Intellectual vs Emotional Belief

The anti-skill position is often expressed in the following terms: "I want my effects to be magical and unex-plainable. 1 don't want them to be credited to skill," This is what a logician would call a false dilemma. You don't have to choose one or the other. A layperson can experience your magic as magical and unexplainable and yet credit your effects to skill. This seems contradictory only if you don't understand the difference between an audience's emotional reaction and its intellectual belief.

Let's start with the matter of intellectual belief, I hope I'm not shocking anyone when I tell you that, barring the mentally ill, the extremely credulous, or members of near-extinct Amazon tribes, no one will leave your show believing you have supernatural powers. It's not realistic to hope your audience believes that your effects are inexplicable. Intellectually, they know that there is an explanation and that the explanation lie6 within the boundaries of natural law. Therefore, if it were impossible for people to feel something that contradicts what they know, they could never have a magical experience watching a magician.

Fortunately for us, what a person knows in a general, intellectual, abstract way need not prevent him from responding hi a visceral way to what he sees. If his eyes and gut tell him that what he is seeing is impossible, that's how hell react. That's why it is realistic to strive to make your audience feel that what they're seeing is inexplicable. This is a distinction few magicians understand but that i6 critical to appreciating why displays of skill and evocation of magical experiences can coexist.

The ironic thing is that the very magicians who think that an audience can't know that you have skill yet feel that you're doing magic have themselves experienced that paradox many times. Think of any close-up magician that Ma you with an experience of magic when you see him perform. It may be René Lavand, Lennart Green, John Carney, or you may prefer to fill in your own choice. The fact is that you know that magician possesses great sleight-of-hand skill. It doesn't matter whether he performs flourishes and gambling routines (as Lavand does), refrains from them (as Carney does), or falls somewhere in between (as Green does). You know that he has great skill. Yet you feel that you're seeing magic.

A layperson's brain wiring is no different from yours. Your knowledge of the magician's technical skill doesn't prevent you from experiencing magic. It doesn't cause you to dismiss the miracles you're watching as mere sleight of hand. Why do you think it would be different for a layperson?

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