Stephen Jenkinson: Living With Meaning

JGritter, so glad you are still with us!! 

I do not have to "Be all that I can be", I just have to stand in the place were I am, love the people I am with, enjoy what time I may have left.
Your quote resonates strongly with me.  After so much time spent experiencing the painful emotions that come with facing the likely ramifications of our current predicaments, I find myself surrendering to what is.  And by that I mean accepting the truth of what is, not giving up. The result -more of a focus on living in the here-and-now (because that is all we have)- is the best comfort I have found.  It may sound strange, but I actually find the Zero Hedge motto, "On  along enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero" to be comforting. It reminds me that "we are all here on a temporary basis, so live now." 

Best wishes for your health, John!!


I too am very relieved that you have survived your brush with mortality and have decided to remain with us a while longer!

So glad you are taking the event for the gift that it was; a chance to really live, be with those you love, and stop living as if all the time in the world remained.  Perhaps that wasn't your way, but it's certainly mine from time to time as I get wrapped up in relatively meaningless stuff and lost track of the being here now.

I do think, more broadly, that as the impossibility of it all speeds into people's awareness, that the sort of soul-searching Stephen elicits and elucidates with become more common.  And that too is the gift of these troubled times - a chance to really live, here and now, with what and who we have.

John…I can empathize and feel the intensity of your situation. I'm so glad you are maintaining.  Every moment is precious. I didn't truly understand that until I thought my life was ending. Although some complacency has crept back into my life 12 years after my crisis, I am still thankful every day for all that is.  And I try hard to take nothing for granted.
Two months ago when my daughter, her husband, and my 1 year old grandson told me that they were moving out to the country to my small town, I cannot put into words the joy that I felt. To be able to spend more time with my family is an immeasurable gift. You and I may not be able to solve any of societies problems, but we can make a difference in the legacy that we leave and the kindness we impart.

By the way, my kids are PP followers and if I may be so bold, I would say that they have their shit together. They got out from under an expensive suburban home mortgage and now own 14.5 acres and a modest country house debt free.


Glad you have extended your leasehold on your current residence, so to speak.  It's all a gift, and beauty is everywhere we turn.  Even though this is IMO one of history's hair-raising pivot times, I still feel fortunate to be here.  

VIVA – Sager

So here's a thought that has been rolling around in my head over the past several days.  Picture the scene.  I walk into the ER were I work.  Triage nurse says "You look like shit, what's up?"  "I think I'm having a heart attack" says I.  BAM!  Things start to happen fast!  Several minutes later there is a slight pause in the action.  I lay half naked in a tangle of tubes and telemetry leads, vasodilators on board, anticoagulant running in an IV.  A young resident physician has informed me that the EKG suggests "a significant LAD lesion" (translation: classic "widow maker", imminent risk for cardiac sudden death).  A buddy of mine standing at the bed side gives my a wry smile.  "Wouldn't it be ironic", he says, "if after all your years of careful prepping you drop dead and miss the Zombie Apocalypse".
Dong!  My head is still ringing.  What if instead of struggling to remain hopeful, or struggling against hopelessness, in the face of crushing evidence, our role is to be "hope free"?  Just to be clear and present for the teaming masses who are no more able to mitigate their biosphere destroying behavior the then the yeast in sand puppy's sugar solution.  

Ok, I hear a bunch of people out there saying, "Well, duh!  Morning, sunshine, welcome to being awake"  It feels like that moment when you meet the eyes of a family member across a dying patient and you can see that they get it, that the situation is irrevocably terminal.

Thanks for the well wishes and thanks for letting me process out loud.  

I wonder if we can add another "E" for "existential crisis".

John G.

John G, great last post - as were so many others.
Hope. It is something that I have always felt is a must have in order to keep going, to give impetus to live well and strength to overcome obstacles. Now I am re-thinking… very deeply… have been for a long time actually, every since I awoke to the reality of our collective predicament. My dilemma though has always been equating letting go of hope with giving up. Giving up is not in my nature and indeed I think it is part of the human thing - the fight or flee instinct. I am a fighter by nature. I push back for all that is right and good. Trying to make things better. But is it still right to do this? I am having big doubts.

