Where the Conscious & Subconscious Collide

Over eleven years, four small frames have traveled with me across two continents and to six cities. Weeks before putting the last of my possessions either in storage or in the Goodwill donation truck on my way overseas in 2005, I collaged Good Earth Tea quotes over photographs or images. At the time, I didn’t understand each one of these quotes fully. I just knew deep somewhere–where the conscious and subconscious collide–that they were really important. These frames sit in an everyday place in my home today, and only now am I beginning to consciously taste the truth they embody.

From left to right, above pictured:

  • “Justice will only be achieved when those who are not injured by crime feel as indignant as those who are.” ~ King Solomon (970-928 BC)
  • “Experience is in the fingers and the head. The heart is inexperienced.” ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
  • “All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.” ~ Aristotle (384-322 BC)
  • “Why can’t a quiet moment be an adventure?” ~ Starbucks Corporation, advertising (circa 2001?)

I’ll come back to these quotes in a second.

I remember sitting in a university assembly during my undergrad years–clinging to every word of the guest speaker, knowing that life’s deepest truths hinged on everything she was saying. I literally understood almost none of it. I won’t blame my lack of understanding on the fact that my brain hadn’t fully developed yet (the human brain does not fully mature until age 25+), or that I was younger than all of my peers. Somehow my conscious self wasn’t there yet. I know that I hadn’t experienced what she was talking about, but I still knew it was important.

This is what she said; I’ll paraphrase. “In order to make a difference in this world, you must push past disillusionment.” 

Tonight I joined a few hundred Seattleites at Town Hall for a panel discussion, “Race, Justice & Democracy: Where do we stand?” (Pictured below.) The Mayor of Seattle was present, as was lawyer, poet and Black Lives Matter activist, Nikkita Oliver; Washington State Supreme Court Justice, Steven Gonzalez; and Executive Director of the South Seattle Emerald, Marcus Green. I serendipitously sat next to Dr. Pamela Taylor, professor at Seattle University and organizer of the annual Seattle Race Conference–which I was fortunate enough to attend this past fall.

The night held moments that were incredibly wearying, where realities went unacknowledged with a passing (I paraphrase) “there’s another department that works on that” or “we’ve come a long way” or “change takes time.” Some moments dripped with hope and promise. One of which was when Washington State Supreme Court Justice, Steven Gonzalez, named the obvious that those aforementioned statements are easy to say–and how listening, acknowledging responsibility, and taking action are challenging but worthwhile.

I return to the first framed quote:

  • “Justice will only be achieved when those who are not injured by crime feel as indignant as those who are.” ~ King Solomon (970-928 BC)

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.16.56 PMNikkita Oliver (pictured left; source) brought up the historic Brown v. Board of Education case. The reality is that the perspective of the ruling was not that white students could benefit from studying with black students, dismantling their white supremacy and valuing who students of color were, brought, and contributed–but rather that black students should have the right to study with white students. The narrative was that white students were still dominant, supreme, and the benchmark for success and opportunity.

MarcusAs tonight’s event was recorded by KCTS 9 for live webcast and to be televised Tuesday, April 9 at 7:00pm–host Enrique Cerna asked panelists to give closing thoughts at the end of the first hour which would end the televised portion of the evening. Marcus Brown (pictured right; source) was the last to speak, and he chose to share words that his mother had shared with him. Quote:

“This world is cruel and unjust and unfair, and it will never be perfect. This world bestows advantages on people because of skin color, gender, class, and race. In this world, it is not your fault that you were born into it as it is. It is 100% your fault if you leave it that way when you depart.”

At the end of the night, I could see the weariness on Nikkita Oliver’s face. I have had the deep pleasure of hearing her perform slam poetry live on many occasions, give a PechaKucha at Seattle University, perform with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (watch at 4:00, here), and mentor teenage Youth Speaks poets. She has education I will never have as a lawyer, a grasp of history and historical events that puts me to shame, has earned opportunities that I will never have earned, and has so much to say on so many issues. Just as I will never have the weight of accolades she carries and deserves, I will never carry the burden she carries moving through our world as a woman of color.

