Enjoy the illusion

My husband can do magic. Sleight of hand card tricks are his specialty.

The night we met, he did card tricks for me. He had his patter down pat, and I giggled like a teenager at his quips and was amazed by his flawless execution of the tricks.

We’re both critical thinkers. We seek explanations based in fact (or scientific theory at least). We like to understand as much as we can about the world around us and how it works. Neither of us has much patience for pseudoscience masquerading as fact.

And yet, when it comes to magic, I don’t WANT to know how the tricks are done. I enjoy believing in the illusion. Magic is intended to be fun – for the audience and for the magician – and when you know the secrets, the fun disappears. And not magically either.

At my high school reunion last summer, I learned that one of my former classmates is now a professional entertainer. He pulled out a deck of cards and performed some tricks for us.

At first, Kyle was as mesmerized as I was. Then his magician alter ego emerged, and he began analyzing each trick – the movement of the cards, Jon’s purposeful patter and distracting motions (meant to take our eyes and our attention away from the sleight of hand). His critical thinking kicked into gear. He wanted to know how the tricks were done, and he was determined to figure it out.

At the conclusion of one trick, he leaned close to Jon and whispered how he thought Jon had done it. A look of irritation flashed across Jon’s face, and Kyle and I both felt guilty for unintentionally spoiling the show. We hadn’t spoiled it for the others who were watching, but we had certainly put a damper on the magician’s delight in mystifying his audience.

Everyone has different ideas about when critical thinking is important and useful and when it’s time to dispense with logic and just believe. Most everything in my life falls into the former category and is subject to critical thought. But when it comes to magic, I prefer to enjoy the illusion.

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