How Stories Create Reality #18 #cong23 #reality


Here we’ll take time to consider how we organise and process reality through storytelling, We’ll look at how collaborative sense and place making are needed for our shared reality. You’ll see how we use stories to narrate and define our own lives. We’ll examine how ambiguity can be used to challenge our thinking. In this Oral Storytelling session Tom will leave you with stories to ponder and unmask some narrative realites.

Total Words


Reading Time in Minutes


Key Takeaways:

  1. If you really listened what would you hear?

  2. How stories shape reality.

  3. Change your mind and unchain your story.

  4. Stories – when giving things away is really the best value

About Tom O'Rahilly:

Tom O’Rahilly, is happiest chasing rainbows. Meantime he works leading the team at The National Leprechaun Museum. He is a designer, businessman, mistake maker, husband and father. Left leaning, forward moving, interested in “stones and every blooming thing”  

Contacting Tom O'Rahilly:

You can connect with Tom on Twitter, send him an email or check out the Leprechaun Museum.

By Tom O”Rahilly

“Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’til noon”

– Mark Twain

Once you have painted that picture perception becomes reality. Our human experience of reality is just that, an experience and one that’s easily manipulated.

This manipulation is not in what we see, or hear, or touch but in what we can believe.

This belief is absorbed into our minds through words and the ideas we form from the words we hear. The latin saying  Mundus vult decipi ergo deceipiatur The world wants to be deceived so let us deceive. It says we are complicit in the illusion of reality, an illusion in which we can exist. We don’t rely on what’s said, but on what we want to hear and what we want to hear most are stories.

A good story is one we repeat over to ourselves. Wordlessly we form paths into our memory. These trodden paths are our memory. In time they become as real to us as actual experiences absorbed into the flesh of our being. Just compare witness accounts of an accident and see how many true versions there are.

From an early age we learn stories, they imprint themselves on our minds. In the evening light our bedtime stories bring us to the edge our minds free, our bodies safely tucked up at home. One foot in the sheets another stepping out into a land of castles, giants and magic. Time flies by, time slows down, months and years elapse in seconds, or minutes become hours as the ancient grandfather clock in the hall slowly ticks toward the appointed hour.

When we tell a story we relive the experience of it or a version of that experience.

Now a fairytale with Ogres is not something we experience directly but who has not had to deal with Ogres and Ogresses or a Troll in real life? Their abstract nature allows us to express our emotional reality in the situation.

So let’s say you are in bed one night and you are woken, in the dark, by a noise inside the house, what do you think it might be? We project the fears we have nurtured onto the unknown and uncertain.

Oral stories have additional powers. Emotion, connection, presence and conversation a communion of people. Mirror neurons fire as we watch the storyteller and our brains become more active with greater degrees of activity across the hemispheres than any other medium. This is why telling, rather than reading bedtime stories is so powerful.

We humans have some superpowers. One of the extraordinary things we can do is imagine things into existence. Uniquely we are the only species that can do this together. We can collectively imagine the same thing.

The ability of a story to reflect reality and for a group to experience the creation of that reality is at once the greatest skill and Achilles heel of our species. This Mimesis (or representation of reality) is the basis for our communities and society but like any super hero we have our own Kryptonite!

Joseph Conrad writes about this in his novel Lord Jim. When a ship carrying pilgrims strikes an object below the waterline, fact, belief, fear and the unknown create a new reality for the crew and in the darkness they abandon ship and all its passengers. Later there is a court case the details are forensically examined.

“They wanted facts. Facts! They demanded facts from him, as if facts could explain anything!”!

Lord Jim,  Joseph Conrad

Reality is what we imagine it to be, and I don’t always see (takes off glasses) what is right in front of me. But it affords another way of being, one which relies on community and a collective imagination above the mundane and material. It allows us to transcend the factual to look beyond the shadows dancing on the walls of the cave and sense that we are all connected to something eternal.

In ancient times holy wells in Ireland were perceived as gateways to other worlds. On the surface they reflect this world, a thin superficial layer but deeper inside a place beyond our knowing where the rules we hold over ourselves vanish.

So come with me into another reality where time and space are fluid, and the truth is as clear and unobtainable as your reflection in a dark pool.

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

  • WBY

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