Depak Chopra has written that “reality is formed by consciousness.” This is not eighteenth-century Bishop Berkeley’s idealism, but states a deceptively simple truth: we make reality through our perceptions, values, goals, and will.

Consciousness refers to the deepest part of our being. Reality is the insight elicited when consciousness comes into contact with events around us, in society, in culture, among people and animals and plants, with our physical environment. Of course, no single person can change events around them, so Chopra’s goal is to get all of us thinking in the right way, in a wise way, in order to change the malevolent events around us. Presumably, if the consciousness of enough people changes then the events change.

Rather than dismiss that possibility as hopeless, we must begin at a simpler level, with oneself. How, for example, do we perceive a tree? Is it a mere commodity, something expendable, something in our way? Or is it a living being with an identiy, projecting certain values that then resonate with our own values to create a relationship? This is a very simplistic notion of consciousness, but consciousness must begin with our most immediate environment. It is in this immediate place and time that we exist and act. How we perceive things really does matter to their fate, to our fate, and to the fate of the universe.

Such an exercise is essential for the solitary, for solitaries already have a propensity to cut off the standard plaudits of society and culture, to question their make-up — and therefore, to examine their “reality” and relevance to the real goal of our lives, which is the development of consciousness to the point of making us wise beings. Tall order this, but isn’t it merely an extrapolation of what we are already doing with our daily lives? We assign value and hierarchy to everyhing anyway. Why not do so consciously and reflectively? We may discover that reality changes for us, incrementally at least, in this sense: that while we find ourselves more at odds with the conventional world and its assumptions, we also, paradoxically, become more sensitive, more conscious, more in harmony with everything around us that is real.