A lot of things going on the past couple of months. My magic business is actually beginning to roll via the gigs I’ve done with Mirror Speaks The Truth. I’ve been building a lot of infrastructure and developing marketing. I’ve also been visiting restaurants to determine which ones I want to start working at. I feel like there is a lot there. But all of that will have to wait for another article.
Today I want to talk about my apprentice graduating.
Two days from now she will no longer be my apprentice. She will be a Laurel.
She has been a Peer for some time now, being a member of the Order of The Pelican. I think that she is a pretty good one. And she has done well.
But there is also no denying that her heart has been with the Laurel. She hasn’t always been my apprentice. She has had two other Laurel’s before me; one in CAID and one here in The West. She has been my apprentice for nearly 15 years. How long she was apprenticed before then is, well, in the mists of time.
So she has been dedicated to the idea of Peerage for the Arts and Sciences for a long time.
I won’t speak to her time with anyone else. But with me, it was a different story.
Part of that story begins with my own Laureling.
I am the first in the history of the SCA to be Laureled for Performance Magic. Since then there have been a couple of additions to this tiny clan. But being the first is a bit overwhelming. When I was first apprenticed it wasn’t for this. It was for jewelry making, specifically cut work jewelry, though I’m sure if I had kept it up I would have branched out into other directions eventually.
When I found my true passion there was a brief bit of time where there was consideration about whether or not I could stay apprenticed to people who knew nothing of the art I would eventually “graduate” with. But that was quickly resolved. My Laurel’s acted as guides in making sure my PLQ’s were in place and that my scholarship was worthy. The rest was up to me.
On the day that I was Laureled, hell, within minutes of being Laureled I was approached by someone who asked to be my apprentice. I mean that I had literally just finished the ceremony, stood with my back against the wall at the back of the room, and a person walked up, started a conversation with me and “popped the question.”
I don’t hold that against them. They weren’t thinking about me at the time, and honestly what they were interested in learning would have fit pretty nicely with what I had just achieved in terms of the historical research context. But I knew instantly, based on so much of what my Laurel’s taught me, that this would be a bad idea. I politely declined and set the rule that I wouldn’t even consider such a question for at least a year. I needed the time to get my legs under me as it were.
Now a quick gear shift. As a magician I am often asked “How did you do that?” Not a surprise, right? You understand how that happens. Another popular question is “Can you teach me that?” followed by “Can you teach me a trick?”
All of these questions are normal, and expected. But if you happen to ask them of a magician you are likely to get a flip answer back. This isn’t because we are being rude, but rather because chances are pretty good we’ve already figured out that you don’t really want to know. “How did you do that?” is a question generated by you being startled and/or amazed. “Can you teach me that?/Can you teach me a trick?” are questions that only give us a clue about who you are. We might respond with something flip just to see how persistent you are. After all, there is some serious dedication needed here.
But that’s not the question she asked. “Can you teach me to be a magician?” That’s the question she asked. And it made all the difference. That question opened up a genuine dialog about why, and dedication, and everything else that needs to be asked in order to determine if someone really has what it takes to be a magician.
And I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s some big super special deal that only the elite can do. It’s more about knowing that there are secrets to learn and secrets to keep and that in order to be good you have to be willing to dedicate yourself to the art. Like any serious undertaking. We who already are magicians are the gateway to others and if we’re serious about it we only want to introduce people who are truly interested to the deeper levels.
So she became my apprentice.
And then, in a funny twist of history repeating itself, she found a different course to follow. Related but different. She decided that she was going to pursue the art and history of Divination.
That was some time ago.
It took me as long as it did because not only did I have to forge my own path, I had to also educate my audience enough so that they could get an understanding of what I was doing.
It has taken her as long as it has because not only did she have to forge her own path, she had to also educate her audience enough so that they could get an understanding of what she was doing. And, on top of that, overcome certain prejudices that might get attached to the idea of someone “officially” being recognized by the SCA for something so esoteric.
It has been a long road. It has had many ups and downs. It has been fraught with difficulties of all kinds, both SCA and mundane. It has been filled with laughter and discovery. It has been enlightening.
I am laughing at the moment because I want to say that if I had known how this was going to turn out…., but of course I’m not the diviner. She is. That’s what she is going to be after this weekend. The first ever Laurel for Divination.
I am proud that I am the first for my art. I am doubly proud that she is the first for hers. My other apprentice looks like she might be on the verge of forging her own path as well.
I sort of like the idea of a family of firsts.
But however it comes out, there is one thing that is certain; she has her future to look forward to as the first Divination Laurel. She will get to set her path and be an example to others who might choose to follow her. She has labeled herself “The Seeress of The West” and that is a great deal of fun and a great way to start her journey as a Laurel.
And yes, I am proud.
Good fortune to The Seeress of The West!
