More Than Mere Puzzles

Posted on March 10, 2015 by Jay Sankey

I recently toured Europe for a few weeks, presenting a series of lectures, and running some intensive workshops. And there's nothing quite like having to TEACH something, to get you thinking about it. Here are a few thoughts I returned home with...

Our magic and mentalism tricks don't really happen in ours hands. They HAPPEN in the minds of our audience. Which is why it's critical to perform tricks designed to inspire their imaginations. Because their imaginations are like the ultimate 'secret assistants' who make our tricks seem even more amazing. 

Performing effects with truly intriguing objects, is one way to spark people's imaginations. Add to that, emotionally engaging presentations, and your performances are going to be even more powerful.

And the experience will also be more memorable. So your tricks will 'last longer'  in the minds and imaginations of your audience.

The other night after a lecture, a magician showed me an effect. Or at least that's what I thought he was going to do. 

Instead, he had me pick a card, return it to the pack, then after some extremely fair shuffling, he fanned the deck and pulled out my card. His eyes asked, "What do you think?"

"Do you know how I did it?" And in that moment, my mind took two small and unenthusiastic steps towards the postulating of possible methods for what I had just witnessed. ("Crimped card, Si Stebbins with a peek . . . ")

Then my brain just stopped dead, and muttered to itself, "I just don't care." It was a lifeless puzzle. I had no interest whatsoever. And for just a moment I imagine I felt like so many of the people to whom, as a younger magician, I would present my equally dull puzzles.

Totally lacking in the performer’s emotional investment, such lifeless puzzles fail to inspire any strong feeling on the part of the audience, and are thus a kind of end in themselves.

Just as the language of logic is perfectly accurate to the degree to which it does not attempt to say anything about the world outside of logic, so too do puzzles possess an isolated and even incestuous quality.

Mysteries on the other hand, resonate with implicit far-reaching values and meaning. Rather than an end in themselves, they are a means to a fuller appreciation of the hidden relationships in the world.

You might ask, "How can a mystery yield appreciation if, by definition, a mystery is an unexplained event?" By reminding us that there are things that are unexplainable which we nonetheless care about. And in this reminding, our appreciation of the value of mysteries is heightened, while our awareness of their omnipresence is deepened.

While puzzles are presented. The mysterious is ultimately invited.