“26 April: I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” ~James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man

English and literature is perhaps best connected to by those who have faced a challenge or a confusing series of events. As characters trace their way through analogous situations and make decisions, readers gain a deeper understanding of the meaning underlying the events unfolding within their own lives. If you think about this situation from an existential standpoint, there's no intrinsic order or reason or higher meaning behind the C you just got on a lab writeup, a rejection from college, or a loss in a competition. Nor is there any significance to winning a battle, making it over a threshold, or falling in love. The meaning that's "out there" is not really "out there": we construct it for ourselves, pulling it from the void around us and weaving it into patterns of truth like science fiction writers would imagine we could zero-point energy from the quantum vacuum... What literature tells us is that the fact that there is nothing certain but what we make and interpret isn't such a bad thing after all. It uplifts us like myth in Joseph Campbell's commentary, it gives us a common background, a set of axioms around which we can structure our own thinking. When, in the Wheel of Time book The Gathering Storm, Rand resolved to make himself "harder than steel," into "cuendillar" (an unbreakable substance in that universe) in order to resist the pain of the world around him and again the strength he needed to do what had to be done to win the Last Battle, I felt him to be a reflection of myself in the face of AP Chem. I saw that I had made the same decision under analogous circumstances. And like him, the coat of ice on my soul did not last forever, because it attempted to obscure who I truly was. As it softened with time, I gained a greater understanding of the passion and flashing neural storms of thought and curiosity that had driven me forward over the years. Same happened with Ender's game and Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. It's the element of seeing yourself and others you know in characters, and seeing the world around you through the fantasy and fiction that gives a truer testament to the subject of human experience then does the whitewashed truth itself. It is the evolution of the character through trials and temptations, his series of decisions that make me realize fully, deeply, that though figments of nothing we may be, governed by no higher truth, that I am not alone, that there's kinship in this strange place, that there's someone who's faced my trials and come out the victor, who knows me now and knows what I will become more surely than I do myself. This soothing balm we give a greater name: culture and religion and tradition... Nietchze tells us that "He who has a why to live can bear almost any how." Science is the how. Literature is the why, and it underlies and teaches us more about all that we do..