This past weekend was the 30th anniversary of Darkwood. Lots of big deal. I had decided a while back that I intended to fight in the tourney. I’m not anywhere near to being a threat to anyone as a heavy fighter but that was not the point. I had made a promise a long time back when I was Baron that I would get into heavy armor and fight for and with Darkwood. I didn’t quite manage it during my time, but was on the field shortly thereafter. And while I am enjoying myself I don’t have a burning desire to be a Knight just yet. My goals are elsewhere and I’m totally comfortable with that.
But I knew that being on the field for 30th year would be a thing to enjoy and would make me feel even better about keeping my promise though I’ve already done this many times over. I think the most fun I’ve had as a heavy fighter has been when I’ve had the opportunity to stand with our current Baron on a war field and that’s pretty damn cool for me.
Let me tell you though, what the hardest thing has been for me since stepping down. The hardest thing has been to let go enough that my successors can do the job their way without me interfering. And I knew it was going to be like that so I made a really concerted effort to restrain myself.
They have done a fabulous job under some very trying circumstances by the way. I’ve still been close enough and in the know enough to be aware of many of the trials and tribulations they have had to deal with. They have done well.
When Rose and I stepped down we both made ourselves available and said “use us” but they said they wanted to give us a break after all the hard work we had done. Reasonable, rational, compassionate, pretty much exactly what we said to our predecessors when we took over from them ….. AND TOTALLY UTTERLY FRUSTRATING. Because anyone who steps up to do a job, especially a long term job like Baron and Baroness of a Barony already needs to have the “helium hand gene” to be successful. But we were forced to admit that they were right in that “I don’t wanna” kind of way.
Unfortunately that sort of made us feel a bit “outsider-ish” as we watched other people doing stuff we wanted to do and be involved in. Separation anxiety and all that. You just want to feel wanted sometimes, and in a game where appreciation is the coin of self-worth you start to notice when you aren’t involved as much as you want to be.
You’ll understand in a bit why I digressed that way.
You see I was reminded that I have a greater worth than I have felt this past weekend. I was reminded by a couple of very simple things but they meant the world to me.
For those of you know how SCA Tourneys go this is going to be a bit of exposition but not all my readers are SCA so I need to cover some of this.
When we have a big tourney we line up with all the Knights on one side and all the not-Knights (unbelts) on the other side. There are always more not-Knights than Knights. So in order to make things balance out for the format of fighting we do we must move some people over from the not-Knights to the Knights. This is an honor generally reserved as an acknowledgement of various fighters who are “up and coming”, people who have gotten good enough to be noticed and might be formally raised up in rank to join the Knights. It is a powerful sign of recognition, a gift that the royals in charge of that tourney can give to those they see as worthy.
I was invited to join the Knights.
Even now, as I type that I am getting a bit teary-eyed and choked up.
I was confused. I was shocked. I’m sure that the look on my face was priceless and if anyone managed to get a picture of that I hope to see it. My mask rarely breaks but I know it was shattered in pieces at my feet in that moment.
We walked up to say our piece and I had been rehearsing in my head (like any good entertainer) the things I wanted to say. I’m rarely caught speechless but for the first few moments I struggled to find my way in to the words that I had in my head that I wanted to say.
I spoke of the desire Rose and I have to show that we are still there, still proud to be Darkwood, still ready to bring our art, our service, and our courage to Darkwood. That to reaffirm that on the 30 year field seemed no better time or place. I’m sure I said it with something approaching a form of eloquence but for the life of me I can’t recall now.
And for the next several minutes I stood with the Knights of the Kingdom and I asked myself over and over and over again why I was there. I literally was weak kneed and had to have Rose help me stand. After a few moments I began to realize that instead of deciding who I was going to challenge for my first fight (which the not-Knights do), I was going to be someone’s first challenge. I had to stand and wait and let someone come to me. A very different perspective.
Eventually I was challenged, and not as someone’s last pick (a left over fear from childhood I’m sure many people can relate to), by a fighter whose name I knew but whom I’ve never fought or even had seen fight before. And it was a good fight. A fight I felt I had fun with, that I comported myself well in, and that I was able to make it a worthwhile time. He took that fight, and well deserved, but I was as happy as I could have possibly been even if I had won it.
Later I was told by a Knight who has been a very long time friend and whom I respect that I had done well in that fight from his perspective too. A little acknowledgement that I am getting better even if I don’t practice as much as I should.
A little later on His Excellency Jared and I were talking and he made it clear that the reason he and Her Excellency Brid invited me over to the Knight side of the line was because of the promise I made and have kept, and that in doing so along with so much else that I was an inspiration as well.
Still later at the feast that evening he and I talked some more and he made it clear that the kind of Baron I had been helped him to decide on the kind of Baron he has chosen to be, and that we are “family”.
I do not use the f-word lightly. Well, one of them I do, but I’m talking about “family”.
If I tell you that you are family, if you tell me that I am family, well that means something. I know that many people say that the SCA is one big family and to a certain extant that’s true, but in this context, even in this space, my chosen family is special and unique and not easily joined.
Their Excellencies Jared and Brid have been a part of my chosen family for years now. Their blood family has become a part of my chosen family. And maybe I’ve felt a little “outsider-ish” from time to time, but I’ve never not known that this family of mine hasn’t been there or been around.
