“There is no magic.

There is only knowledge, more or less hidden.” Gene Wolfe

The one time I allowed myself to be talked into going to Las Vegas, I justified the trip by going to see Penn and Teller at the Rio (thanks to one of Neil’s own magic tricks). I didn’t want to go see the flash and artifice of one of the other Vegas magic acts–as amazing as their shows may be–I wanted to see these men who are blatantly honest about their magic, and yet still manage to do things which are breathtakingly mysterious to someone who doesn’t know the methods. Early in the show, they did a trick which they then deconstructed without the various methods of distraction, so the audience could follow each step to see how the illusion was created so effectively. Before the deconstruction, Penn warns the audience that if they don’t want the magic to be revealed as a trick, they ought to close their eyes, and he’d let them know when to open them again. I watched the whole time, and didn’t regret it, but I also envied the people who kept the mystery by closing out the truth. Ostensibly, you can’t have both things. There is knowledge, and there is magic. You get to choose which to keep.

Teller did an illusion later in the show, an old one for him, but one for which I will never want to know the methods, because it was so beautiful as an illusion. But somehow, knowing it was an illusion, that a craftsman designed each step physically to create something that tricked us into this sort of beauty, didn’t take away from its existence. It was magic regardless of its human construction.

I have learned to live inside this sort of redefinition. There are mysteries, and you can choose to shake them out into the light, or you can leave them as they are–whatever takes you. There is magic still in some things you could or do understand and a different gradation of magic in the things you do or could not. It’s occasionally wildly satisfying to create the mystery for someone else, and there’s so much magic in someone creating mystery for you.

I don’t understand the people who only choose one thing or the other. People who, for example, embrace the dogma of a religion to the extent where they discount rational thought and science altogether, and the people who are equally as dogmatic about the mundanity of life so that living becomes banal and colorless, make no sense to me.

There can always be magic, and there is always a mystery to solve.


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