I guess the challenge is to find the happy medium which resides in the middle of the two extremes of hopeful and hopeless - which is (choose your word) peace, contentment, nirvana, enlightenment… whatever.

Perhaps all this time I have simply been fighting the hope within, not realizing that that very fight was causing the unease for which I felt the need to fight? Hope can be exhausting. Acceptance somehow is looking easier to achieve now.


There are many things that need to die now, so the new can manifest.  No need to wait for the zombie apocalypse, we are living that.  Only the walking dead could live the way we do now, destroying the  earth for such small minded and selfish gains.  In the end perhaps we will see the beauty of it all, and realize that we have been dead all along. 

The parts I have bolded above speak to me as I'm sure they do to many people.  I am typing this on Christmas day, which in the pagan and indigenous traditions across the entire northern hemisphere, celebrated the first inching step of the sun back up into the sky after three full days of hanging at its lowest ebb in the sky (with the great northern cross constellation behind it, hence hanging on a cross).

This is the lowest, darkest point of the year in a literal sense.

Metaphorically this darkness can become a fertile time for deep inner contemplation.

I find myself increasingly drawn to the inner world, and what we need to do individually to keep moving during these troubled times.

To immerse oneself in the population data, or to dare to ingest the ecological data, or to peel back the covers on what our leaders are really up to, is to step into a place of darkness.  So, metaphorically and literally speaking, how do we manifest ourselves in that space?

Most turn away, unable or unwilling to ‘go there.’  But the people assembled here have chosen to turn and face our many problems and predicaments squarely, aware and accepting of the burdens and costs imposed.

There’s much that Stephen spoke of that touched me, with the Tyranny of Hope being a critical piece, and I would invite everyone to listen or read through that part as many times as necessary to fully get the nuances of what he’s saying, but right now I’d like to focus on what he said right after that segment.

I asked if courage was an appropriate term for the people who can operate ‘hope free’ and Stephen dug a little deeper and said this:

Stephen Jenkinson: I think it is a little more afflicted than that characterization. It could be something closer to this:

Samuel Beckett, great Irish writer. He has a book title. And the book title says what you and I are talking about right now. The name of the book is, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.  Now, if you do not pay attention to how he has phrased it, you think what he is saying is I cannot go on; I can go on. But he doesn’t say that. See, that is hopeful and hopeless again. He says I cannot go on; I will go on. And at the risk of cheapening an elaborate and well accomplished book just by making a phrase of the title, I believe his title says this:

I have an obligation in a troubled time to go on, not being able to.

If you let that stand and you do not try to resolve that, and you recognize the inability to go on is no more predicting of the outcome than the ability to go on is. Neither one of these foreclose on what may yet come to pass.

However, the depths of the trouble mean that there is such thing… there is such a thing as not being able to go on and you turn away from that at your peril. The recognition that you cannot go on is a real time in people’s lives. It is not a failure, moral or otherwise, it is not a collapse. It is a true thing, and it takes courage to know that you are at a time when you cannot go on.

 And what Beckett is saying is, there come times in our lives when we go on not being able to. Where you are not obliged to choose between those two realities that both of them are your companions now; and I think the degree of trouble that we are seeing beginning to crest now, requires both of those skills.

The skill of not being able to go on and the skill of doing so at the same time and not being obliged to choose between them. And pretending that because you read or watched Bucket List enough times, you know how to get on the other side of being defeated.

There is nothing on the other side of being defeated. When you lose, you lose. And what we have done to that which has sustained us, we’ve done it long enough now, that the losing has begun. That is a nonnegotiable situation. You can have as many politicians as you want try to get your vote from you by claiming they are going to make something great again. But there is no again to go back to, you see. That is what grownups know about a troubled time and that is… there is a degree of courage in that absolutely, but it is a courage that has no promise in it. That if you are courageous secretly, it is going to be okay.