My apprentice asked me what it was like being on the Knights side of the line and I couldn’t explain it at the time. It’s taken a couple of days of contemplation for me to really put these words together and make some form of sense out of them, but maybe, after having read all of this I can sum it up in a way that makes it all come together.
Standing there was an acknowledgement. It was a gesture of affection that could only come from the way we have our “families” in the SCA. It was a reminder that my family is still out there even when I’m not always the best me that I can be.
And I don’t know anything better than that.
It’s been a long while since I’ve written anything here.
I’ve been busy. Real busy. Like crazy busy.
If all goes according to plan I will be relaunching my magic business in the next few months. That’s a lot of planning.
“But Santiago,” you say. “You’ve never stopped doing magic, right?”
Yeah, kind of.
Almost all of my performing opportunities have come about because of my participation in the SCA. I’ve built up things like my Carnival and continued the work of the Golden Stag Players. I’ve used those opportunities to expand my magic and they have been good.
But I want more.
For one thing, it’s not the kind of opportunity it takes to make money. I don’t charge for my performances in the SCA. No reason to. No reason why I would expect anyone to pay me in that context. Just isn’t the right way for me to do things.
The past couple of years I have been going back and forth to Las Vegas to Jeff McBride’s Magic and Mystery School, taking classes and building skills. I’ve taken the opportunity to perform at The Las Vegas Wonderground. I’ve also made a connection with a local performing artist, a wonderful singer and musician named Glenda Benevides, and we’ve started to work out opportunities to perform together. In fact I was able to debut my Straight Jacket Escape at one of her events.
And perhaps even more influential I have been binge listening to a number of really great podcasts including story telling casts and interview shows. They have given me great ideas and great tips for getting my business going again. Maybe even, with enough work, back to the level of being possible to support myself full time. That’s the dream.
But it has to start somewhere. So there has been a lot of planning, a lot of scheming, a lot of study and research.
So, as they say, if you put something out in to the real world, if you go public with it, then you give it legs, you make it real.
So, time to go public with it.
By the end of this year I intend to have my magic business up and running again. I don’t anticipate it being my full time business, but I do anticipate making it in to something that will provide a nice supplementary income.
In a couple of weeks I’m going out to Vegas again and when I come back I hope to have in hand a real foundation for a whole new version of me as an entertainer. After that I plan to tackle getting a serious long term situation going by trying to score an actual restaurant gig. More about that as my plans firm up. I also expect to launch a whole new website with this new version of me.
So, lots of things. Lots of planning. Not as much writing as I was up to.
I appreciate your patience. I appreciate the support I’ve received. I promise I’ll keep you posted.
Yeah, 2016 sucked. We lost so many wonderful people while we have been left with so many terrible ones. But as much as these losses have had an impact on me in the moment of their discovery, their long term reach is pretty minimal. I didn’t know Alan Rickman, or Gene Wilder, or Carrie Fisher, or any of the rest of the people we’ve lost. I’ll miss their contributions, the joy they brought to their fans, the beauty and art they created that inspired me.
They won’t carry on forward and create more. But we have a library of wonderful that we can always refer to and that is very important. If, for no other reason, it is a very important reminder that anyone can do something that inspires others and can leave a legacy that will be appreciated long after they are gone. Do you have a legacy? Maybe it’s time to think of what that might be and how you can make it happen.
We’ve lost our country to a foreign backed narcissist and I think that the people who supported him are going to very quickly discover how bad things are going to get for all of us. I am grateful to my friends who are/were supporters for the conversations we are having so that I can learn more, but I do think we’re all in for a lot worse of a ride than we would have been if things had gone the other way. Time will tell.
Regardless of any of that the real question is “what are you going to do about it?” Yes you.
You see right now the temptation is for everyone to withdraw and to do everything they can to protect themselves. But if you recall, that’s pretty much exactly what everyone has been doing for a long time now and it really hasn’t helped. If anything it’s isolated us from each other and made it easier for us to be divided and conquered. Fear drove us apart and made it easier to take us down.
It is when we work together, when we look out for each other, and when we stand up to the things that are wrong that progress is made.
There are plenty of ways that you can do this. All you have to do is pick something and support it. Join the ACLU (I did). Volunteer your time at a shelter. Donate to a cause. Whatever it is, the point is that you are doing something.
That is the point I think I want to make this last day of 2016. Do something. Whatever you can, as much as you can, with whatever you’ve got.
We’ve been devastated by a lot of things this year. We’ve been devastated by people, politics, and problems of society. We’ve been trapped, tricked, and told lies by news and social media. It’s enough to make you want to pull the blankets up over your head and hide.
Hiding didn’t help. It’s time to try something different.
I’ve been thinking about “resolutions”. For starters I don’t believe in them. It seems that few people really make them any more and you hear a lot more about people failing them than you ever hear about people keeping them.
