The BLOG: Lifestyle
Matt Brown’s introspective journey from Holy Cross to Hollywood
Diane Kilgore | October 19, 2016
You may wonder what William James, a Harvard-trained physician of the 19th and 20th century and Matt Brown, a Holy Cross-trained actor of the 21st century have in common, but their parallels of challenge, introspection, and commitment are deep and inspirational. Both men grew with the foundational support of loving parents and siblings, one in Cambridge the other in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Their respective collectives enjoyed the benefits of cosmopolitan footprints that walked comfortably between chums and church yet both blazed trails off the beaten path. Separated by time, their struggle to settle into their professional lives are two everyday examples of a quest for perspective and the profound rewards of tenacity. Ultimately, they remind us all to believe in the wisdom of listening to our own mystical inner voice.
William James’ biography is complex. His father, a famed minister of wealth, provided the family with a foundation that was theological and materially comfortable. Of frequent poor health, William studied painting and traveled until he pursed a career in medicine. The physician turned to an academic’s life. In 1873, becoming an instructor of anatomy and physiology, his analytical curiosities further drew him to explore the emerging science of psychology. Appointed the first instructor of that practice in the country, James was often disappointed and depressed finding hard science insufficently answered the true mysteries of life. After 34 years of blending theoretics his tenure at Harvard concluded in 1907, as Professor Emeritus of Philosophy.
Considered one of the most influential thinkers of the United States, William James is known as a major figure in the philosophical school of pragmatism and radical empiricism. A co-founder of the Pragmatic Doctrine, James believed the function of thought is to guide action, espousing the notion happiness depended on choices we make to direct the flow of consciousness thereby creating a sense of empowerment. His later scholarship professed life’s meaning to be flawed if limited to a physical world-view. Fusing experience with one’s core values is his abstract thesis of Radical Empiricism that in summery identifies a spirit-self to be more concrete and significant than a material or social self.
A 1896 lecture “The Will to Believe” outlines James’ thoughts on the adoption of faith in unverifiable situations. His logic professes the value of a “believing attitude.” Accepting religion builds confidence through faith, the free-thinker advocated risk-taking. James taught his students courage saying, “It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.”
Without identifying the thought-architect as his intellectual or spiritual role model Matt Brown is faithfully, pragmatically building his career as an actor, director, producer and writer with Jamesian intellectualism. As a high school kid in fear of being bullied, Matt adopted a pragmatic philosophy of life when considering the consequences of admitting his preference for acting over athletics — he didn’t tell anyone. Living at an all-male boarding school the potential to be ostracized was a risk too great to take.
The parlance of the early 2000s in many places, including the Woodberry School in Virginia, was to call guys interested in the arts “theater fags.” Eventually he realized it didn’t matter what others thought. Matt’s inner voice empowered him to believe in himself. He tried out for a campus production of The Crucible. Risk lead to multiple rewards as he joined the cast. To his amazement he was immediately congratulated and supported by the kids on campus. Beyond that, rather than grinding through mandatory practice drills for varsity sports the aspiring actor enjoyed an unexpected last-laugh spending his after-school hours drilling lines with pretty girls from an affiliated school’s drama program.
High school experiences taught the college freshman it was best to address his interest in the arts from the start. He opted to use humor to diffuse the next macho-mania, sports-vibed campus he attended. Matt became a serious scholar of classics in literature, film and theater. Chekhov, Brando and Ibsen signed his diploma and scribed a post-graduation ticket for Brown to follow his actor-spirit to L.A.
Four years since Hollywood became home Matt’s thoughts continue to guide his actions, “there is no B plan” for the Holy Cross Crusader. Inspiration powers his motivation to work six days a week as a caddy at Bel Air Country Club financing his acting classes and modest lifestyle. Some of the best golfers he’s caddied for are tennis players Pete Sampras and Marty Fish, basketballer Steph Curry, and actor Justin Timberlake; all in his age group, all well established, and all, according to Matt, very generous tippers.
Crowd sourcing, Spartan living and saved tip money help underwrite a fledgling company the actor founded adding dimension to his creative repertoire. Continuously auditioning for roles as a romantic lead, or young dad type, Matt founded Egg Mouth Productions to build upon his skill-set providing industry related jobs for himself and friends. As chief cook and bottle washer Brown is responsible for writing, directing and producing original content in short films readying himself for any opportunity in the business. With candor and introspection he says it’s not easy to wake up every day telling himself the fantastic lies he needs to hear to hold on to his belief of making it big in Hollywood one day. He sees his high school and college friends working in prestigious occupations, and settling down, but he says he knows himself, his passion for the arts feeds his soul in a way that isn’t material but equally real to him. Without acting, he believes, his life would lack an essential quality and be far less spiritually meaningful.
Dedicating a Kirkland Street building in his name, Harvard University honors contributions made by William James to the humanities and sciences. Anthologies recorded his psychological and philosophical perspective that faithfully serves wisdom for the ages. Most quotes encourage self-confidence and trailblazing. “Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice ‘This is the real me’, when you have found that attitude follow it.”
Inner tyranny challenged both William James and Matt Brown to see life’s bigger picture through introspection. Their personal insights brought the separate centennial’s to embrace risk-taking in active pursuit of peace and happiness. As William James said, “There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true self.” The stars may determine Matt Brown’s level of fame in Hollywood, but his faith-filled actions are already in alignment with living a successful life well.