Alfred Korzybski whose best known dictum is “The map is not the territory”, that human beings are limited in what they know by (1) the structure of their nervous systems, and (2) the structure of their languages. Human beings cannot experience the world directly, but only through their “abstractions” (nonverbal impressions or “gleanings” derived from the nervous system, and verbal indicators expressed and derived from language). Sometimes our perceptions and our languages actually mislead us as to the “facts” with which we must deal. It is these perceptions which couax the more verbal audience members to speak out with their view of how a trick or effect is done.
Essentially if someone sees a piece of magically performance and immediately starts to dissect the mecahnics and workings of the trick then this they are not seeing, or experiencing real magic. It is a leap of faith for them, to suddenly start believing in magic from this ‘unknown’ magician when the very concept of magic had been banished from their minds along with the tooth fairy, father Christmas and leprecahuns long before they started secondary school. As a result from the moment we start our performance, we should make every effort to shape our performance into a piece of theatre which, if correctly structured, with congruence, authenticity and an air of mystery then hopefully they will buy into this frame, leave their beliefs and misconceptions and the door and enter into a world, where their moment of astonishment may run and run…..
If they react to this correctly ‘dressed’ piece of theatre or magic then the end result should finish with a gaps of amazement, a nervous giggle (the kind that you used to do when queuing up to have your first jab at school from the school nurse) or be left with a moment of absolutely stillness in senses. This piece of theatre, piece of magic, then transcends their pre-conceived idea of a magic trick and enter into a completely different world before the emotion of astonishment starts to crumble, the questions about its impossibility, then possibility and then dissection return as their mind starts in inevitable whirring again.
For me any piece of magic, mentalism or effect should result in a degree of astonishment. My professional set is configured to achieving that. That is why very few new effects ever enter in. Often the proverbial magic trick ‘wheel’ is reinvented time and time again with merely just another spin placed on it. This is not always the case I may add,; occasionally there is something truly unique come to the shelves and webpages of magic dealers but – truly unique pieces of magic or mentalism to create astonishment, for me are few and far between. You may disagree. How many effects have you bought that have not impressed you? Admittedly we look at them with eyes of scrutiny – have they impressed us – no – therefore why would they amaze the audience. This sadly is the case time and time again where we do not even take the time to try it out for overly convoluted mechanics. For some it is this overly convoluted card flourishes which find themselves into performance pieces and add nothing to the final impact of the illusion – and to some degree, detract from it, as the performer becomes ‘a show off’ or ‘a sleight of hand artist’. Now this in itself , is not a bad thing – far from it. I know extremely skilled cardicians who are superb ‘finger flickers’ – but does this add to that final encore of astonishment…….? (I’ll leave that as a rhetorical question). Next blog post – part 6 will look at the more spiritual thinking behind astonishment and how it can be likened to meditation…..