Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Truth and The Magician--Soapbox Special

I lie. That’s okay considering my chosen life. I am a magician and all magic tricks are based on lies. Overt lies and lies by omission. Also, I am a writer. In non-fiction, sometimes a writer lies as an expedient way to the truth. In fiction, it is the little lies that become truth. I excel at lying.

Some magicians I know have a problem with this lying thing. Not that they cannot do it, it is that they are uncomfortable with the term when performing magic. As if telling someone that the coin is in one hand when it is really in the other, isn’t a lie. Lies do not have to be malicious to be lies. Let’s face it; deception is at the heart of magic, without it, magic cannot exist. We must lie and lie well.

No, not a glorious way to put it, but it is the truth. No lie.

It does keep me humble. One of the temptations of a magician is to believe that we are somewhat better than the average person. Smarter. Cleverer. The rush of pulling one over on some feels great. When I can do it with the simplest of means, even better. Foolish mortals.

Lying seduces. Any action performed often enough becomes a habit. Any habit can become an addiction. I lie, often. Far more often than the average person. If I am not careful, it can become a habit.

Does this lead to a "chicken and egg" kind of argument? Yes. Do people that have a propensity to lie become drawn to magic? In some cases, yes. Do people find they cannot draw the line between performance lying and real-life lying? YES.

Applause rewards our lies. It starts out just for performance and then we fudge the amount we really received for a gig. The little lies begin to pile up. We lie to ourselves about how great we are and how much audiences love us. Habit becomes addiction. Little lies beget bigger lies.

Soon, we steal other’s material and justify it. Or, we knock off a product and sell it. Copy something and resell the original on ebay. Down the rabbit hole we gooooooo.

The magic world itself lives as its own worst enemy. We revere the some of the worst offenders. What Harry Kellar couldn’t buy, he stole. Our hero. Frank Garcia once lifted all of Fred Kaps’ promotional material, not even changing the Danish newspaper quotes to American newspapers. The list of magic luminaries that are douche bags does not end.

My friend Tim owns one of the best magic shops in the world. He does not over-charge, even when he can. He contains a several lifetimes of valuable knowledge. He will give magicians, people he knows and people he has known for many years, wide access in his store. How is he rewarded for this? They steal. A DVD here, a book there, a trick or two, it adds up to real money. These are “brother” magicians.

Another brother magician, a lecturer, conned Tim out of an extra $40 by lying about his hotel bill. Tim will tell you who it is. I wonder if that lie will be worth it in the end. Some magicians just cannot stop lying.

Magic dealers, especially manufacturers and wholesalers, continue to offend at an even greater pace. The second dealers ever in business ripped off the first. We give lip service to ethics and the buy from the con artists we decry. One of the things we should look at is the power of our dollar to make a difference. Don’t buy copies. Don’t buy knock offs. Don’t buy anything, even the real stuff, from someone who abets the knock off artists. Strangle them to death. It is better to do without.

My advice is to clean your own house. Remember, lies and deceits are for the stage, not for life. As a child, you may not know the boundaries of right and wrong, but as an adult, it is time. If we do that then the magic world will come along for the ride.

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