Hoofprints of the Stag

Hoofprints of the Stag

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Reason Behind the Name of this Blog and Its Remarkable but Veiled Importance

As you can see, the name of this blog is "Hoofprints of the Stag."  There is a meaning behind this name which, at least for me, has some significance.  Hopefully, you will enjoy this verbose explanation of its origin.  As you may have noticed, so far the first two posts of this blog have been self-referential and have not actually described anything concerning the purpose for which this blog has been written.  But those who know me know that I always feel I must give the proper context to any story before telling the actual story (which is why my stories are generally so long).

Sts. Hubert and Eustace, pray for us.
To begin the tale, I should mention that one of my nicknames in college was "The Stag," which is derived from my last name Stager (though it is pronounced 'stayger' not 'stagger').  I always thought it was one of my better nicknames, considering that a stag is a pretty cool animal (it makes me hearken back to the White Stag from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which was the first time I'd ever encountered the word 'stag'), and also considering it just seems like the kind of nickname that lends itself to cool sunglasses: "They call me . . . The Stag."  Interestingly enough, one of my other nicknames, 'Stagermeister,' is a play on Jagermeister, whose logo has a stag with a cross above it.  If only I could claim that logo as my own (without alcoholic connotations).  Further research as I write this post has revealed that the logo has origins in the legends of St. Hubert and St. Eustace, who both reportedly saw the image of a cross/crucifix between the antlers of a stag.

Hey, that's the name of this blog!
My signature card
At any rate, some time after the inception of this nickname, the Lorwyn block of Magic: the Gathering came out, and it contained a card named "Hoofprints of the Stag," which I fortuitously received in one of my booster packs.  My friends Ed and Mike decided that this card ought to be my 'signature card' as an homage to my nickname.  And so I built a deck around it (which, as of the writing of this blog, I still have).  I consider it to be one of the better Magic decks that I've built.  My other favorite card in that deck is Supreme Exemplar, which is awesome for reasons besides its supremely exemplary name, but I digress.  You would think the story would be over right about now since we've seen the origin of this blog's namesake, but it continues on (as most of my stories without much of a point usually do).

Fast-forward a couple of years to my first year as a teacher when I happened to be reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince over again.  I had never been the kind of person who approved of writing in the margins of books or underlining quotes, etc., but I saw that the half-blood prince's marginalia were very real communications to a person in the future (Harry, in this case).  I was inspired by the fact that anything I might write in a book might be read by someone else in the future for their edification or enjoyment.  As it happened, the first book I actually wrote in was "Educating for Life", a rather anti-climactic first book to be writing in, but it was my first book nevertheless.  I remember writing a response to one of the reflection questions in one of my assigned readings during my first year of teaching.  The question was something along the lines of, "What does it mean to you to be an educator?" or something like that.  I wrote, almost without thinking, "To Conquer Apathy."  Later on, I went back and read my responses to all the reflection questions and I came across that answer again.  I thought about how in education, a teacher must conquer the apathy of his students 1) so they will care about what they are learning and 2) so that they will care about the world and use their knowledge to fix it.  I also realized that in order to be a more effective teacher, I must conquer the apathy within myself; I had to care about what I was teaching, and I had to care about who I was teaching.  Then I broadened my idea about apathy to the world beyond teaching.  I saw that many of the conflicts we encounter in our lives and in the wider world are sometimes caused (or at least are allowed to happen) simply because people do not care.

Okay, so what does this have to do with the Hoofprints of the Stag?  I decided that if I was going to write in my books, that I should have some sort of message at the beginning of my books akin to "This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince."  After much thought and many attempts and revisions (with some help from Ed, by the way), I came up with the statement written below.  I suppose it seems silly, especially since it is much longer and more ridiculous than the HBP's message, but I felt it communicated what I wanted the future readers of books I'd owned to understand: that perhaps my comments or the quotes I'd underlined would awaken some feeling in them, that perhaps what they read, whether my words or the author's, might spur a change in some way in their mind or heart as they had in mine.  I have written this preamble in every non-fiction book I have read (that I own) since I started writing in my books.  This is what it says:

This book has been marked with the hoofprints
The Stag

To track these prints is to embark on a journey,
to undertake a solemn quest.

Will you follow?
Will you dare to tread this path?

For this quest has but one goal,
one ultimate end:

To Conquer Apathy
Lentitudiem Vincere

That phrase at the end, "Lentitudinem Vincere," is what my initial research had shown me to mean 'to conquer apathy' in Latin.  More accurate translations in Google translate have since shown me a more accurate Latin word for apathy would be something like, 'accidia' or better yet, 'apathia.'  Lentitudinem means something more like passivity or hesitancy, apparently.  At this point, though, I have not decided to go back and rewrite it in all my books.

The idea of the book being 'marked with the hoofprints of the Stag' is that my writings are the 'hoofprints' that I (as the Stag) am leaving behind.  The reader doesn't see me (or perhaps even know me), but can see in some way 'where I have been' in my writings and underlinings.

So we come to the point at which I began to ruminate over what the title of this blog should be.  I realized that "Hoofprints of the Stag" was the perfect title for this blog not only because the posts are my hoofprints (since it is still my writing), but also because the blog's purpose, in a roundabout way, is the same as the purpose of my marginalia, that of inspiring the reader in some way and inciting a feeling or spurring a change of some kind.  Perhaps the beginning of the book Ed and I write will have this same preamble (pending Ed's approval, of course).  Perhaps Ed will also have a preamble of his own.

Though you, the reader, will not be joining Ed and I physically on our pilgrimage, you are nevertheless a part of our journey, and you are indeed compelled to undertake the same solemn quest to conquer apathy.

The question is: Will you follow?

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