2-29. The Curiosity of Magic

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Magic, that is conjuring illusions, has been a popular form of entertainment since the beginning of entertainment. It’s true purpose isn’t to fool people; it’s to show them a what a world with actual magic would look like.

Some have abused their abilities and proclaimed themselves to be actually “magic.” These folks can be found reading palms or talking to dead people, but the things they do are well known to magicians who employ them for the purposes of entertainment.

When you see a person on stage ask for seven numbers, and then open an envelope sealed before the show to reveal those seven numbers, you’ve witnessed “magic.” Without the explanation, your experience is exactly the same as if you lived in a world where magic existed. This is a joyous thing, and it’s what makes magic shows fun.

But the same skill can be used to fool people into believing falsehoods. “I saw him predict the number… I’ll bet he can predict the lottery too. He says he’ll give me the number if I pay him. How can I lose?”

You WILL lose, because it’s a trick. And with that knowledge, it’s logical to conclude that we should reveal how such tricks are done so that the vulnerable in our society don’t fall for such scams. But if we do so, we also risk ruining the wonder that comes from a proper performance of the principle by an honest magician.

Magic shows are a place where we don’t want our curiosity satisfied. You feel like really want to know “how they did that,” but I promise you that once you know, you’ll be disappointed. Most magic is simple and ugly, and boils down to something like “they moved it when you weren’t looking.” You’re not being made a fool of, you’re being entertained by a skilled performer. But you are being made a fool of if that performer says they’re the real thing, and that they have something to offer you.

How can we keep the wonder of magic and combat those who would defraud us from our money? Just remember that there are no such things are magic, psychics or mediums. Anyone who says there are is either a deluded person, or a fraud. They may be famous and popular. They may have books and TV shows. But so did Dr. Seuss, and no one is claiming that Horton really heard a Who.

 

Same as it ever was.

Same as it ever was.

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