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Justin M. Stoddard


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Teach Your Children Well
July 28, 2006 — 8:48 pm

Yesterday, Eric wrote a stirring blog entry about our mutual good friend, Dylan. It’s quite a coincidence as I was set to heap my own praises upon Dylan’s shaggy head myself. But, I got tired and went to bed, blog entry unwritten. That’s how it usually goes with me. My best thoughts often follow me into slumber and then just kind of disappear into the chambers of my subconscious.

Eric sums up our first encounter with Dylan quite nicely:

Justin and I were holding a Writers’ Bloc meeting by ourselves one day when a guy walked in with an odd sort of mullet and a kinda high-pitched, almost lispy voice, offering to read us some of his poetry. We said sure, but we didn’t take to Dylan right away. The first poems he read, as I recall, were all concrete medidations on beauty – cherry blossoms, the Japanese Garden (I still remember the phrase “clever bamboo contraptions” for some reason), stuff like that. At the time, even when I was writing about something in particular, it was all abstract and oblique imagery – hinting at the topic and its implications, never coming right out and writing about it. Dylan’s stuff didn’t fit in with my current stylistic hobby horse, and while I at first regarded his writing with as much skepticism as I held for his personal sense of no-flannel-or-funny-hat style, I admired it all the same. He was doing stuff I didn’t want to do, but it was coming out so well – the very model of the particular aesthetic choices he had made.

I actually think Eric is being a bit too nice in his reminiscence. I certainly recall us teasing him (in absentia) from time to time when he was not in earshot. I would do my best to imitate his nasally voice and Eric would try to come up with some off the cuff “Dylan stanzas”. Believe me, when you’re 16 years old, that stuff is comedy gold.

Of course, Dylan was quickly folded into our little literary clique, as were nearly all our friends at the time. Come to think of it, nearly every friend I’ve held onto from high school traveled in that same circle. I first met Jacob while working on the literary magazine. Though I knew Andrea Grant (a transplant from Benson High, I believe) from our shared English class, it was the Writer’s Bloc that cemented our friendship. And even though Tina was not on the literary magazine staff, I met her in the journalism room shortly after I graduated.

At times, separate circles of friends collided and meshed. Julie Nieman, for example, was a friend I made during my three years in Band class (I played the Tuba, thank you very much). Sometimes I wonder if Dylan and Julie would be married today if I had not been the apex of those two swirling circles of acquaintances. Ah, the head swells at the prospect of it all.

OK, I’m rambling a bit here.

I’ll say it plainly. Of all my friends, it is Dylan I envy. Not because he’s married to one of the most beautiful women I know (though it is part of the sum). Not because he has talent that demands to be admired. Not because he is, without a doubt, one of the most decent people I know. I envy Dylan because he has aspired to, and achieved greatness.

Let me explain. I’ve always had this feeling deep down inside of me that I was destined to do something great, something wonderful. Though I’ve done a great many things in my short time on earth, my feelings of achievement have always been fleeting. I think to myself, “OK, good job, what’s next?”. I have designs on how this sense of greatness will finally be realized, but it will take several more years to get there.

Dylan, on the other hand, is there. He, in his capacity as an English teacher, has the ability to touch minds, to create love out of nothing, to create passion out of disinterest. Many people are afforded this opportunity; few take advantage of it.

The only two teachers I had in high school that amounted to anything were Ms. Damien and Mr. Winn. In the end, I ended up loving those two. No, no, not Eros, but love none-the-less. I can say, with all honesty, that I would not be who I am today if our paths had never crossed. More than likely, a great deal of me would have been unrealized (I’m not ashamed to say it).

Dylan is the Ms. Damien and Mr. Winn for his students and his students love him for it. That is greatness. That is what I envy. No, that is what I admire about my good friend, Dylan.

Oh, and if anyone wants to know about the shrimp for ice cream scam we had going on back in the day, let me know.

— Justin M. StoddardComments (0)

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