I do believe in goals. I’ve set goals and made them. It’s something to do with the mindset of working my goals.
I’ve set goals for my health. I’ve set goals for my magic. I’ve set these kinds of goals in the past. I usually make them just fine, but it’s time to think about different things as well.
So I have set myself some all knew goals. I want to grow more as a person and the path I see is to reach out much further than I ever have before and embrace an even broader view of the world.
So this is my promise –
2017 will not be a year filled with depression from dying celebrities. I will mourn their loss, but I will celebrate their contributions.
2017 will not be a year filled with political anger. I will do everything I can to stand up for what I believe in but I will not disregard the other side just because it is the other side. I will confront ideas I think are bad or wrong, but not people.
2017 will not be a year filled with hopelessness. No matter what it throws at me I will strive to see things as opportunities to learn and grow instead of excuses to be defeated.
Are these reasonable goals? I don’t know. Will I be able to maintain them? Only if I remember these are the promises I making to myself. I’ll make sure there are ways for me to keep these goals in front of me.
No matter what I urge you to not hide. I urge you to do something, anything, that brings you together with like minded people, actively working to keep people working in positive directions despite anything arrayed against you.
I also urge you to do something that brings you together with people who have different views that you can work with, learn from, and teach too. Because if there is any lesson that needs to be learned more than anything else it’s that bridging the gaps is the only way to beat a system that tries to divide us.
Never give up on yourself, never give up on the people that matter to you, and never give up on the things in this world that need to be defended, protected, and shared with all of us.
We do not get better on our own. We get better with each other.
A while back, due to the articles I wrote about titles, I was asked if I wanted to be a nominee to The Board of Directors of The SCA. I agonized over the decision but decided to put my name in for it.
I agonized over the decision because the BoD (Board of Directors) is the single most hated aspect of the SCA. They are hated because of what has become a seemingly monolithic black box of rules lawyering, policy making, and reactionary behavior that, in my nearly 30 years in the SCA has not led to a single decision that has benefited the populace of the game in anyway that shows that having this entity is worth while.
Now, let me be absolutely clear about this – I don’t know what goes on with the BoD for the most part. I am certain that there are things that the BoD has dealt with that have been a benefit, but that most of the membership simply don’t know about because it’s not “news worthy”. Much like the job a lot of IT professionals have, if they are doing it right you will never notice it. You’ll only see them when things are going wrong.
The BoD has this same issue.
But this is the only bit of “defense” I am willing to offer up on their behalf. This is what is called “giving the benefit of the doubt.”
So, the current situation with the “R&D” (revocation and denial) of two members of our kingdom who have been outstanding individuals, one of whom is a multi-Peer of at least 30 years, has come as a shock.
It has been pointed out that there was enough evidence to warrant an investigation of a situation that involved money collection and handling around an event, but not directly tied to the event funds themselves. If there is one thing that the BoD responds to its money.
But here is where the process breaks down.
The BoD launched an investigation. The people being investigated had no idea. They didn’t know anything about it. They didn’t hear anything about it. They were left completely out of the loop. When they finally did hear about it, they were informed that they were accused AND convicted of wrongdoing, but were not informed of who their accuser was or even the list of things, except in vague generalities, that they had been accused of.
So, without benefit of anything even remotely resembling “due process” two people who have dedicated a huge amount of time, effort, resources, to an organization built on the concepts of honor, chivalry, and courtesy have been denied any right whatsoever to address the charges and otherwise clear their name. Not only that, but they have been removed, permanently, from an organization which they love by a body of individuals who barely participate at all and who seem to have forgotten everything the organization actually stands for.
Now there is a cost in this. A serious impact.
That impact is the loss of faith in the SCA at large. It is an understandable reaction but I think that it is not the right reaction.
You see it’s not the SCA that has created this situation. It is the BoD. It is the monolithic black box of secrecy that has caused the BoD to be mistrusted. It is the flawed procedures of a governing body who has lost touch with what the SCA is actually about.
I am certain that there are a whole host of “legal reasons” why the BoD conducts its investigations the way that it does, but it seems that this process is deeply flawed when compared to the actual investigation process of real world legal proceedings. I’m sure that lawyers looking to protect the umbrella organization that is SCA Inc have used their skills to create a system designed to maximize the protections of their interests.
But in that process it has clearly lost it’s humanity. It has clearly lost sight of the fact that we are dealing with people, both flawed and great. People make mistakes. Even the BoD makes mistakes.
People of honor and integrity work to correct those mistakes. They work together to find solutions, to meet out justice that is balanced and appropriate when necessary, and they allow for a world where acting from a place of honor allows them to make that world better.
That is a lesson the BoD seems to have forgotten.
Now, I am seeing more and more people who are giving serious thought to abandoning their participation in the SCA altogether. At the very least many are making statements about no longer volunteering to run events knowing as they do now that if there is even the slightest chance someone might get suspicious over completely innocent actions that it could result in just as reactionary a response. There are people who very reasonably feel that the BoD does not have our best interests at heart.
