront Our 'Death Phobia?'," Haaretz. 17 September 2015. Accessed 28 September 2015.
  4. ^ "Author talks about dying well in Woods Hole forum," Cape Cod Times. 16 August 2015. Accessed 28 September 2015.
  5. ^ "DVD Review: Griefwalker" accessed 28 September 2015.
  6. ^ Die Wise: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2015.
  7. ^ Die Wise book review by Paul Genki Kahn. Retrieved Sept. 30, 2018.