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On Shared AirBy Eric Scott
A few days ago – or maybe weeks as time no longer moves in the normal order of things – my six-year-old said to me, “you know what I miss most, Daddy?” She went on to list many things: her friends, her teacher, playdates. Basically her life outside our home.
She then listed one more thing: “I miss the air.”
Seven years ago, as I sat in the office of the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge being interviewed for my first position here at Southwest, she looked at my resume and pointed out something important.
“You have a thorough background in theatre, but none in the church.”
She was right. On that day in May of 2013 I had no professional experience in the church. I had found my way to this interview in the way all wonderful things happen- by providence. A long and fulfilling – yet complete – career in non-profit arts had me hitting my head on ceilings, so I was looking for something different.
But still, her straightforward comment really cut to the root of what we are here to discuss (raise your hand if she’s ever done that to you, too). The answer I gave was pretty good, I thought. I only partially believed it that day. Today, I think it is why I am so deeply devoted to this seminary.
“Church and theatre have so much in common,” I said that day. “There is something unexplainable that happens when people, often strangers, gather and breathe the same air. We sit there and watch and listen and participate together, and then go home. I believe much of the unexplainable mystery of both the Church and the theatre come from this shared experience. They are both exalted spaces where people breathe the same air.”
Sharing experiences is at the heart of what makes us human. It is why I can listen to my favorite Aunt tell the same family story every Christmas and still enjoy it, laughing in all the same places. We love hearing the memory, we love experiencing the memory again. And if we really want to drill down on this, what is family if not a group of people with shared experiences, who often breathe the same air.
Sometimes I become overcome by it: that moment when the lights drop in the theater or when we stand as the procession enters the chapel. It is a significant portion of the experiences we are all about to share. All these busy minds suddenly go quiet. All these various perspectives suddenly focus on one thing.
You see this in sports and live music. The electricity that can happen when tens of thousands of people feel excited at the same time, about the same thing, is palpable. It is all made possible by the shared air.
A good friend recently introduced me to practicing mindfulness, and to do it we are taught to sit quietly and focus on the sensation of our breathing. Intentionally paying close attention to your most basic bodily function helps us learn to be aware of everything else. It seems there is some symmetry with this practice and the exaltation we feel in the church and theatre. A group of people sharing the air and contemplating a singular thing helps us be more contemplative of everything else. To me, it is as close to transcendence as I get.
I find myself these days on my front porch most evenings, watching my six-year-old draw with chalk on the driveway. The porch faces East and is a shaded and cool spot. As I sit there, many people will walk by. Parents corralling children and walking dogs, couples walking together, kids riding skateboards. I always find myself watching them as they traverse the sidewalk or street in front of my house to see if they want to make eye contact, to say hello, to wave. Although we are still 20 feet apart, it is clear my heart yearns for them to take a breath of the same air with me.
What air do you miss breathing right now?
What do you find yourself you doing to replace it?
As Director of Communications and Marketing, Eric is responsible for coordinating both internal and external communications, brand development, press relations and the development and implementation of the seminary’s strategic marketing plan. Eric has more than 20 years experience in the non-profit sector, holding roles in communications and development for iconic cultural institutions and social service providers in both Austin and New York City. He has served in critical roles at Roundabout Theatre, the Irish Repertory Theatre, PeopleFund, ZACH Theatre, and previous to the seminary he was Chief Development Officer at Any Baby Can, an Austin, TX based agency serving children with special healthcare needs. As a former director at the seminary and cradle Episcopalian, Eric brings to this position a level of resourcefulness and familiarity with our students, alumni/ae and other key constituents that are critical in communicating the story and message of the seminary. A native Austinite and proud alumnus of the University of Texas, Eric lives in Southwest Austin with his wife, Laura, and their two daughters.
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