Chris Martenson: Yes…

Stephen Jenkinson: You see? This kind of courage is being able to proceed knowing that it is not going to be okay any time soon.

“I can’t go on, I’ll go on.”  I cannot go on, I will go on.  That distinction is so important.

To go on even when you have already lost, when there’s no hope of a happy ending, when there are no guarantees of anything…I know that sounds like a dark and degraded place to inhabit but it really is not, it’s the opposite.

To finally and deeply accept ‘what is’ means being able to be present with what is.  All we ever have is each present moment and having the twin skills of both not going on and going on is vital to being present, to fully engage with the magic of being alive at this time.

To be filled with hope is to be forever waiting for something to arrive to make things better…in the future.  To be hopeless is to be despairing that things are not and have not been different than they already are.  Both conditions deprive you of being present with yourself and your loved ones and forestall the ability to keep moving despite or in spite of your hope or hopelessness.

These are troubled times.

We cannot hope them into being otherwise.

What we can do is keep moving, to go on, and so that’s why Adam and I built this site and continue to do all the things we do each day to keep moving, to go on.  Honestly, I would not be able to continue, and would not have lasted this long, if I required a promise that if I applied myself well enough that it will all be okay.  I know too much to hold that view.

Getting to this point was not an intellectual process.  It was an emotional journey, during which I discovered that much of which I had been trained by my culture to avoid because it was depressing or dark, contained within it the seeds of true freedom and greater joy.

This was just one of many paradoxes that I now understand inform and inhabit the mature condition.  The ability to make an impact in the outer world is reflected by one’s ability and wiliness to journey deeply within.  As within, so without.  I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

So my invitation here, even and especially for myself, is to continue to deepen the twin skills of not being able to go on, and going on.  To settle more fully into them trusting that even greater freedoms and enlightenment exist as I/we/you spiral more deeply into them.

And with that, I think I hear my children stirring.  Time for stockings and joy.  Time to carry on.


It was heart warming to see WestcoastJan's post and equally so to see Chris reference her post. Jan has a connection to and is an advocate for people with disabilities and her perspective on life is unique.  It is this communities diversity and quest for understanding that provides the medium for growth and richness.
I ponder - what if this point Chris is making regarding "I can't go on, I'll go on" is the most important preparation for an emergency, catastrophe, hard times etc. of all our preparations.  Wow what a fundamental concept.  Can't help but think the practice of gratitude fits right in here.  Gratitude can keep us grounded and provide a frame of reference for the present I think.

A great Christmas Day gift, thanks Chris.

AK Granny

Dang, even the predictive text sticks "hope" in the sentence.  Hard to get away from that hope thing.
Should have been "I can't go on. I'll go on."


"The tears in all things," describes what lies beneath the facade of 'happy, happy,' – that the social sphere requires we participate in.  Once we peel that layer back we're overwhelmed by the sadness, tears, shame and guilt we are required to repress.  Openly expressing vulnerability or anything outside of the prescribed social 'talking points,' is frowned on.  The collective ego which is very scripted, is confused and annoyed by it. 
Peeling back the gift wrap of the social self only exposes the box the self is contained in. Remove the lid and you discover another box and so on and so on, until you get to the minute quantities of DMT the brain produces and through which it can translate its own essence into other, dreams, other realms, possibly paralleling realities, different regions within a multiverse.

We are not lost or gone at death.  We transcend this ludicrous goofball planet, this absurd Kabuki theater.  There is reason for deep hope. We are rooted in joy and to deep joy and love we will return. 

Merry Christmas!  


Norman Vincent Peale's twisted reign of positive thinking is done!  And it is happening in the macro, right down to the micro — our bodies, our minds and our relationships. Thinking realistically can be quite horrifying and depressing and there is no answer other than to just endure. It's what humans do best and is ennobling, even though we are beaten and bloodied by it. 

