ho hasn’t, even secretly, wanted to be a magician at some point in their life? I was obsessed for a brief period of time with close-up magic. The kind where you pull a coin out from behind someone’s ear, or where you have the ace of spades pop up out of a deck of cards. How on earth did they do that?
When I started looking into these tricks, you can find step-by-step instructions out on the internet. They usually involve two key hallmarks – the first is misdirection. On the coin in the ear trick, you have the subject focus on your left hand, all the while you’ve transferred the coin to your right. You slip the right hand behind the ear and VOILA! I just pulled a silver dollar out of your ear.
The second key component to a magic trick is charisma. You’ve got to engage the person you’re performing this trick on and you want to make them believe you just made their card appear from inside a balloon. Magic is a performance. Magic is willful disbelief. Put simply, magic is a lie that you want to believe.
What we’ve seen over the past week in America fits much of that definition. A charismatic performer engaging his audience who want to believe something other than reality. Add in a little misdirection – a few key placed gooses or a stretched tale – and you see the magic that can happen. Magic, sadly, can also be damaging when wielded by a master of the dark arts, you see.
You get people, who I believe were honorable at one point in their lives, and I also believe think they are working under good intentions, frothed up. You feed them lies. You feed them an environment where up is down and red is blue. You control their narrative, then you set them in action like one of those toy cars where you pull the cord out and then watch it race across the kitchen floor.
But once I started reading about magic and the power it holds over people and how, frankly, easy it is to do, you start to pick up on the logistics behind that actions. It really just becomes Step 1, 2, 3 and PRESTO! It loses its luster. It just becomes a sad performance where you made someone believe they’d been living with a quarter in their ear. It’s like seeing a mime at a urinal in a public bathroom. There is no mystique. It’s just a guy wearing a bunch of makeup who is about to make it look like he’s stuck in a box.
It’s sad. It’s embarrassing.
What if, instead of tricking these people into thinking these aren’t the droids you’re looking for, you took that incredible personality and charm and worked that energy to good? What if instead of misdirecting, you shined a light on your audience?
But that’s not how power works. It’s not how magic works. You lose your power over a person once they know what you’re up to.
Maybe after the past week, truly good people will wise up to how they’ve been lied to; how they’ve been misdirected; and how what they thought was magic was really just a sad man stuck in a box trying to pull a quarter out of your ear.
(Get more from Chris Kamler on Landmark Live, Jan. 14 at 6 p.m. at plattecountylandmark.com)