Hit the Snooze Button, Please!
April 7, 2000

I just got back from a magic show. It was ok, not particularly stellar one way or another. There were a few strings visible, the random suspicious pause. But the tricks as a whole were fairly decent.

When I left, I ran into two guys, one who I know, the other I know of. We’ll call the first John, a rather annoying guy who’s pretty clueless. I don’t have a very high opinion of him: he listens to guy number two, who spews a drekload of nasty ideas. John seems to have absorbed them all. Anyway, as I passed them, I heard John saying something about the last trick. “How he made it snow; do you know how he did that?” And Mr. Obnoxious said yes. Now, at this point the conversation just died. I have to give John credit: he knew when to stop.

See, think about why we go watch magicians in the first place. We’re there to be lied to. The audience asks the performer to fool them, make the impossible possible. For a society so focused on truth, we want a lot of lies.

What happens when the lies fall apart? We learn how the trick was done. Find a wire, see the man palm a card, spot the assistant sneaking out of the box.... The illusion stops working. And that can be one of the most disappointing things of all. Who wants to go see a magician when everyone can tell how the tricks are done? That’s no fun. Yet we don’t like being fooled. We want to know how things work, how we’re fooled.

Catch 22, anyone? Truth against lies, which to chose?

I say, lie to me. Magicians fool our eyes, distract us from reality to promise us a pipe dream. But when we see the wires, spot the palming, whatever, our illusions are replaced by reality. We lose the dream. And to stop dreaming is a horrible crime.

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