Comment: What are the biggest challenges facing recent graduates who hope to do the kind of work you do?
Matt Bonzo: Aside from the challenge of finding a position in an academic institution, I think the biggest challenge is the temptation to overspecialize in order to advance in the profession. When philosophy loses its ability to see the big picture and to help recognize connections, I think it becomes a game unto itself. As Wendell Berry says, “If fragmentation is the problem, fragmentation isn’t the solution.” I don’t think philosophy helps when it isolates one from lived existence.
Comment: How does the Christian faith address those challenges?
MB: To begin, philosophy is not a substitute for faith. Christian faith recognizes the limits of thought and, in a way, opens us to the mystery of God’s relationship with creation. Overspecialization in any academic discipline is often driven by the expectation that the whole of creation can be completely comprehended through a part. This move blinds us to the interconnections of creation and to creation’s connection with God. In faith, we see creation as creation, and are reminded that something bigger is going on than conceptualization about the world.
Comment: What can students do while still in school to prepare for those challenges?
MB: Stay broad and interdisciplinary in your interests. Make sure your thinking stays connected to lived existence. Engage in physical labor as well as intellectual labor. Always revisit the question, “Is this activity promoting the kingdom of God in this time and in this place?”
Comment: Is there a writer, magazine or newspaper columnist, or blogger who addresses your sphere of life with wisdom?
MB: I’d recommend the writings of Wendell Berry, Bill McKibben, Calvin Seerveld, and Jamie Smith.
Comment: Are there disciplines and practices that you recommend students cultivate for life in general?
MB: I find simplicity to be the most meaningful discipline. Simplicity is not list of what you should or should not possess. Rather, it is an invitation to live creative and imaginative lives that counter the consumerism of our day. It is learning to know when I have enough and to listen the rhythms of God’s beautiful creation. Also, cutting firewood to heat my home is a discipline has a deep spiritual resonance for me.