While so many others are heading for the door, I am sitting here considering the fact that my name is on that list of nominees for a BoD position. I have been considering whether or not I still want that chance or if I have become just as disillusioned as so many others are right now.
I’ve decided to stay on the list. My reason for staying is exactly the same as why I choose to accept the nomination in the first place; the best way to change a thing is from within. I don’t know that I will ever get on the BoD or not. But if I do I know that this is one of the things I think I would change. I would want to work with both the BoD and the populace to find a way to make these unfortunate proceedings more reasonable, more workable, and more just for everyone.
In the meantime what can we do?
Write. For my readers in this kingdom who are more aware of these specific events, write about this. For my readers in other kingdoms consider events you know about that are similar in nature and write about those. This problem isn’t specific, it’s systemic. It happens everywhere.
Maybe, just maybe, if the BoD hears from enough of us we can get the ball rolling on this kind of change.
If you want to write to the BoD as a group you can use the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Art is hard. All of it.
It takes years of dedication and passion. It takes countless hours of practice, wasted materials, and occasionally some true heartache.
But all of it is worth it for the joy it can create. Real art generates an emotional reaction, and when you are striving in your art to create that you might very well be at your most intense, your most enthusiastic, but also your most vulnerable.
One of the measures of art is often set as the artist being so accomplished that they make the difficult look effortless. But the effort is there. It stretches backwards in time through all those countless hours of practice. It’s in every penny saved and scraped and carefully spent to acquire just the right tool, just the right resource, just the right material.
However, no matter what you do, there is still in some means by which the audience for that art can discern the incredible level of work and dedication it took to produce it.
No so with magic. With magic the goal of practice is not to display the skill, but to hide it. To make it invisible to detection, because in that invisibility the art comes out.
Imagine dedicating your life to an art whose very nature is that it can not be shared with it’s audience. Imagine the years of practice and developing skills one must go through in order to present mystery in a manner so apparently effortless that it defies detection.
Then, because what you are doing is still nothing without the theatrical experience that surrounds it, you take all of that skill and you hide it inside a whole other craft that you have spent as much time developing. You can show your theatrical skills, but your magical ones, the ones you are most in love with, most passionate about, must remain hidden from the intended audience.
Most of the time magicians revel in their secrecy. But on occasion the desire to show just how clever, or how complex some particular technique is can be hugely tempting and as a result hugely frustrating. The desire to revel in a particularly well developed routine might make a magician proud enough to want to crow about it.
And that is the moment. The moment when we are at our most vulnerable.
Because all it takes is one off hand comment, one joke at the expense of our art, to turn exhilaration in to frustration. This is true for every art. No matter how unintentionally hurtful the comment or joke might have been meant, if the artist is unready for such a thing then they are going to be hurt. They were putting the full expression of their joy out into the world and what they got back was mockery.
Most other artists are able to point back to everything they’ve done and express their feelings by saying “Wait! Look at everything it took for me to do this!” Magicians are not afforded that response. Not to the public at large. If we say “this is what it took to make this happen” they are giving away the very tools and secrets of their art. They are destroying it in the process of trying to protect it and their fragile artistic wonder.
This is how artists are crushed; having people they respect and admire treat their art in an offhand manner. This is what makes dancers less likely to take that next step. This is what makes a painter look with sadness at their brushes. One more rejection letter makes an author question their words, but an unkind comment from a friend might make them never write another word again.
And for a magician, being relegated to nothing more than mere ‘tricks’ and being worth hardly any world beyond ‘kids birthday parties’ despite years of effort makes them not want to put on the show at all.
There is a difference between being critical and being disdainful. A good critic, a truly rare creature indeed, will provide useful feedback that an artist can take and use to further develop their skills and craft. But a wise ass, a jerk thinking they are funny with some supposedly funny comment, is not showing anything but disdain.
Sometimes it’s the mentality of the heckler. Being unable to stand the fact that they aren’t getting attention, or feeling inferior they need to some how tear down the source of of their own discomfort.
Sometimes it’s pure thoughtlessness. The path that stems from “familiarity” breeding contempt. Instead of evaluating the moment for what it really is the thoughtless “friend” goes for what they think is a funny joke never realizing that the moment they have intruded on is just not the right time for humor.
Regardless of the motivations, it’s nothing but painful for any artist no matter the art in question.
This is why artists seek out the inner circle; friends, family, loved ones, who will be honest, who will be critical, but who will also be supportive and who do understand what you’ve done to get to where you are in your skills.
For most magicians there are magic clubs. For me personally these clubs are useless. Not because there aren’t talented people in them. But rather because in all the years that I went to any of them I found that they weren’t interested in what I was interested in, often not even being able to understand what I was trying to get from them or share with them.
But this is why I love going to the magic school I go to in Vegas. There everyone comes in understanding what they are there for, why they need each other, and most importantly how to be creative, supportive, and critical without being the idiot who crushes another artist.
