Does knowing the secret
ruin the trick for you?
There was a great show produced in Britain several years backed called Penn & Teller: Fool Us. The premise was simple. Magicians of varying levels of success performed their best trick in front of the famous duo (along with a studio audience) and if Penn & Teller could not tell them how it was done, they won an opportunity to open for them at their Las Vegas stage show.
The joy of the show for me was that even though the two men were rarely stumped (Teller–the smaller quiet one–is regarded as one of the top experts in the field) was how much delight they took in watching these performances even though they knew how it was done. If anything, they seemed even more delighted than the audience, because often they understood the exact level of skill and dexterity it took to achieve the end result. It’s probably the major benefit of expertise–the thrill of seeing someone pull off something you know from experience is incredibly difficult, if not nearly impossible.
But I know not everyone feels this way. For some the knowledge of how something seemingly magical is accomplished ruins all of the fun for them. The delight comes in actually believing that magic is real, even though this goes against everything we know about the world. Personally, I’m much closer to the Penn & Teller side of the equation–for me knowing how something was done usually fills me with more awe, not less. In one scenario we’re asked to believe a person has supernatural abilities beyond our understanding and in the other we see how human ingenuity, talent and imagination come together to create something that is literally too good to be true.
That, I think, is truly amazing.
Where do you stand on this? Do you hate knowing the trick or can you still be amazed by something even though you can see all the mechanics that make it possible?