Acta Deceptio - Why Do We Not Believe?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Lyle Borders, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. The first magic trick I ever saw, a Disney Land magican pulling a peice of rope from my ear, was real. I knew it then. I can think of nothing in my memory that would betray what he did as anything but real.
    If I saw the same trick today, there is nothing that could convince me that it was real. With the perfect mix of flawless sleights and masterful subtelties, the performer would not be able to convince me that I just witnessed anything magcal. Even a layman would be hard pressed to believe.

    Why do we not believe? What is it that we as magicians do that causes people to not believe what we want them to believe? Do we not take our own art seriously? Is our art tainted by magicians past? Does it matter? How do we change things?

    Your thoughts?

  2. We don't believe because we know the secret. Before we knew how everything was done, it was a miracle to us. We felt like a little kid in a candy store. Now that we know the secrets, all of the candy is gone and there isn't any to eat. The mystery is lost.

    I think a lot of magicians tend to present their magic as a challenge and as a "sleight of hand" trick. They want the audience to know that they are very skilled, yet that takes a lot of the mystery away. After the effect they will think "I knew he did something there, but I don't know exactly how he did it." Doesn't that just take away the magical moments you worked so hard to get?

    I think we, as magicians, should strive to make magic not look like a bunch of moves, but rather a simple effect that gets the point across without many sleights or difficult moves. Every time I have someone asking me to do magic, I ALWAYS perform the simple effects that I have been doing for years, and I'm comfortable with. I don't do the knuckle busting routines that could get me caught if I slip up. I want to make SURE that they don't think I'm using any moves. I try to make everything natural and motivated, so that it makes sense that I'm doing a shuffle "this way" or cutting the cards "this way".

    Our art isn't tainted by the past. We allow it to happen every day. "Where's your top hat and rabbit?" "Pull a coin out of my ear", etc. Those are lines we hear from laymen all the time. And it does get annoying, but most of the time we sit back and do nothing about what they say. If we want to get rid of those stereotypes, we need to MAKE IT HAPPEN. Convince them otherwise, and do something that makes them feel like true magic just happened. If you do that, you knock their perception of you as a guy with a top hat, clear out of the water.

    Keep it simple. Keep it direct. Motivate every action. Be natural. Connect with the audience. It's not even hard to do, yet we think it's a lot of work and we do nothing about it.
  3. Magicians get jaded; once we start learning the mechanics & psychology of things we start looking at life in a more cynical, even arrogant manner that robs us of that "childhood innocence" when we could believe in magic. Just look at how cruel we get when we meet people that claim belief in such things or state that they are psychic or any such thing; we right them off as being nuts, but why?

    Psychologically speaking it may very well be because we envy their ability to do so when we've traded in that blessing in order to be a "Wizard". There's a serious ego-centered issues as well; the arrogant side we tend to embrace when it comes to being a bit of a "know it all" and able to explain magical thinking away -- pragmatism and pseudo-intellectual thinking blocking our ability to simply let go and enjoy things as being "real" magick.

    I decided many years ago, to deliberately avoid learning those aspects of magic that I was not going to work with simply so they would still hold some sense of Magic for me. . . that old childhood wonder. Where I can be impressed by someone's presentation of a big illusion, I simply know too much about that arena to become enraptured as I can when watching a solid coin or card guy work. Same goes with Mentalism, I simply know that craft far too well to be totally spellbound by the typical performer where I was at one time, totally boggled by simple Swami work.

    Ignorance really can be bliss at times.
  4. Years ago we were the sages of the villages, the wisemen people came to for advice about the future, we were leaders, storytellers, healers, and counsel to kings, and queens. Then a little thing called the inquisition came along and all of a sudden we're no longer witches... we're just pretending. Thus the stage magician was born.

    Now that's about 3 thousand years of history condensed down into one or two short sentences, but it illustrates my point. People chose to believe or not based upon what and how we present the magic too them. If you just do a couple of moves, and don't have the passion to perform, and the ability to connect with your spectator, then they won't see magic. They'll see a trick or a puzzle. However get them to invest emotionally, and they'll have an experience that will last a lifetime!

    As for magicians, we really just get wrapped up in the hows, and less about the why's. It's when we lose sight of how to feel mystified, that we lose our ability TO mystify. We simply need to learn to let go, and not focus so much on how he's doing it, but how does it make me feel? What is the message he's trying to send me, and more importantly do I understand it?
  5. I totally agree with what Casey said. When I´m asked to do some "Magic" then I always go with effects that I´ve been doing for a long time and are straight to the point with not many difficult or strange looking movements. That´s why the "easy" and "simple" effects are often the best effects you can do.
    Also Casey is right with his comparison about the candy store and magicians. That´s exactly how it works.

    So do simple tricks like ACR, Crazy Mans Handcuffs, Dr. Darly´s Last Trick,....., etc.
    Just effects that you are really comfortable with (and get good reactions) , cause then you don´t have to concentrate that much onto the effect itself but more on the patter and the spectators.
  6. Deep post, Lyle and very thought provoking.

    Being magicians or hobbyist magicians, we're intrinsically inquisitive as people, we naturally have a thirst for a deeper understanding of how things work. We'll instantly assume that if something is presented as a trick, with all the typical ingredients I.e. Rope, cards, coins etc. Then, it must be a trick.

    I believe that, in order to change magic, to really make people believe, we need to throw away the coins, cards, rope etc etc. Then, begins to divulge into a very organic style of magic. where your effect isn't presented as trick. Where your performance piece, is more of an optional observation that can be made by the people around you. As in they've accidentally seen you doing something, that maybe that shouldn't have seen. Leave them questioning what they've seen, as they weren't sure, because it wasn't being "shown off" as a trick to anyone.

