Student Spotlight: Matthew Chelf, a Radical Thinker?
March 4, 2013
Karl Marx once said, “The atmosphere in which we live weighs upon everyone with a
20,000 pound force, but do you feel it?”
Marx, a radical thinker of his time, was concerned with “feeling the weight” of modernity that would prompt a drastic social movement. According to Marx, society was becoming numb, and he was carving out a new paradigm for the social sphere.
Matt Chelf, a senior English major at Shepherd University, also perceives the world with a highly critical perspective.
“Let’s be honest,” Chelf said, as he put on an Ahmad Jamal vinyl, “Marx’s critique of capitalism is astounding. I really like his employment of dialectical thinking and his incorporation of history. I do consider myself a Marxist, but it is important for people to recognize the difference between Marxism, Socialism and Communism.”
Chelf is a McMurran scholar, published writer, former radio host for “The Satirical Party” and passionate peach-picker. He takes pride in his ability to lead thoughtful conversations in class, whether he is discussing the existential philosophies of Kierkegaard or the social critiques of Marx.
According to Chelf, Marxism is rightly defined as a critical lens to use when critiquing the current state of society. Socialism and Communism, he explained, are specific political applications.
Chelf’s short-story “Francisco” has been published in both Sans Merci and Fluent. He has also been nominated to participate at a creative writing institute in New York.
“I mainly want to network when I’m there, explore the city and perhaps get my foot in the door with some reputable publishers,” Chelf said.
Chelf has been a West Virginia resident since his graduation from high school. His childhood and adolescence, however, were spent in Kentucky.
“My soul is no longer in Kentucky,” said Chelf. “Shepherdstown has certainly become more of a home, but I love to travel back down south during the summers to visit my family and friends. The fact that my sense of home has shifted further validates the modern crisis of constant flux.”
Chelf’s future plans entail graduating in May and moving out of Shepherdstown. He also plans to travel to Belgium, Paris, Greece, Istanbul and Rome with Shepherd during the summer. He hopes to be admitted into an MFA program at a prestigious graduate school.
He also readily admits that he is looking forward to the upcoming major league baseball season.
He said, “I really enjoy going to baseball games for their social aspects. In other words, I would much rather see a game in person with my friends than on television because technology seemingly takes the authenticity away from real-life experiences.”
Chelf admits that he will miss some things about Shepherd, especially the history department, English department and his girlfriend.
“Some people at Shepherd view me as being cynical,” said Chelf, “but really, I’ve just effectively gone through Descartes’ method of doubt. Is society real or just a dream? Well, I think, therefore I am.”
Chelf hopes future students will approach the obstacles of higher education.
He said, “I want people to remember that Matt Chelf believed in everything he did, both as a student and person. Students should not come to college expecting the institution to teach and define them per se, but should relate to that external and use it to positively define themselves.”
His demeanor and outlook on life epitomize a type of radical thinker. Rather than turning to television or politicians for answers, Chelf is not hesitant to pull “The Communist Manifesto” or “The Savage Detectives” down from the shelf. His ability to critique the world allows him to live life more thoughtfully.
“With advancements in technology, life has become a lightning blitzkrieg racing from Belgium to Paris. It is important to slow down and just think,” Chelf said.