And so dear reader, there is your lesson. If you want to crush an artist all you need to do is be disdainful of their art. Because nothing crushes an artist faster than showing that what they’ve devoted their passion to is utterly unimportant to you, the audience they want to give some measure of joy to.
But then, why would you want to crush the people who make your world more beautiful, more wonderful, and more magical? We live in a world where we crave art, but far to frequently we crush the artist right in front of us.
No wonder the world steadily becomes more and more sterile.
In the movies “Now You See Me” and “Now You See Me 2” the central plot is encompassed by a secret society of magicians known as “The Eye”. This organization has supposedly existed since ancient Egypt as a group who has used their skills to right social injustices.
Now, before you start worrying about me becoming a conspiracy theorist, let me reassure you that I don’t think “The Eye” as portrayed in the movies actually exists, or even could exist. However I do have an interesting social idea lurking around in my head about this, and I think that it could be a thing in and of itself.
In the interest of full disclosure I need to make it clear that I have very strong visceral reactions to both of these films. Not just because I am a magician but because there is a form of idealism and justice in these movies that I react to. These movies are very “Robin Hood” in nature; taking from the rich and giving to the poor. And by way of a slight digression, “Robin Hood” historically was believed to be based on a number of different people, one of whom is in my own family tree according to the genealogy that has been done by my family. I have a certain level of identification with idealism and justice.
I certainly identify with wanting to make the world a better place and with using magic as a way of touching people’s lives.
Now there are tons of logistical reasons why many of the things portrayed couldn’t actually work, but that isn’t the point. No heist movie, based on magicians or anything else, actually would have enough ways to beat the reality they are up against.
But what if magicians took a real lesson from these movies, from what is really underlying them, the idea that magic can bring about change for the better, and embraced that as a part of their characters and presentations?
I am lucky in that the magic community that I am most a part of actually does believe that magic is real in a very special way. We know that what we do is trickery, gimmickry, artistry. We also know that magic happens in the minds and hearts of the people we entertain. That all our skills and tools are meant to accomplish only one thing – an emotional response.
Most of the time, 99% of the time, that emotional response is astonishment.
Unfortunately far to large a percentage of that is mixed in with a certain amount of disgust at how badly audiences and volunteers are treated. And certainly there is a real level of confrontation because of magicians who come out with the attitude of “I’m going to fool you and you can’t catch me.”
But the community that I am attached to looks back to the lessons learned from ancient cultures and what their magic was. Not necessarily the slight of hand trickery, but the implications of contacting spiritual realms and learning lessons from “gods, ghosts, and the spiritual realm”.
It’s not that far a leap really. Those lessons were, as a general rule, the same kind of socially just and responsible messages we want to share today. Everyone can dream, everyone can become something special, everyone has greatness in them, be kind to one another.
Some of the best magic I have ever done has helped people feel better about themselves, helped them heal, helped them release stress in their lives. It can be done.
By way of example I was sitting with a friend a number of years ago who was experiencing a very high level of stress over a class they were taking. So much so that they were having trouble sleeping and where on the verge of tears at any given time. I performed a piece of magic just for them which was all about helping them get passed things that hold us back and stress us out. When I was done they were in tears. The best kind of tears, tears of release that helped them let go of the things that were upsetting them.
That was years ago and I still remember how much good I felt I was doing for them. Occasionally it comes up in conversation and they tell me how much it helped them. Clearly this is magic that had a lasting impact and that is what all magicians who really care about what they are doing are striving for; to create magic that makes a difference.
What if “The Eye” was not so much an organization, but instead a choice? A goal for magicians to strive for?
What if being a part of “The Eye” meant that magicians decided to be dedicated to creating magic that was all geared towards building people up, teaching moral and ethical lessons, inspiring people to do great things and strive to be what they dream themselves to be? Wouldn’t that be a way to impact society, to provide a kind of social justice? Wouldn’t that be a way to help people, heal people, and inspire them?
I know of magicians who incorporate inspirational stories and themes in to parts of their act. I know some who tell stories of healing and wisdom.
When I got started doing this stuff I was trying to find my way and I had no role models. When I went to my first Mystery School I found role models; magicians who cared so much about their art and it’s origins and it’s underlying meanings. They were teachers and they created in me a desire to create something great.
They talk about the responsibility of our art and the possibilities of the things we can create.
And so I wonder, in a way could “The Eye” be real?
Okay, it’s no secret that I am an atheist. And a fairly vocal one at that. But just so you have some background here before I go on to something challenging, you should know that for years I was Christian, grew up going to Church every Sunday, and even attended a Christian school for most of my middle school and junior high years.
So why the change? There are a lot of reason, but the things I’m about to go in to now really do sort of drill down into the heart of it all.
And why am I doing this now? Because the recent tragedies pretty clearly have a motivating factor that I think is core to the whole problem, and this meme ties in to it in such a way that it made my teeth itch.
Yesterday something went past me that talked about the source of the recent mass shootings as being “toxic and violent masculinity.” This really made me mad. It made me mad on two levels; the first being the broad brush misuse of the terms (which I addressed with some people on Facebook and won’t rehash here), the second being what I consider to be the real source of these problems that underly the motivations and education of the people who do commit these mass shootings; bigotry, intolerance, and ignorance.