    Of course, this sort of magic isn't suitable for working magicians, and would have to be for select choice situations and you'd rarely hear the reactions from people as they'd be questioning them selves, before they question you.

    I may have gone off on a tangent, but I'll leave you with a pretty evoking quote:

    "If you were really doing a miracle, you wouldn't need a clever script, and I suspect it wouldn't look anything like a performance. You would simply show them something they know is impossible." Paul Harris

  7. Well....maybe because the laymen see magicians as normal human being, just like themselves, so it will be hard to make them believe something magical has happened right in front of their eyes. Maybe most of the laymen will think something alone the line like "What make you guys so special to have magical powers? And i dont?" So when you show them something, they will start thinking "How did you do that?", "You are really fast!", etc. If thats the case....then i dont think its possible to convince them its done by magic. Cause most people are becoming more rational these days, especially when science is present.

    For me the best way to archive the similar goal is to present magic like its nothing. Like what "normal" people do with these objects, and you show them you can do it differently compare to others, and you dont present them as magic i guess....Cause i think the word magic has already settled in most laymen's mind, if they believe in magic, you dont have to say anything about a simple coin vanish, and they will convince themselves its done by magic (of course only if they dont see how its done....).
  8. We don't believe because it's impossible. It just can't happen, and the majority of spectators know it too.

    That doesn't matter - what matters is that it looks so convincing, and that there's no apparent cause in what they have seen.

    William - there were the guys doing cups and balls in Rome and Greece as well. Seneca the Younger wrote a bit on them in 3 BCE.
  9. As humans, we are prone not to believe. It's within our natural inclinations. There have been many studies on how humans handle situations that are without purpose, lack logical consistency, or are plain simple. We have a desire to make 'sense' of things. When tragedy strikes, we look for a reason behind it. When something abnormal happens, we search for the normal within it. When something simple happens, we make it out to be more complex than it really is. It's a coping mechanism. When it comes to magic, we can't believe in something that defies our understanding. 'Magic' as an explanation, isn't enough for the spectator, no matter how convincing the trick may be. As humans, we wouldn't be able to cope with real magic--hence we dismiss it.
  10. There are many reasons for this as everyone has already pointed out. Of course another dimension to all of this is exactly what Lyle mentioned in the beginning, Craig alluded to, and Michael points out: when we're younger, we are inclined to believe in magic because we WANT to believe in magic. As we get older, that built-in hardwired skepticism kicks in and we all learn that there "really is no magic" ... from Santa Claus, to the Tooth Fairy to Uncle Fred pulling a coin out of your ear. (My apologies if any of those were spoilers, but hopefully it was an OK thing to say in a forum for magicians.)

    I think that's one reason for the enormous success of the Harry Potter books and films ... it takes all of us jaded older folks ("older" meaning most of us from the high single-digit ages and beyond) and drops us back into a world where magic really is real. A world many of us, if not most of us, would have preferred to be living in. Add to the already jaded nature of a layman the jadedness that comes from becoming a magician and being intimately involved with the inner workings firsthand, and all of us magicians are hopelessly lost causes for ever believing in any sort of magic ever again.

    But it's the same for practitioners of any art. An architect doesn't look at buildings the same way the person on the street does. A video game designer doesn't watch and play a video game the same way a regular player does. And it's impossible for an actor, a director, an editor or a screenwriter to watch a movie like a normal member of the audience. All of these fields possess their own amount of "magic" ... but the respective wizards - the professionals who "know the secrets" - realize that it's their job to create the best possible "illusions" that they can despite being in on the tricks.
  11. I don't know about never being able to have that feeling again. Check out this post from our very own Chris Kenner.

    He was taken back to his days as a kid watching magic for the first time. Why? What made this different? If Chris, one of the most involved magicians in the magic creation/production world, can have this kind of experience, why can't you and I?

    How does this work?

  12. Are you sure Chris was talking about the same feeling that you originally posted about, Lyle?

    I read that as Chris being super impressed by an improved and ultra-smooth handling of an effect the workings of which he clearly does understand. I didn't take it as Chris being fooled by the effect to the point that it might "make him believe in magic" or being fooled by effect at all. The "magic" Chris seems to be referring to here is the thoughtfulness and polish that went into the performance itself.
  13. Read Aronson's foreward in Mnemonica. He describes having that feeling of wonder, that feeling of "there's no way that this can be happening", while watching Tamariz perform.
  14. "When he was six he believed that the moon overhead followed him,
    by nine he had deciphered the illusion trading magic for fact.
    No tradebacks.
    So this is what it's like to be an adult.
    If he only knew now what he knew then...."

    I'm Open, Pearl Jam
  15. Whilst it is not on the same level as the impossibility that you first experienced I highly recommend looking at The Berglas Effects. Watching the card show that Berglas performed at 84 (late last year) was truly magical for me. Watching David perform took me back to that feeling of there must be something else going on here. The whole book is dedicated this just his card work, and more importantly helping you as a performer to create that air of impossibility which is missing in most magic now days.

    I cannot give this book the highest praise I recommend that everyone picks it up this book as it is pure insight into a completely different way of thinking about the magic we perform.
  16. What a nice quote. I think the line that I like in this is "No Tradebacks" because that is absolutely true. You can never really get innocence back.
  17. Yep. I've always liked that line too. I also especially like the "If he only knew now what he knew then" line. That is of course a play on the old line "I wish I knew then what I know now."

  18. We can always still believe...
  19. I don't think so. Once you lose your "innocence" so to speak, you can't still keep "believing". When you see something that you can't explain, you know that there is a method, you just don't know what it is.
  20. But is there a way to get the feeling again of when you believed? Can an illusion so amaze you that even though you may know the method it simply does not matter?

    What do you think?


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