By relying on well-told stories, we ignore the real truth, the universal truth of how the world actually is.*
One of the rewards of solitude is an increased capacity for self-reflection – the conversations we have with ourselves in the hope of greater insight about who we are and want to be.**
Self-reflection not only allows us to see the truth and reality of who we are but also imagine how we can change. If you like, we see the clothes we want to take off and the new ones we wish to replace these with.
Research, though, appears to indicate we are increasingly struggling to move into and remain in solitude where our self-reflection will take place. Sherry Turkle points to times of boredom and anxiety as being natural moments to move inward and to reflect, but we are now more likely to distract ourselves with some form of technology, even though this in turn may lead to more anxiousness or boredom.
Through our self-reflection, we produce our personal stories; Toni Morrison wrote:
storytelling is a tool for knowing who we are and what we want.^
Seth Godin warns us that our stories aren’t necessarily the same as reality. We must, then, always be trying to bring reality and our stories together. Frederick Buechner wrote about how we find our purpose where our deepest joy meets the world’s greatest need.
Wallace Stevens wrote about the power of imagination needing to be brought to bear the pressure of reality.^^
Our imaginations need reality as much as reality needs our imagination. These conversations, born in solitude, lead us into the most real and imaginative stories of all.