There is a common thread running through all that we do and have to provide. Samantha Thomas and Associates is a team of human beings engaged in the creation of new approaches to the areas of life and human experience where people are often stopped, thwarted, disempowered or getting a sense of being stymied or bewildered. Generally, these areas have something to do either with relationships -- intimate, personal, family, workplace, community or societal -- or intentions -- questions of doing the right thing, or why things don't work as one might expect. It is in opening questions, and staying in the inquiry, that we gain power and facility with those areas of life that have been difficult or even impossible to confront successfully.
While it may not be immediately evident, these things that show up in life -- tragic (or some degree of tragic) occurrences, uncomfortable or upsetting events -- when confronted successfully expand a person's aliveness. When these things are not successfully confronted and left incomplete, they diminish everyone they touch. So we are definitely in favor of people successfully confronting and completing whatever has them stopped. We provide a unique and powerful way to accomplish exactly that.
A word about the Associates: according to Samantha, the Associates are the people with whom she creates. Notably, these are...
Forrest S. Bayard (deceased), who somehow created Samantha from Nothing,
Beth Wignot, without whom there would be no Samantha as she is now known,
Floyd Hardwick, who is always carrying Samantha's interests with him,
Everyone who has participated in one of Samantha's programs,
for they have all contributed themselves to the conversation,
and ultimately this includes You and the 6.8 billion human beings with whom we share this life.
The Practice of Philosophy
For most people, philosophy and philosophers are no big deal. Philosophy comes from Greek words for "love" and "of wisdom." Wisdom is defined as accumulated knowledge and experience that can be applied to making good decisions and judgments. However, philosophers are generally considered to be "overeducated, underexperienced academics whose names I have never heard, writing about intellectual mumbo-jumbo that no one can understand." And that's really a pretty fair description of philosophers, up to now. We tend to think of philosophy as something remote from our day-to-day experience. However, what we don't know is that our day-to-day experience, and the way that we can experience it, has been shaped and influenced by philosophers and their philosophies.
Everyone has at least heard, "I think, therefore I am." Rene Descarte, a 17th Century French Rationalist philosopher wrote it. Of course he wrote it in Latin, "[Ego] Cogito, ergo sum," so only certain well-educated people could read it at that time. Other educated people did read it and expanded their thinking along those lines, and Descartes' first glimmers of humanism (the notion that the "I" that thinks has reality and validity) eventually led to the Enlightenment in France, which led to the Declaration of Independence and the United States, and other revolutions. All major historical events began with philosophical inventions in language.
And it doesn't end there. Whether we know it or not, life as it is lived in the 21st Century is the product of the prevalent philosophies of our time. If one is unaware of these philosophies (and how they are applied -- economically, politically, educationally, technologically, socially, and so on), the experience is something like having your strings pulled by an unknown puppeteer -- always reacting to apparently external forces.
Philosophical practice (or practical philosophy) is not therapy. We do not start by looking for what's wrong and then fixing it. We begin by looking at what is, and then intentionally creating what isn't. It sounds simple, and it is. It just hasn't been accessible to most people, up to now.
Education: A Clearing
After two centuries of public education in the United States, we seem to have no idea what we are doing. Throughout our history, the chief purposes of U.S. education have included (1) the acquisition of specific knowledge, (2) intellectual discipline, (3) education for citizenship, (4) individual development, (5) vocational training, and (6) character education. But we don't have total agreement on what knowledge or skills are appropriate, what thinking is useful or valuable, what makes an individual or citizen "good" or what type of character we want or how to teach it. Local school boards, state and federal government regulations, religions of every type and sort, corporations and other interested parties all have something to say about education. So people with great wealth send their children to expensive private schools. People with some wealth get to send their children to well financed public schools in their own neighborhoods. People with very little wealth have to bus their children to schools with graduation rates as low as 37 percent. We can't say for sure that any of these children are getting everything that they could from their experience of education, however. We are sure that a lot of children get left out completely. The children still ask big questions and all they get are puny answers that make them smaller.
In our new approach to education, we begin from the premise that all children are perfect exactly as they are, each with special gifts, talents and needs. Everyone has something valuable to contribute, and the educator is there to support the children in contributing whatever that may be. Everybody is included and no one is left out. The purpose of education would be that the children are able to create for themselves the future that they are most willing to live into. This is a new paradigm for education, in which one's education opens a clearing where the future can show up. The form of inclusion that is federally mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) just scratches the surface of what is possible in inclusive environments. This is exciting.
Beth Wignot and Samantha Thomas co-taught a session on co-teaching at the Inclusion and Collaboration: From Teacher to Child Symposium on Saturday, March 12, 2005. Watch for further opportunities to hear more about the exciting possibilities of inclusion in education.
Marriage and Relationships
This is amazing. We have been presenting a twelve section program on marriage for almost two years. Twelve couples have completed the program. They all began the program when they had reached the point at which they were willing to end their marriages or relationships. Some had already consulted lawyers, and one couple was in the process of divorce. Of these twelve couples, nine recommitted their marriages and are (happily) still together. Three went on to divorce, but with peace, certainty and serenity -- not an ordinary divorce. They were able to restore respect for each other and cooperate with each other in the parenting of their children.
This wasn't the expected result. This program began with a new approach to divorce. When the first two couples recommitted their marriages, it became apparent that as an approach to divorce, it was a failure. As an approach to creating joy and satisfaction in relationships, whether the marriage continues or ends, it has been very successful. The key is completion. Often when a couple completes their marriage, they find they don't want or need to end it.
If you are divorcing or thinking about a divorce, or even if you just don't like the direction your marriage is taking, start here. Whether you opt for the shorter Future-Directed Dispute Resolution modality or the full Future-Directed Marriage Program, we promise miracles.
Often when divisions occur between people, they occur along arbitrarily drawn lines -- race, gender, age, body type, sexual orientation, ethnicity or nationality or something else. Soren Kierkegaard said, "If you label me, you invalidate me." And people hate being invalidated. Nevertheless, we tend to categorize ourselves and each other, and invent dichotomies. All of this precedes the currently occurring division or dispute. "Sensitivity training" falls short when it doesn't address these self-invented dichotomies that preceded the current division and strife. Any attempt to resolve a dispute without getting at the underlying systems will be temporary and provisional at best.
We apply a form of agreement renovation, based on Future-Directed Dispute Resolution, along with an examination of the Life Principles that underlie the divisions and divisiveness that get in the way of cooperation and productivity in a workplace or organization, as a means of bringing peace. Peace is fundamentally important to people, and yet it is so often sacrficed. We get to the root of this, and restore the peace and serenity that is conducive to working together productively.