Xavier Magazine

Extra Credit: Matthew Dunch, S.J.

Matthew Dunch, S.J., is completing his first year at Xavier as a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy after working as a prison chaplain and teaching pre-school (the latter being the tougher gig) while also spending two summers “excruciatingly sick” serving in Third World nations.

Dunch was raised “on a steady diet of ‘Star Trek’ ” near Youngstown, Ohio, earning his bachelor’s degree at Catholic University of America and MA at the University of Chicago Loyola. He writes a column for The Jesuit Post blog postulating on such topics as the universe, Sweet 16 and postal deliverers.

“I started out working for a former Xavier professor, James McCann. He was my boss at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That was my junior year of college and my first serious introduction to the Jesuits. Now, I’m living in his old room in the Jesuit residence on campus. It’s kind of a creepy connection.

“I was impressed with the Jesuits because of the breadth of competencies, their mission, their spirituality and the lightness with which they carry themselves.

“Philosophers struggle with the insistent question of ‘being.’ My sense of religious identity seems to come out of curiosity. And I try to make my students curious. They sometimes roll their eyes when I use props [such as Nietzsche and Socrates, in the photo] or switch from Descartes to quantum physics, but truth can’t go against truth. The best science, the best literature, that’s what I try to get across.

“I find I’m not a very good teacher unless I’m confused, too. That emptiness in the pit of your stomach, that’s what lets you be empathetic with students. If I’m not a little confused and unsettled, then

I know I’m wrong.

“My favorite living philosopher is Charles Taylor. He enters deeply into the complexities of human meaning. My favorite dead philosopher is Socrates. He exemplifies what philosophy is all about.

“Some philosophers claim that contemplation is the highest form of life, but then don’t practice it. We’ve been trying for over 2,000 years and haven’t gotten it quite right yet. It’s about finding God in all things. Science is great, but science won’t talk about this Gatorade bottle I’m holding. Science will talk about the mass of this Gatorade bottle. Philosophy has the same interest as science, but takes a broader lens that tends to capture the thing itself. The view can be blurry, but it’s broader.

“The Jesuit confidence in the world is to venture as far as we can, and we’ll still find God. I keep looking, and I haven’t found it not to be true. There’s

a little restlessness at the core of Jesuit ideals, the Jesuit desire to push a little

further at the frontiers. And that’s wonderful.

“I love traveling, I grew up traveling. I come from a long line of adventurers.

“On campus, I find I really do love basketball. I think of basketball games as almost liturgical, almost a rite.

“I was a total nerd as a child. I still am, but it seems more acceptable now.

“You don’t graduate out of a university. You graduate into it, into that long line of thinking before and after you.”

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