The Great University

I was a student of literature in the Great University, which was similar in feeling to the arts departments of universities I've been in in real life, but twenty times as big, and teeming with millions of students, every one of them following their own stories with all of their energy. I was to be taught a seminar by a Professor Andrew Wyle, the subject being a forgettable book that I did indeed keep forgetting - for a while I was looking for a bookshop to buy it in, then I was looking for another student from my class who could remind me what the book was, and finally I was just searching for Professor Wyle so that I could talk to him. I think I wanted to talk to him about another student of his, a girl who was in trouble. She was in a panic because her fiance had broken up with her and was with another woman, and she was running through the corridors of the Great University unable to figure out what she should do.

The problem was not so much her love for her fiance, although that was part of what was causing the pain and panic - the real problem was the unravelling of the story by which she had been living her life. She didn't really have a backup and so she was going nuts, like a computer whose operating system has crashed. I realized this when I was exiting the university bookshop, still looking for Professor Wyle, and saw the throngs of students streaming to their classes, and then saw a famous old writer on crutches heading towards the bookshop doors. I did my best to hold the door open for him, but it was very heavy and I didn't do a very good job. He did get through through, and proceeded to a table without a word of thanks or even a glance at me. I didn't take it personally, because he had a reputation for being extremely antisocial and unpleasant. I noticed that people were joining him at his table - admirers and helpers, people who wanted to talk to him. He showed no enthusiasm for all of this and I wondered what made people want to be around him.

Then it hit me. He was a creator of stories. People need stories. It's not simply that they have trouble thinking without stories; they literally cannot live without them. Someone who creates new stories, like many types of artist, is let away with practically any form of behaviour because of what they can do. They are like priests, mystics and royalty all wrapped into one. A writer of stories can do what almost no one else can do: they can give you a reason to live. It could be a stupid reason or a beautiful one, but they are the ones with the ability to write new software for your mind. It can be anyone, any story, at any level of expertise in the craft of writing. James Joyce shares the same power with Stephanie Meyer and they give people the same gift. Writers express the gift with the powers that they have been given, and the story is the living thing, not the craft with which it has been created.

I was still looking for Professor Wyle, but now I was running with joy, and the sun was shining on the campus of the Great University, and all the hordes of students appeared to me as something different, a mass of energy directed and shaped by stories, and I realized that it was within me to be a writer and a creator too, and I felt that ability as an energy inside me, driving me faster and filling me with an urgent kind of happiness.