Stories are aggregations.
In any given moment, there isn’t much of a story to be told. There is only what is. Stories are accounts of change, and change is not something that exists in a frozen moment.
Of course moments don’t stay frozen—at least that’s not how we perceive them. So we notice small changes, little stories. But larger, more interesting changes are gradual, and we often don’t notice them if we are in constant close proximity with them. So to a parent, who sees her child every day, the child’s growth seems less dramatic than it does to the grandparent who sees that child twice a year.
The effect is even more pronounced when applied to ourselves. We may easily note changes in our environment—movement to a new location, enrollment in a class, a raise or promotion at work—but rarely see the changes in how we think: the gradual revision of our priorities, the slow shifting of our values and beliefs. We may notice these changes in others. We can see them in stories. In retrospective moments, or when some stimulus prods us to notice, we may even glimpse them in ourselves. Day to day and moment to moment, however, our own stories are obscured.
Furthermore, we can only interact with our personal story in the present moment, where it does not exist, and we are largely unaware of where it will lead. So even if we were at all times fully cognizant of our own internal changes, using that awareness as an input to our decisions would be problematic. We can and often do set goals to work toward, but we can only ever act now. Now is all we ever really touch, the only moment.
It’s pointless to attempt to evaluate a story before it’s complete and we know the whole of it. And given that it may not be possible to ever know the whole of a real story—a life—it is likely pointless to judge reality at any juncture. Which doesn’t stop us, of course. But maybe it should.