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“Whatever Works” should not equal “Whatever’s Easiest”.

SEAL-OF-SORCERY smallBecause here’s the thing: if you do magic, any magic, chances are something will happen. You will get some result. You will have some kind of experience or “message”. At bare minimum you will get the “feels” (“feels like it worked…” “I felt the presence….”). You can walk away and say “I did it that way and it worked“. Better yet, when someone is on the internet suggesting something more than complete half-assery you can shout them down and say I DID IT AND IT WORKED!!!

I would like everyone that reads this to take a pledge: I will never say “Whatever Works” again.

Lets all shoot for more that, yea?

Let’s not measure success by whether we feel a spirit or get a message or not. Lets measure it in terms of depth of experience. Did it actually change you by being in its presence? Did it actually tell you something you didnt already know? Did it challenge you in any way or did it just affirm you? Is what it said useful?

Lets not measure success by whether we got a result that we can attribute or not. I am sure that you did not go through the trouble of summoning Bune just to find $30 in a money clip on the street. Let’s go for more than that. Did we get something commensurate with our effort? Did it work in a reasonable amount of time or was that spell done 6 months ago?

Let’s not do the least we can get away with. By all means, let us not be slaves to the past, I am not a “do it by the book” guy. Let’s know what we are throwing out or replacing because we have actually done the thing. Let’s not use the most condensed text just to save time, instead lets use it to explore longer chanting, trance, congress, or whatever the experiential part of the rite is. Let’s not streamline to make things easier – let’s streamline because we are striving for excellence.

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Andrew B. Watt

Yes.

I once watched a clown give a workshop. He wasn’t wearing the traditional makeup, or a silly costume. He was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. He had members of the audience lay down a line with masking tape on the floor, with an X at either end. One was his “start spot” and one was his “end spot.” The line was maybe 12 feet long, maybe a little longer. Certainly not twenty feet long.

He then had a person in the audience set their phone/watch/stopwatch for 15 minutes. And then he explored that line — never quite arrived at his stop point, nor ever quite returned to his start point. He did balancing tricks on a flat floor. He pretended to sword fight someone. He marched steadily toward the other end of the line without ever once arriving at it — essentially marching in place. He danced and leapt about and squatted. He turned to us, the audience, and engaged us with eye contact and with hand gestures: sometimes an angry jerk mad at the driver who doesn’t stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk; sometimes a glad-handing politician. Only when the timer went off did he arrive at his destination, ending his act.

Then we tried it in small groups, on our own lines of similar length. The amount of work it took to sustain that level of engagement and focus and amusement was startling. We couldn’t do it for more than a few minutes at a time; and we took turns being performer/actor and audience/critics. Each time we came up with a new sort of business, we had to try to incorporate it into our act, a little bit of judicious copying, a bit of borrowing, a bit of inspiration, a bit of hammy ham-handedness.

And so it is with the magicians, no? We want our work to be the right level of efficient and engaging. We want to be prepared, when we step into the ring; and we want to be protected from our audience, especially in a spirit-summoning. But disaster is never all that far away, is it? So there’s an appropriate level of preparation, and an appropriate level of action in the work. But if the usefulness of the result doesn’t match the complexity of the operation — both the preparation and the working — then, perhaps, we’re just clowning around.

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