But what does any of that have to do with this meme?
I think that the source of all of this crap is religious. The point that I have made time and time again is that we are not born with hate. We are taught to hate. We learn hate from authorities in our lives; our parents, our teachers, and our religious leaders.
Where do parents and teachers get their prejudices from? From theirs or from their beliefs. Where do those beliefs come from? Religious leaders and their interpretations of scriptures. And whatever prejudices came along for the ride for them as well.
But we’re afraid to criticize religion in this country. We’re not allowed to. Because to do so automatically condemns us to hell. We’re automatically immoral if we stop and say “hey, this doesn’t make sense.”
And always there is the “God is love” set and the “not all Christians” set and plenty of other apologetics. And that’s why this meme is bugging me.
It’s the perfect example….
Jesus did, in fact, tell people to hate. Luke 14:26. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.”
He wasn’t the most all inclusive guy either. Luke 12:51. “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.”
And fairly warlike. Matthew 10: 33-35. “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven. Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.…”
If you were raised in a religious tradition that promotes the idea of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” as all the same entity then I simply need to point you to the *ENTIRE* Old Testament for examples of God/Jesus/Spirit demanding that his “chosen people” commit the slaughter of others who look different, who love different, who worship different. Even if you don’t follow that whole “Holy Trinity” bit I still refer you to the Old Testament.
And before anyone says “You’re cherry picking” or “not all Christians” I want you think about something.
My point here is exactly “cherry picking”.
It takes about five minutes of effort to find anything you want in the Bible to support either love or hate which is precisely what “all Christians” have been doing for centuries. The doctrinal differences of say, Catholics and Protestants are the results of cherry picking the parts that support the prejudices of the group in question. The Bible has been used to both justify AND condemn war, slavery, abuse, and a host of other crimes equally.
Here is the real challenging part of the thought….
If you are sitting there and reading this and thinking any thought that is even remotely related to “well I would never do those bad things in the Bible” then you and I are much closer than you might realize because you have a moral sense that supersedes the so called moral lessons of the Bible. You can sit there in judgement of GOD and say “this was right and this was wrong.”
If you can do that then you can open yourself to the thought that maybe, just maybe, all that stuff you were taught might not be inspired by the divine, but instead it might be the ramblings of people who had agendas. Or who were taught that “gays are bad” and “women are property” and “slavery is good” and “kill the evil ones in the name of God.”
You might even start to think, like I think, that as long as this kind of toxicity exists in our culture then there will always be people who will think that they are perfectly justified in picking up a gun and slaughtering people who don’t conform to their beliefs. As long as people can justify their actions through the teachings of a “loving God” as merciful killings than these killings will continue.
And let me just add that if you are thinking “well my religion isn’t like this” then you’ve missed the point. Any religion that creates an “us versus them” divide contains the seed that leads to tragedies like these. Any belief system that promotes a “chosen people” automatically sets one group over all the rest, the “haves vs have nots”. That is what radicalization actually is; taking that seed of destruction and growing it in to something powerful enough that it seems reasonable to pick up a gun or strap on a bomb and start killing people.
Now that I’ve said all of these things let me say what is on the other side as I see it.
Yes, there are many perfectly acceptable and even beautiful lessons to be learned from the Bible, or the Koran, or virtually any religious text you care to name. In fact many of them share variations on exactly the same beautiful lessons of love and tolerance and acceptance. If you want to draw your inspiration from those lessons feel free to do so. Much can be learned.
So in a way this meme is actually right even as wrong as it is. Jesus (if he existed at all, but that’s an entirely different discussion!) also said that we were supposed to love one another. That’s a pretty simple lesson.
Just don’t let these lessons supersede your own intelligence. Learn all the lessons together as a cohesive whole. Judge them by your own standards and by the most simple of all lessons –
We’re all humans and we’re all in this together.
Or as so many of my friends have been known to say –
Don’t be a dick.
LEVITATE ALL THE THINGS!!!!
Today was really wonderful. Yeah, yeah, Santiago, we’ve heard that.
Shut up. This is my blog. **smile**
Today was really wonderful. I say that as a joke aimed at magicians who might understand that one of the masters of a specific kind of levitation technique is Tommy Wonder and we spent some really good time working on material of his and related stuff. So yeah…. WONDER-FULL…..
heh – I’m a comic genius…..
But we worked on a variety of other levitation types of things, including the prop I brought special to get help with. And I got help, definitely. There are several levitations that I now feel a lot better about that I will be bringing in to my act.
When I was a kid I saw one of the earliest David Copperfield specials on TV and there were two things he did that have literally stayed with me the entire time. One of those things is The Dancing Cane. When I first got in to magic it was one of the first things I wanted to learn and I was actually actively discouraged by magicians and magic dealers who all claimed it was to hard an effect to do.
