8/19 – In Memorium: Tom Thresher

Issues / August-November 2015 / In Memorium

Tom Thresher

Tom Thresher

May 6th 1949 – July 9th 2015

I first made contact with Tom Thresher in 2009.  Russ Volckmann, the Publisher of Integral Publishers, passed me his email address and phone number along with a message along the lines, “… I think you two should chat.”  I waited a few days before dropping him an email.  In the back of my mind was this conversation saying, “What’s a nice Jewish Boy like you going to say to a crazy, Episcopalian priest in Seattle?”  However, the deed was done and meet we most certainly were going to do.

The amazing thing is that from the moment we met, it was as if we had known each other all of this and probably many previous life times.  Our backgrounds were so diverse, yet our thinking seemed very much aligned.  I am sure there were times when Tom the econometrician wondered how Tom the Pastor ever came into being.  Yet for him it was the most natural thing in the universe.  He said often that the universe conspired; he struggled; the universe won.

I offered my services to act as an editor for the book he was writing.  He accepted graciously, but I am sure was asking himself questions about how a Brit now living in New York was going to help.  We spoke often about many topics and occasionally about the book.  I think he had me when he was describing his job leading a church community towards becoming Integral.  He described it as being on a roller coaster sometimes high, sometimes low.  I asked him how he would know if he had been successful?

His response was immediate and from his heart, “Oh! They will fire me.”  I was, to say the least, shocked.  But he continued, “This community is full of desire to advance to integral thinking.  They know that the path is full of pitfalls and they need not so much to be led as be guided.  But as they approach the final hurdles, he knew that he would be seen as an obstacle and have to be let go.”  And so it turned out to be.

Tom accepted his change of career with the grace that I would expect.  I am sure there were many mixed emotions for him, but the future was where he would now focus his attention.  His book Crazy Wisdom was about to be published.  He was planning to do an audio version, which we at IP were going to track. He was excited about writing a book on why we kill for money.  His wife, Pam, who he loved more than words can ever describe, was supportive. All she had to say was, “Let’s try to make some money from this one.” To which he roared with laughter.

If you were to ask me to describe Tom in a single word then that would be laughter.  A ten-minute phone/Skype conversation would turn into an hour and a half of mostly raucous laughter at both ends.  He loved Ken Wilber, but would roar with laughter at how the community in Denver could be “transcended egos” yet act so egotistically around the great man.  I remember when Robert Keegan from Harvard used the phrase “Reverent Irreverence” to describe Tom’s first book.  It was so apt and appropriate, reflecting the two sides of Tom allowing a third side to shine through.  I am sure that Tom was laughing and dancing in Suquamish when we were discussing it.

A second word I would use for Tom would be “understated.”  His activity in and around his home will be remembered for years to come; even if his name ceases to be used – which is exactly how he would want it to be.  One of the biggest lessons I learnt of practicing an Integral Mindset came from when we would disagree.  Taking from Wilber’s teaching that nobody is ever 100% right or 100% wrong, Tom would listen most intently to learn from the people he disagreed with.  In doing so, he put into practice much that Wilber wished for, way ahead of its time.

Tom’s passing came as a surprise and sent me into total shock.  I saw some postings on Facebook and assumed that he had been hacked.  I wrote to his wife and she confirmed the news.  I was stunned.  In a period of 6-weeks he went from a fit, healthy individual who swam, exercised and was facing the future, to no longer being with us.  But then it struck me; Tom was never going to be one to “hang around”.  His wife and six children were with him at the end.  He passed peacefully and beautifully to whatever comes next.  To be honest, I do not know what that is.  What I do know is that Tom Thresher will be in the thick of it, kicking its butt and forcing it to evolve just a little bit faster than might otherwise have been the case.

Tom, you are missed more than I can ever put into words.  You were a great teacher and, even though we didn’t know each other as well as I would have liked, a great friend.  I know that though you are gone, your lessons will influence me for the rest of my days.

Sending deep love.

Keith Bellamy

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