Sleight of hand is the name most often used to describe the methods of stage magic. Sleight of hand is composed of seven basic skills according to Penn and Teller (quoted on Wikipedia):
- Palm – To hold an object in an apparently empty hand.
- Ditch – To secretly dispose of an unneeded object.
- Steal – To secretly obtain a needed object.
- Load – To secretly move an object to where it is needed.
- Simulation – To give the impression that something has happened that has not.
- Misdirection – To lead attention away from a secret move.
- Switch – To secretly exchange one object for another.
Of all the illusionist’s tricks, “misdirection” may be the most important: “The magician choreographs his actions so that all spectators are likely to look where he or she wants them to. More importantly, they do not look where the performer does not wish them to look.” (Wikipedia)
I started thinking of stage magic after seeing Hugo, (http://wp.me/pYql4-1xT). Research confirmed the movie’s account of pioneer filmmaker, George Melies, who was as stage magician before he turned to cinema.
But this post is not about good magic, since misdirection is such an apt metaphor for the way our institutions play us these days. In this sense, misdirection often means getting us to ask the wrong questions.
Over the last few days, I’ve found myself humming the title song of Bruce Springsteen’s album, Magic (2007), which he says concerns “the Orwellian times we live in,” and is “not about magic, but tricks – and their consequences:”
Trust none of what you hear,
Less of what you see,
This is what will be.
This is what will be.
I don’t think we can resist misdirection unless we are engaged in finding our own truths. It is also very hard to go it alone. In a famous psychology experiment, test subjects would disown their own perceptions and agree to a lie if everyone else in the room did, but if even one other person stood up for the truth, so would most of the volunteers.
In addition to the kindred spirits we find where we live, we have our online communities. We also have the searchers of past generations who travelled this road and left their discoveries in books.
I hope I did my part on this blog to write of things and people that matter. To try to discern and point to the truth. I’m still too close to 2011 to say. I did the best I could at the time, and I hope to do better in 2012 because we are really going to need it. On the eve of an election year, I sometimes think the end of the world on 12/21/12 would be the easy way out!
Still, to end the year on an upbeat note, here is a neat clip of Penn and Teller demonstrating the core elements of sleight of hand. Not only does it evoke the fun of a magic set I had as a kid, but it’s filled with metaphorical possibilities!
Happy New Year to all of you!