Several years ago I acquired a custom made Dancing Cane and played with it, and it was pretty difficult but not impossible. I eventually got pretty decent with it, but I never had a really good opportunity to use it either, largely because I just never found a way to fit it in with the rest of my general performance style.
Now I have a way, and it is awesome. And I will say this much – in order to perfect it I will need to be using a cane, fire, and the new sword I had made. Yup, a sword.
***insert maniacal laughter here***
But beyond that I got a lot of great work on The Dancing Cane. Things that I didn’t know even with all the effort I’d put in to it years before, and I will probably be finding a whole variety of ways to work it in now.
But as I said, today was very definitely about levitating all the things, so don’t be to surprised if you start seeing a few other things floating around that you didn’t expect.
I also learned some great things to do to a scroll….the kinds of things that should make some scribes I know cringe. And really, isn’t that worth while? Making scribes freak out when you do evil things to a scroll is funny! You know, folding it up, pouring water in it, generally messing it up….and maybe, if they are nice to me I’ll fix it all in the end….
Or I’ll never get another scroll again.
Maybe not the best plan. We’ll see.
Tomorrow is going to be an early day. I have to head off to the airport early enough to catch a morning flight. I’ll be home by early afternoon. But as they say, no rest for the wicked. I’ll be getting ready to turn right around to head out to an SCA event. Which means not any real time to get anything ready to perform. Or practiced.
But a head full of ideas.
So, signing off for now from this round of Magic School.
I know I’ve said this many times before, but today really was. And in this instance it’s only been the first day and I’ve come away with six “new” pieces of magic to add to my act. I say “new” in quotes because like many things in magic, these are not necessarily new creations, but revelations about things that I have long been familiar with but given new life.
Although some of the things are indeed “new” in the sense of totally new to me as well! So I’m very happy about that.
I should back up a bit though. Just so damn excited!
As I mentioned previously, Parlor Magic is really my default venue. I do my best work with this level of show. So when we started today we were told that these two days were going to be much more “practicum” than theory and we were handed a list of classics of Parlor Magic. We were told “pick three” and for the next two days the group would go over them together.
So I managed to narrow the list down to six items…. Yeah, I know, “pick three”, but I also damn well know that we were all doing the same thing; picking a longer list and then listening to each other to see if someone else mentioned something we had on our list so we could mention something else!
Few things are harder to do than to try and be “sneaky” in a group of magicians….
Well, there are only eight of us in the class, and when we were done we ended up with a list of about 10 things we all wanted to cover. This is a pretty damn good balance. And everything I wanted on that list is there! So, to use a phrase, “AWESOME SAUCE!”
Another cool thing is that there are only eight of us! Lots of individual attention. Although we’re having a small problem with that with one student. I’ll get there in a moment.
Also, there are almost as many women as there are men in the class. 3 women, 5 men. Given the usual kinds of percentages I see that is actually remarkable. I like having female students in the same class because female magicians bring a different angle and perspective that is always worthwhile.
As an example, one of the things I brought up earlier in the day was my desire to figure out how to really narrow down the material I use to the kinds of things that fit the direction I’ve been building for myself. However, before we began we did the usual “let us all introduce ourselves and tell everyone a little bit” sort of thing and as I explained all the various things I do (basically the results of everything I’ve learned in the SCA) it seemed to have left an impression on one of the ladies. As we sat at lunch she suggested that rather than try to limit what I do I should embrace as much as I can and use the fact that my life is filled with so much as the inspiration for that.
While I’m not sure that is the best idea for myself, it is an idea worth considering, and it is very clearly a good example of how a female magician looks differently at developing an act. Certainly she left me with much to ponder.
So anyway, yeah, there is a kind of “problem child”.
We have one student in the class who is very enthusiastic. So much so that he has to be constantly reminded to not blurt out. So much so that he has to be constantly reminded that there are other students who spent just as much money as he did to get their time in the school as well.
Now Jeff has spent many years teaching, has taken and certified in management courses, knows and understand group dynamics, and generally is exceptionally skilled in handling situations just like this.
This kid is pushing the limits. I’ve seen Jeff get frustrated on rare occasions, and this one is included.
Still, I can’t fault this kid. I completely understand his enthusiasm. I feel it every time as well. I want to get all the attention and explore the possibilities and the theory and the practical applications with Jeff’s full attention.
There are ways for me to do that. But they are hugely expensive. Well, more like, expensive enough that I would have to plan for it well in advance.
I still am getting some amazing training, just like usual. And tomorrow is going to be extra awesome because while everything I got today was fantastic, tomorrow will actually be focused on the main items I selected on the list including an opportunity to work with a prop I brought out special just to get some quality brainstorming in.
I’m not sure I could ask for a better group to brainstorm with. Jeff, several female magicians, some long time workers, and even Mr. OverEnthusiastic will all bring some great stuff to the table when we work on developing something for this new prop of mine.
So, that’s day one in a nutshell. Having a great time. Filling my brain with all this wonderful stuff.
I’m looking forward to bring new stuff to my audiences.