This is my final paper for my Modern English Literature class. I got an A- on the paper. I hope you enjoy it.

Opening lines are important. They can be exciting (“It was a pleasure to burn.”) or boring (“Opening lines are important.”) Sometimes the author just wants to set up where the rest of the book will take place and sometimes the author uses the opening line to set up the tone and actions of the rest of the book (“All this happened, more or less.”) A. S. Byatt’s opening line to “The Thing in the Forrest” goes like this: “There were once two little girls who saw, or believed they saw, a thing in the forest.” From this we get our two main characters (the girls) and what happens to them (they see a thing in the forest) but we get the most important piece of information from what is set off in commas: “or believed they saw”. Byatt never clarifies if they actually saw the thing in the forest or if they imagined it or if it was something in between but she does imply that it doesn’t matter if they saw it or not. They believed they saw it and that is all that matters. There is a line from the 1994 classic film The Santa Clause which says, “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is seeing,” I think that this sentiment is what Byatt is trying to convey, and I agree with her.

There is nothing in any book that matters that says there is a difference between perception and reality. The reality of reality is that reality is relative. We see what we want to see and discard everything else. The NBA might as well not exist since I never watch it. For all I know Alice really traveled down the rabbit hole and Jonas could really receive all of the memories of the past and hold on to them for everybody else. All it takes for one thing to be real is to believe it is so and it only takes a closed mind to deny all of the different realities provide by literature and our imaginations. The thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom isn’t language or prehensile thumbs; it’s the ability to think of things that can never exist. As long as we continue to dream of and write new worlds and scenarios and most importantly believe in these scenarios we will be a prosperous species.

When I was an engineering student I would get dirty looks for reading a work of fiction instead of an instruction manual or blueprint because the fiction didn’t really exist and instruction manuals are useful and real. My fellow students were going to make the world a better place through sheer force. They would perfect everything and make everything easier, faster, stronger, better. They knew they could build the best mousetrap ever because they understand the world and how it works. There would be no need for fiction or stories of the future and the past and the never-going-to-happen because reality would be perfect. I yelled at them about their shortsightedness and arrogance in my head. They were being taught that only what was real mattered to their studies and I became afraid of our future. I overheard and took part in many discussions about how stupid and boring the Freshman English classes were because the world of fiction had no bearing on what was actually happening and that they were wasting precious time they could be spending learning about stress tests and load bearing beams reading stupid stories about things that couldn’t even happen! These are the kids that would get a LEGO set and build a giant box instead of an arctic base or a moon rover. A lack of imagination as a child led to the future of our society being doomed. Luckily I got out of there as fast as possible and retreaded to the happier reality of fiction.

When a good reader reads they learn as much about how the world works as an engineering student learns from a lecture. They learn about how people interact with people and how they deal with situations and how to be a good human being, even though all of the events and people and reactions are made up by the author. They can take the make-believe and believe it can be made. The unwavering belief that anything is possible as long as the believer keeps on believing is the most important aspect of life. If we can perceive anything as reality we can change reality to whatever we want. If we apply this concept to everybody on the planet and everybody that will ever be on the planet we can truly perfect the human race. We can create the best of all possible worlds through imagination and belief. We can use fiction to change reality for the better and we can use reality to create even more fantastical fiction. We can spread all ideas everywhere and give everybody the option to think about how they think things should be and we can change things.

Alright, enough of this changing the world business. That can’t really happen anyways. It’s just a pie-in-the-sky idea, taken from an idealist’s brain and translated into lofty ideas about reality and fiction. Everybody knows that only the real things matter. How much money do I really have in the bank, how much does an education really mean, how much does this essay really matter. None of it is going to change much of anything. We shouldn’t get our hopes up for a better future. In all likelihood the world will be just about the same when I die as it was when I was born. Sure, the technologies will change and there’ll be more people in the world but none of it will make much of a difference. I certainly can’t change much for myself, much less anybody else. I might as well go read an instruction book and learn how to make things work better than they do now. It’s not like a believing something can be better will actually make the thing better. Unless. Unless everybody believes in the power of belief. If everybody fully understood the power of belief and the effect it has on reality they would truly become wholly realized as human beings. We would appreciate every possible reality presented in fiction and non-fiction as being possible and we would be better for it. Even our engineers, misguided though they may be right now, could become better at what they do if they dared to dream about things that nobody dreamt of before. If they just got past the idea of “impossible” they would realize that impossible doesn’t exist. They would recognize that the only the impossible is impossible, everything else will work if you believe you can find a way to make it so.

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