The Ethics of a Mystery Man


It constantly blows my mind to find myself in the business of Mentalism. What an unusual thing, to entertain people with reality-bending concepts, and make a good living doing it. But it’s a delicate thing too to be a psychic entertainer and I’m always happy to explore it and I also discuss it often with my friends.

 

We’ve had an ongoing discussions about what we do and the nature of psychic entertainment…but the real question is: What is our motivation for performing? And this question can be asked by absolutely anyone, no matter what they are doing.

Using my work as an example, clearly one can be a great entertainer and still be an egomaniac, while someone else can seem like the real deal and yet have total respect for people and never take advantage of others.

 

It’s easy to think in ways that let us off the hook too, where we aren’t taking responsibility for the effects we have on people, for instance, when I am performing. And rationalizing this question of motivation and thinking its finally resolved prevents us from looking at where we are coming from and the extraordinary potential that opens up when we inquire into our fundamental reasons for doing whatever it is that we are doing. From the point of view of the evolving cosmos, and this miraculous journey of the universe becoming conscious of itself through life, through conscious human beings, addressing our own motivations for what we are doing is what creates space for the real mystery to emerge with ever increasing depth.

 

Therefore, in order to go deeper into this question, one would have to look at one’s motivation, both as a performer and as a human being. Whatever way we choose to put a spin on it, the fact remains that being good at what we do, being able to do things that others can’t explain, puts us in a position of power. And power can be used either to give to others for a bigger purpose or to take just for oneself. And this plays itself out in subtle ways.

 

When I first started performing, I was doing magic. It was a hobby in my teens, a creative outlet, and I came up with some cool card tricks. As a teenager, it was a great tool to get attention and affirmation, a seemingly harmless thing for a kid who had gone to boarding school since the age of 4. At the age of 36, with the encouragement of friends, I decided to do it for a living. I was in Israel and started to take my hobby seriously, performing on the Tel Aviv shoreline to support myself. I came up with a few original magic effects that I was very proud of. One day after word got around in the magic community about this American magician doing street performance, I was invited to perform at a magic convention in Tel Aviv. I showed everyone my best original effects and was very proud of myself for being able to impress and completely fool my peers. I didn’t get a lot of responses afterwards, but there was a more mature magician who said something that really impacted me. He told me in a very gentle way that I should try to build in some story into my magic to make it more entertaining for people. He was being kind so as not to put me in the defensive but I could read between the lines: I was performing to impress others, not to entertain others. My magic was all about me.

 

This example clarifies the real question on hand. We can say whatever we want to say about what we do but the question remains: how much of our performance is about us? And in the same way, how much of what we are good at or what we work hard at is still in the end more about us than we had thought? I find it a very cool question to keep asking because there is quite a momentum of selfishness in each of us and yet there is real joy in letting go of it and breaking down the barriers between us and others. Most of us have experienced the beautiful human connection and spontaneity that is released when we are able to completely forget about ourselves.

 

No matter how much I let go and give myself to the creative spirit and to entertaining others, I constantly have to be on my toes because the momentum of self-centeredness is so strong. It can come out in so many ways, some more subtle then others. It can be when someone is on stage with me and I know I’ve got something good to say and therefore cut them off rather than genuinely engaging with them. Or it can be in the way that I answer informal questions after the show, basking in the glory of my own performance instead of being available and being myself with people.

 

The question of motivation also becomes more significant when we know first hand that it’s possible to break down the barriers between ourselves and others in extraordinary ways. Otherwise, we could conclude that the smaller ways our ego plays itself out is not really that relevant. After all we are not abusing people in our work or expressing evil intentions. So a very decent person who respects others could feel that they are fundamentally fine, and that this whole thing of looking at motivation doesn’t really apply to them. If it’s true that much greater potentials lie ahead in the ways that we can relate and engage with each other, then asking ourselves this question of what is motivating us to perform can dismantle the secure roots of our ego and of separation between us, no matter how small they may appear to be. This can bring about a new potential and real joy in the kind of engagement that we have with our audience and ultimately with our own humanity and its mysterious unlimited depth.

I never assume my motivation is already good…do you?

 

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