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For those who don’t know Cyril, nor heard of him, he is an accomplished sleight-of-hand magician. He is so good at what he does that in 1997 he competed in FISM, the Olympics of magic. To date, he remains the only Filipino magician to have competed in that prestigious event.
Cyril once confided to me that, as a young student of magic, he used to spend his time leafing through magic catalogs. He then tried to create the same tricks he read up in the catalogs using his method.
In other words he tried to deconstruct magic effects, reverse engineer them in his mind and come up with his methods. He did this as a mental exercise, to sharpen his creativity. His intention was not to rip off the works of magic inventors but only to give his brain some heavy-lifting workout.
Well, thinking about Cyril’s lesson, I’m glad I did not take up the same mental exercise as a regular routine. It would probably have made me a more creative magician. However, it would also have killed thoroughly my sense of wonder. It’s the price of attaining a high level of creativity that I doubt I was willing to pay.
As of now, my sense of wonder is impaired. I know many magicians in the Philippines suffer from the same impairment. The difference is that many are not aware of their condition. A few others don’t miss the beautiful feeling of being mystified like the way I sorely miss it.
Even without the catalogs, we magicians try to deconstruct magic tricks we see. We try to penetrate its veil of secrecy and attempt to see through any manipulative and psychological deceptions. We watch out for ruses, moves and techniques. We do it instinctively, because that is the fun part we find in magic. That is the reason that we take it up as hobby, then as a serious pursuit and eventually as a profession.
Whereas before a simple shuttle pass to vanish a coin might bug our eyes out and drop our jaws, today even the most cutting-edge method won’t probably move us. We have become jaded, like a surgeon who doesn’t feel squeamish anymore at the sight of blood and gore.
Often, we have an explanation for every trick we see. The explanation may not always be correct, but we have one ready. If the performer did not use a shuttle pass to make a coin disappear, he must have topitted it, sleeved it, PK ringed it, pulled it, or any other myriad methods.
We come up with solutions unconsciously. By force of habit, we look for methods and secrets of the tricks we see. The result is that we seldom feel mystification anymore. Astonishment rarely jars us. The sense of wonder is mostly gone.
We have forgotten how to be laymen again. Unless you challenge them, or present your magic as a puzzle, lay people watch magic to be entertained, not to discover how you do your tricks.
What a pity that for most of us magicians, magic is gone. It has left through the window of distrust, doubt and disbelief. Only techniques survive. Santa Claus is not real. The tooth fairy never comes at night. And Cinderella never got kissed by a Prince to live happily ever after.