G.K. Chesterson once said that “the world will not perish due to a lack of wonders, but only due to a lack of wonder.” That quote always makes me think of my good friend Derek Selinger (there’s a link to his website on the sidebar). Derek is, believe it or not, a professional magician. Jinny and I just checked out his show again tonight and, as always, it was wonder-filled.
I will never forget the first time that I saw Derek do magic. I was a freshman at Canadian Bible College and Derek was working there as the Dean of Men (he was just a hobby magician back then). Derek came in to the dorms one night to hang out and part of the schtick he used to get to know the guys better was to do card tricks. That night he only got part of the way through one trick. The reason for this is because…well it’s because I’m kind of a nob. As he was progressing through the trick I piped up (the first words I ever said to the guy mind you) “Hey I know how you’re doing that….” This would have been bad enough in and of itself, but I then proceeded to elaborate on precisely how it was that the trick worked. In my defense I didn’t really mean to ruin the moment, I was just proud of myself for having worked out the puzzle. Derek looked at me for a second, dropped his cards in his magic case, closed the case up and walked straight out of the room.
The lesson that I learned that day was about politeness. It took me a couple more years and some great conversations with Derek to fully grasp the degree to which my attitude that night towards magic, and to some degree the world in general, was detrimental. I thought, as a great many people do, that magic tricks were puzzles and that knowing how the puzzle operates is the point. Now I realize that I never again want to know how the puzzle works. I don’t want the illusion ruined for me because, though I know that the laws of physics dictate that gravity cannot really be defied and objects cannot really appear out of nowhere at all, the tricks themselves aren’t what make Derek’s art magic.
The magic of what Derek does occurs in the space between action and response, in that mystical domain where logic dares not tread and the imagination dances free-form, playing in between the categories and domains of our minds. This is the place where poetry flows from, where metaphor rules supreme and where the most critically minded person hopes before she doubts. Let me put it another way. This is where your smile comes from.
So, to Derek and Cicilia and all of you everywhere who dance instead of walking and sing instead of talking, thanks.