We seem to have to go through being beaten and bloodied, one way or the other –  even while  imagining, firmly believing, or 'knowing' that there is nothing on the other side of it.

We should honor, at the same time, that we are operating in a bit of an informational void, no matter how much we think we have it 'nailed.'  We know nothing for certain, including that there is nothing on the other side of Bummersville. 

 Whereas Michaelangelo's fresco depicts a hand with extended finger reaching out a finger to Adam, it's as if God is now giving us the finger, or simply firmly gesturing with the same hand to 'stop!' It's the ultimate negative gesture.  The power of 'no'. Nope IS the new hope!  






l have not heard things phrased exactly that way.  It seems that I cannot go on, I will go on, without choosing  one or the other is about loss of the self, eliminating the division between the observed and the observer.  The self exists, but no longer acts as lens that distorts reality. Unfortunately it seems that it takes enormous suffering to bring us to that point. Western philosophy is so utterly infected with the ego and the self.  Eastern traditions are full descriptions and methodologies to achieve that very end.
So even in these "dark times" we are given exactly what is needed to transform ourselves, perhaps that even involves the physical death of the species, I do not pretend to know.  But I do think that it is a choice that we can make if we wake up regardless of what the math tells us.

The autonomous self was a philosophical construct of Western philosophy trying to counteract the determinism of the emerging fields of science during the Enlightenment. Our present day virtual reality games and toys coddle that ‘self’ very effectively.
Modern psychology and some philosophy today is working with the concept of self in relation to our environment. Matthew Crawford’s thoughts on this are especially accessible. Yes we make decisions. Yet those decisions are tied to our environment. To act from a point of autonomy is not possible. So, why is this important?
For my simple mind I hang onto the saying 'you can’t steer a car unless it’s moving. Hence the requirement of ‘I will go on’. Holding the hand of a very sick child provides a way for that child to move on. Whether to health, continued sickness or death, being there for that other is crucial. Being the change you want to see (I think that’s an accurate quote) is another way each of us can provide an environment for each other and our physically adjacent neighbors to go on when they can’t go on. And, just to cut that self confidence down to size, others around us may be the reason we can go on.
My father made the decision to start a new family after hearing a remnant congregation singing in a bombed out church in Germany at the end of WWII.
We go on because others go on. Even a leader has followers. Hope, like the autonomous self, needs a rethink in our present culture. For now I’m quite happy to hold someone’s hand and keep moving

After pondering this subject for a while I have difficulty with the “it’s good to be hope free concept” because hope almost seems to be an instinct. I do understand that obsessively hopping can be counterproductive. So I googled the question “what’s the difference between hope and optimism” and found this lovely quote.
“One of the most important distinctions I have learned in the course of reflection on Jewish history is the difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that, together, we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to have hope. Knowing what we do of our past, no Jew can be an optimist. But Jews have never – despite a history of sometimes awesome suffering – given up hope”The Dignity of Difference p. 206
I think I will continue to hope that the ever so many good and decent people out in the big wide world can, collectively, make positive changes. Yep, I like hope, it’s active, and active people get shit done. And when someone is dying, hoping for one more good day is not a bad thing. IMHO

Nice post! I have been pondering this a lot myself of late. I think you hit on something that is key.
As I wrote in a recent essay published elsewhere, “…hope is the master key to unlocking the dreams and aspirations of everyone who walks on this Earth. On some level, regardless of place, status or ability, virtually everyone has some level of hope, for something. Our survival often depends on it. Without it, nothing happens. With it, anything can happen.”
I can’t go on. I will go on. A lack of optimism feeds into the “I can’t go on”. Conversely, action is required for the “I will go on”. That action must be derived from some level of hope. The key I believe then lay in managing the hope itself. It must be the right kind of hope - not too much, not too little. Just enough to defeat the negativity of the “I can’t go on” while simultaneously supporting the “I will go on”.
The hope that we choose to maintain therefore needs structure, like SMART goal setting. To be truly useful to our well being, our hope must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-bound. This will put the necessary boundaries around the hope to prevent it from becoming a run away train of endless but unfulfilled optimism.
I can’t go on - that is hopeless hope based on hopeless optimism. I will go on - that is carefully managed hope based on knowledge, awareness, skills and effort all within the confines of well thought out and established boundaries. If I can stay within those boundaries, I can use my hope in a constructive way to move forward with my life - even in spite of declining optimism.
What it will take is discipline. Now that is where the real work begins.
Cheers all. And heres to a well-managed, hopeful 2017!

