Navigating though the literary world has been an interesting and at times a frustrating experience. One of the informative parts of this process was spirited by an agent I follow on twitter. Jen Rofe of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency was discussing how important it is to write with a ‘Voice,’ a term that can be illusive and is often misunderstood. Fortunately she listed a number of MG (Middle Grade) authors/books who she felt stood out with distinctive voices. I found Wendy Mass’ Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life one of the most intriguing.
When Jeremy was eight his father died in an auto accident, the book begins when Jeremy is a month away from turning thirteen. A mysterious package arrives in the mail about the size of a shoebox with the inscription THE MEANING OF LIFE for Jeremy Fink to be opened on his 13th birthday. The problem is that there are four different keyholes locking it and it seems that the sender, his father’s lawyer, has not included the keys. So Jeremy and his best friend Lizzy begin a quest to find the keys that will open the box. With this platform the author has the kids dive into the world, sending them on an adventure where they encounter different types of experiences and individuals that reflect on the meaning/purpose of life.
While on an errand for a mysterious former pawnshop owner they make a delivery to an elderly gentleman. As they are leaving while the conversation dances around the topic of the meaning of life the man gives Jeremy an apple and says, “A wise man once remarked that we can count how many seeds are in the apple, but not how many apples are in the seed.”
A confused Jeremy looks on as the man continues, “Before an apple seed is planted, no one will know how many apples will one day sprout from it. It’s all about potential, and potential is hidden from all of us until we embrace it, find our purpose, plant ourselves so we can grow,” with that he closes the door leaving Lizzy and Jeremy confused. Jeremy slowly fades into an existential crisis and in the following days although they have other encounters with more insights I found none were as interesting than the man with the apple.
I found it fascinating how the author, Wendy Mass massaged and altered the original quote, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” part of a sermon from the evangelist Robert H. Schuller. I’ve never been to Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral in Southern California but I respect how dynamic his ministry was and the monument that he built but I find Wendy Mass’ manipulation of the quote so much more interesting, insightful and instructive.
To grow we must allow ourselves to become immersed, to be planted, in the area of our passion and then the evolving mystery of our potential will ever so slowly be revealed. In a society where we strive for acceptance we often tend to try to fit in by mimicking others at times covering, perhaps erasing our uniqueness. We blend in rather than stand out. That the meaning or purpose of life is life and living it, enjoying the essence of being. Although there will be good times as well as bad, we need to allow the good ones, the positive ones, glow in our heart and stay alive.
The Old Dragon Sage in The Littlest Dragon and the Princess know how important self-image is and the importance of dwelling on the positive. When he first meets The Littlest Dragon the old dragon finds him sad and confused since his classmates have tried to convince him that because he is so small he is a nothing. His encouragement turns The Littlest Dragon in a direction of positive thinking that eventually saves the Princess and the kingdom from the treacherous Prince Luan.