“It doesn’t always seem like it because you know you’re a professor but being a professor is like being a father. So, there you go… sometimes you have to say difficult things, hard things.”
Dr. Micah Mattix is the Chair of the Department of English and a professor at Regent. He also writes for multiple online publications on a variety of subjects. He currently lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and four kids. I sat down with him to learn his favorite kids shows and problems with modern culture. His office is on the third floor of Robertson hall and is filled with great works of literature, commentaries, and even the complete lyrics of Bob Dylan. After discussing classes, finals, and the weather – the interview began.
What book would you recommend Regent students read over break?
Dr. Mattix: [Without hesitation] Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos. Basically, Walker Percy’s premise is: why is it man can understand so much about the universe, he can even look through a telescope and see this small star a million light years away – a billion light years away – and be able to identify it, be able to know so much about it, and yet he wakes up in the morning and looks in the mirror and has no idea who he is. I think that’s a great book [that] talks about why it is that we are more comfortable [and] have more leisure time, less death, less suffering than we’ve ever had ever, you know human kind, and yet so many people want to go off and put a bullet in their head. How do you explain that? He’s a Catholic writer; he used writing to diagnose the modern malaise. It’s a good book. And he’s funny. He’s known for his novels but I think he’s a better non-fiction writer.
What was your favorite TV show or cartoon as a kid?
Dr. Mattix: Oh! Well, I used to like to watch He-Man: Masters of the Universe with Skeletor, that was a favorite. That would probably be my favorite, yeah.
Renée : What’s that about?
Dr. Mattix: It’s about a guy who’s super strong; he’s got this sword and he’s the master of the universe, and Skeletor is always trying to do something – I don’t remember what – but He-man always saves the day. I think it might be coming back now.
If you could do away with a part of modern culture what would it be?
Dr. Mattix: Oh… that’s a good question. [pauses] Traffic!
Renée: Any particular reason for that?
Dr. Mattix: No – just I like pop music, I love pop culture. It’s great, you know? There’s some utility… but traffic, especially in America, you’re stuck in your car by yourself – it’s a total waste. If you’re stuck with someone else that’s fine, but it’s usually not the case.
If you could have dinner with a figure in history who would it be?
Dr. Mattix: Jonathan Edwards. He’s such an interesting guy – puritan, pastor, theologian. Difficult life, you know, everyone sees his life as celebrated now. But he must have entered his life with a sense of failure because he got kicked out of his church for standing for the Eucharist, the strict interpretation – not allowing non-professing believers to take of the Lord’s Supper. Because of that, he was kicked out [and] he had to go serve in the boondocks, basically this Indian reservation way out in western Massachusetts. That’s what he did for many years and eventually he became president of Princeton College, then known as New Jersey College, and he died a few months after he took it. His whole life he had this plan of this great book he was going to write, and he never wrote it. So, he’s an intriguing guy but also just [someone] who is very much misunderstood. He loved his kids – he is known as this hard-core preacher, you know, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is the sermon everyone reads. He’s this hard-nosed Puritan, [but] he goes on walks and he’s amazed by the beauty of God’s creation almost to the point where he breaks down in tears. He took time out of his schedule to make sure he taught his kids in the morning and evening, and he really cared about his congregation. So, he’s just a good family man who cares about the Lord Jesus Christ, but also was interested in a wide variety of ideas, so I think he’d be good.
If you could relive a year of your life, which would you choose?
Dr. Mattix: I would relive the year my wife and I moved back to Switzerland. So, the second year we moved back to Switzerland, we had just moved to this house a little bit further away from town – this older couple lived above us, we had two kids at the time – and I was the director of a language center. It was great; it was a great year.
Renée: What was it like living in Switzerland?
Dr. Mattix: It’s interesting to live there, you know? Stores are still closed on Sunday, all day Sunday. They close at 5 or 6 o’clock at night; everything shuts down accept for the cafés and pubs, so the rhythm of life seems just more sane, and in the night people get together with friends. Friends drop by, and you take time to eat together. The kids all come home for lunch, so they bus them into school in the morning then they have a two-hour lunch break, and they bus them home and you have lunch with your family then you go back to school. [Switzerland] has beautiful nature. If you have a farm you have to allow people to walk at some point, not everywhere, but a path that cuts through your property so they can continue because hey don’t have public property like we have, like public parks. They have it so you can walk out your front door and just sort of walk anywhere. There is private property, but they always have to have what’s called a “droit de passage,” a right of passage. So, the opportunity to go on walks and all that makes it a nice place to live
If you were not an English professor and a writer, what job would you like to have?
Dr. Mattix: I think I would like to be a bike mechanic – like road bike, mountain bike, not motorcycle. I like working on bikes; it’s nice and I like watching bike races. So, to be able to go to like Tour de France and work behind the scenes and see all the bikes, I would like that.
Renée: Do you bike yourself?
Dr. Mattix: I do. I don’t do as much of it as I used to – I’m fat, I’m out of shape, and I don’t have the time. [laughs] The problem with biking is you need like three or four hours to have a good ride and when you have kids and work it’s hard to find that time. I do like it; I really enjoy biking. You don’t have the same pounding you have when running, but you still go slow enough that you can see scenery. There’s a part of it that’s adventuresome; you go off on a new route and explore new places. When we lived in Switzerland, we had mountains right behind us and within thirty minutes I could be at a lookout point, completely silent. In the summer, it would get dark about 9 o’clock at night. So, with my wife, we’d put the kids to bed, then I could go out and go on a bike ride and by 8 o’clock be there and it would be completely silent, good way to relax.
Renée Hogan is a Department Head for The Daily Runner