Inside the Magic
November 5, 2006

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with Houdini, like many kids are. I was fascinated both by his love of sleight of hand and escape ... as I was with his fascination with disproving charlatans who claimed they could do "real" magics. So, for years, I practiced escaping ropes and eventually moved on to attempting to escape from handcuffs.

Of course, at six, your parents evidently don't feel that real handcuffs are a "toy" and therefore should not be given to children. Hmph. I tried to explain that it wasn't a toy, it was a PROP and I desperately needed it for my burgeoning career as a young Houdini (but not David Copperfield ... for some reason, I always despised Copperfield).

I got plastic handcuffs with my sheriff's outfit. Unfortunately, escaping plastic handcuffs simply takes a flick of the wrist ... then the plastic chain holding the cuffs together and you're back to not having any handcuffs to practice with again.

An unimpressive trick at best.

Years later, my mother decided that I should enroll every summer in enrichment classes sponsored by the local gifted and talented program. I took a drawing class, a class in playing Dungeons & Dragons ... and a class in magic.

The instructor was a rather odd looking bald man who made eye for an uncomfortably long time and it wasn't long before most of us would prefer not to look him in the eye at all. This may have been a part of his magic strategy, I don't know.

I enjoyed the class very much, and probably annoyed everyone who would sit still long enough for me to show them a trick. I went to the trick store periodically and stocked up on new equipment ... and eventually I joined a magic club.

I was the youngest person there and I was highly nervous to be hanging out with these adults once a month, but I also loved my Saturday afternoon learning new tricks. I learned how to build a cardboard box prop where I could make some sizable stuff disappear. Every month, someone had to teach the rest of the group a trick, and the month after the cardboard box ... it was my turn. I had found a delightful little card trick with some fun patter and rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed. I was just terrified to be doing in front of these adults who'd been doing magic tricks for so long.

The trick involved a special card and I'm fairly certain that while performing the trick, my hand slipped and probably gave away the secret ... but everyone was patient with this obviously nervous kid and they let me get all the way through the trick and through my explanations.

I was mortified. I thought my trick was dumb and lame.

I only attended a few more meetings after that before deciding that maybe magic wasn't my thing after all.

It was several weeks more before I figured out why I lost interest in performing magic ... and when I did figure it out, it was blindingly obvious to me.

When you watch a good magic show, you know you're being duped. It's not the fact that the dude has made a person disappear or sawed a lady in half ... it's the fact that you were not able to see for sure how he did it that fascinates us. I had stepped inside the magic and found that the entire process was now transparent. I am fascinated with the "how'd they do that" ... not with the trick itself. It's a mental challenge ... can this guy beat me or can I figure it out?

As I've grown older, I've found this process of stepping inside the magic is common to other things as well. The short stories and novels I've written are also "transparent" to me ... because I've created everything there. There are no real mysteries to the characters for me because as the writer, it's my job to know why the characters behave as they do. Of course, when I'm deep into writing a story, my characters might surprise me from time to time, but once I'm over the initial surprise, I can see just why they did or said what they did.

And, it's the same with the drawing and animation that I do as well. I can look at someone else's sketches and be utterly amazed. I can be entranced in the way they made lines and shapes and created something wonderful. But when I draw my own characters or scenes, I'm constantly comparing what is on the page or screen to what is in my head ... and I'm never as happy with that interpretation I've committed to paper of the art that I see in my head.

I have a friend, a professional musician, and I offered to do an animation for one of her songs. Today, I showed her the half-finished vector drawing of her motorcycle, with much trepidation on my part. I expected her to note the flaws or the areas for which my vision of her motorcycle just was not coming out the way I'd wanted.

I forgot, you see, that I've stepped inside the magic here again. I can see the might-bes ... my friend is seeing what is there.

Apparently there are all kinds of magics ... art, writing, acting, engineering, medical investigation ... and when we are the actor, then we are seeing the world through the transparent mist of the magic. It's easy to forget that everyone else sees the magic we've created because they're looking at it instead of through it.

So the next time you think that your writing is not touching someone else ... or your art, or your singing, or the millions of things that you do ... remember that it might feel that way because you're looking through it.

You never know the lives you touch in the simplest ways which may have made all the difference in the world.

Posted by Red Monkey at November 5, 2006 12:27 PM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


serenity said:

I love the layers and the wisdom in this post. I think you have magically captured the Spirit of Life purpose, and shown that we each bring value to this life and to those we touch in ways we cannot possibly imagine. It is so easy for us to de-value ourselves and what we have to offer, forgetting that others are looking through the lens of their own perception at what we are giving. Our own lens is so often distorted with the voices that chatter at us and tell us we have nothing of value to offer. It is our choice to decide who to lend our ear to.

I truly hope you have a sense of how you touch the lives of others with your passion for justice, your compassion, your kindness, your writing, your creativity, your artwork, and in just being you, the Creation that you are. I thank you for all of that... for you just being you.

November 5, 2006 2:10 PM


MsDemmie said:

What an insightful post and a joy to read.

November 5, 2006 5:34 PM


MsDemmie said:

Not sure if the last comment got through ...... so I will repeat

What an insightful post and a joy to read. Thank you

November 5, 2006 5:36 PM


mike said:

We're all our own harshest critic essentially.

November 5, 2006 6:36 PM


Red said:

I see you work your magic each day in the shout box. You teach so many of us is so many ways, it truly is magical. Wonderful post very insightful and honest. Thank you for the reminder.

November 5, 2006 7:00 PM


pol.b said:

your blog template rocks!

November 6, 2006 2:20 AM


Smash said:


November 6, 2006 6:33 AM


Neobluepanther said:

That is so true!!!

For a while I was intrigued by magic too, but to find out that magic is nothing but tricks was a huge disappointment. Not that I didnt know that to begin with, but as long as the mystery is there, things continue to fascinate.

November 6, 2006 7:03 AM
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