Going to another of my framed quotes:

  • “All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.” ~ Aristotle (384-322 BC)

White people like myself go about our human experience completely unaware of the weight we do not carry. We do not realize how this world has been built with our supremacy and advantage in mind. Our fathers’ fathers set-up the world that way, and we are unconsciously reacting to that and motivated by it on a daily basis. Consistently in our lives, we are unaware of the causes of our actions. Chance, habit and compulsion have far more influence on us that we would like to admit. What are we doing today to tap into our socialized norms, habits, implicit biases, and ways of seeing people and our world that were handed down to us? How can we consciously choose to act out of reason, passion and desire more often

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 10.35.25 PMI was feeling overwhelmed today generally, and decided to put a daily automated reminder into my phone (pictured left; source). It says something that flew out of my own mouth when talking with a friend on the phone last week. “Focus on what you’re saying ‘yes’ to. (Not what you’re saying ‘no’ to.)” I realized that I get weary when I think of not doing x, y, or z in order to make room for things I care about. I get excited when I think of dedicating time or energy to things that I am saying “yes” to.

I was in a meeting today with a SCORE mentor who is helping me start my coaching and change management company. He was talking about all of the benefits I’m providing my clients, and was using language that put a spotlight on how they had less fear, less anxiety. I could feel my body having a reaction to the spotlight being on the negative–the fear, the anxiety. I shared with him that I really want to have a strengths perspective. That fear and anxiety are symptoms, and if they’re the “point” or focused on–you can easily just treat the symptom instead of the root cause and the bigger picture. His face lit up and he agreed.

A few posts ago, I mentioned the cheesy but meaningful-to-me film, “Tomorrowland.” In one of the scenes, Casey reminds her father of a parable that he told her as a child. “There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is: which wolf wins?” The father answers on cue: The one you feed.”

10369716_638399896242129_1063826231648033596_nWhile running today, I was listening to Pete Holmes’ “You Made it Weird” podcast episode with guest, Elizabeth Gilbert–author of “Eat, Pray, Love” as well as “Committed” and the most recent, “Big Magic” about creativity. (Listen to this episode, here.) Gilbert talks about her aunt Lolly (pictured left; source & source) as her all-time hero of how to live life and see the world. She talks about how many exclamation points Lolly uses in her letters and how that much excitement and wonder isn’t an act when you’re in your 90’s and have been through so much of life. She talks about how Lolly shared with her that she had cancer. I paraphrase: “Guess what?!!” / “What?” / “I have cancer!!!” / <Stunned silence.> / “It’s so interesting! I’m learning so much, and meeting so many wonderful doctors…” Gilbert described how her aunt Lolly would say to her, raising her wrinkled and weathered fist into the air–“You gotta push past despair, Liz. You gotta push past it!”

Over the past year, I’ve lost 55 pounds. I went through a deep valley of despair and disillusionment which led me to forgetting myself and treating my body poorly. I will tell a bit more of that journey at some point soon here. For all of my life, I have hated the idea of dieting. I am a lover of ethnic cooking traditions, fresh foods from the land, and culinary arts. Recommended: Michael Pollan‘s “Food Rules” and “Cooked.” I have consistently seen how a skewed view of health and, what I call, the “diet syndrome” has plagued American culture. I want nothing to do with it. What I want everything to do with: a world where we honor our bodies, the land, and each other. A world where we keep hope alive for a more complete picture of wholeness, thriving, and sharing. I still have 27 pounds left to lose, and am choosing to continue with that view all along the way.

One day soon I’ll talk about the other two framed quotes I shared here. Thoreau’s words have hit me recently when I consider the topic of love and loss. Starbucks’ advertising words have hit me lately as I am learning to slow down in my time and relationships.

Where are you today? What are you looking at? What is capturing your imagination, energy and focus? What “wolf” are you feeding? What are you saying “yes” to? I’ll end this post with the words that guest speaker said all those years ago, in that undergraduate college assembly. “In order to make a difference in this world, you must push past disillusionment.” 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jas says:

    Feeling a bout of despair myself tonight (and failing to sleep), I pushed past disillusionment this time thanks to you, and because of your thorough article. Please write some more in due time. Your words read easily. And I say that because it’s true, Hannah, and not because we’re also acquainted. Thank you.


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