I think Stephen wass trying to counteract the false hope many have in medical magjc and its technology. In doing so they most often distance themselves from their loved one who is sick. Hope in the magic is where the Tyranny starts. I may be wrong, but that was my take away from his comments. I like the distinction between optimism and hope. In that sense optimism is static, hope is kenetic.

At present, my inner tribe of people are those who can operate ‘hope free.’
If hope has contained within it the idea that we do it because we believe in better times, or a positive outcome, and I believe this is the case for what hope means for most people, then it is a deal-breaker because one cannot face a predicament with ‘hope.’
The opposite of hopeful is hopeless, a paralyzed state that one must naturally fall into once one is confronted with the idea that there is no more hope to be had, and that hope cannot overcome whatever it is we are facing.
To gyrate between hopeful and hopeless is a complete waste of time, energy and one’s ability to be present with what is.
How does one continue to keep moving even without the promise of success of better days as the lure? How does one exist in the present moment with someone who we love, dying or not, if one is always holding out the hope that somehow this person, or their circumstances, will be different than they are?
My one iron-clad rule for myself is to not be in relationship with someone if I am expecting, requiring or demanding (on any level) for them to be different than they already are.
And this is my present relationship to the world. The insects and phytoplankton are disappearing. Hope has no role in their recovery. The only thing that can possibly bring them back is for us to fundamentally change our relationship to the world.
Our energy to carry on cannot be sourced from the hope we draw upon to fight for new EPA rules to achieve that better world that we seek. Tweeking the rules is an endless life of fighting rear-guard actions that will inevitably fail if the narrative they are tweeking is fatally flawed.
Instead we must arrive at a place where each farmer could not possibly bring themselves to spray neonicotinoids and/or glyphosate (et al.) because to do so would be out of integrity for them. Deeply and profoundly, because to do so would be too far ‘out of relationship’ for them to do. I could not do it myself (anymore; once I certainly could have).
This level of change, the shifting of the operative narrative is so profound, so deep, that ‘hope’ is an impediment, not a nutrient to the process.
We cannot ‘hope’ that the insects come back.
We have to change the very nature of our relationship, our kinship, to our many neighbors. “Love thy neighbor” is wonderfully broad…the invitation was not to “love your fellow humans” but “neighbor.” That can mean many things, and can easily include “all those I live near,” human and otherwise.
To be hope-free is to find a deeper level off energy and willpower to carry on. It is a surrender into a deeper power and mystery that affords fewer escape hatches and by-passing thought patterns. At least for me. Within the hope-free landscape I discover that both my freedoms and responsibilities exponentially expand.
My path is my own. I must choose very deliberately. I have no one to blame but myself. I am responsible for my relationships with all my neighbors, and that begins with being completely responsible for my own inner self first and foremost. As within, so without.
It’s a mind-bender, that’s for sure. Hope-free is not a concept for everybody, and that’s okay too. The future is going to demand a lot from each of us, and I am agnostic as to what or why or how each person comes to a place of bringing their true and authentic gifts to the emerging narrative.
If hope is what allows someone to get there, and sustain their energy to do so, great!
For me hope and hopeless are polar opposites of energy that balance each other out and leave me with no additional sustenance to deploy. A see-saw that goes nowhere.
Hope free is a place of mystery and abundance that I am still exploring. It is a source of energy for me with no counterbalancing opposite waiting for its turn in the light.