Staying Afloat in a Sea of Noise

Dear friends:

We’re fortunate to have wisdom from our Associate Dean for you this month.  I know you’ll enjoy this, from Dr. Larry Hass:

Staying Afloat on the Sea of Noise

“What’s new is an interesting question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion.”
—Robert M. Pirsig

I invite you to remember one of your “get-away” vacations, perhaps spending three days at the beach or a long weekend in the mountains. Recall how you could dream and drift, resting your body and your brain. Remember the delicious food and the fresh clean air. Ahhh!

Next, remember how it felt to come back: emails to process, phone calls to make, “statuses” to update, blogs to check, fires to put out, content to produce. You have to get back up to speed, back on the wheel, back to the grind. Uggh.

I begin with this “memory experiment” to make three points. First, it really does feel better to be on vacation, to rest and reconnect, to taste your food, to be “unplugged.” Second, “life at speed” has become the new normal, which means that everyday life has a low-level, chronic “uggh” to it. Third, it is exceedingly easy for this to leak into our time with magic.

Here is the irony: most of us get involved in magic to have experiences like the get-away vacation, but much of the magic culture around us feels more like the daily grind. In magazines, online, posts, and tweets, we are drowning in magic news and trends, the relentless selling of endless products, and more “content” than we can possibly ingest. It is easy to become numb or superficial, lost in the sea of noise.

Dr. Larry HassIt is easy . . . but not necessary. In the spirit of helping you surf and sail over the waves, here are a few practices I use to keep the magic alive in my life and in my work as a magician.

1. Less is more. Look at the clutter. Look at all the unread books, the unused tricks, the un-viewed DVDs. Remember them the next time someone is getting their sales hooks in you. Give some of it away to young or developing magicians who need access to resources. (This is great for them, and it will feel good to you.) With what is left, honestly ask yourself, “Will I ever read or watch this (again)? If no, then sell what you can and throw away the rest.

2. Just say no . . . and yes. Turn off the TV, get up from the screen, unplug from the phone, turn off the “ping.” Screen life is mediated life. Further, addiction to checking devices for the latest email, tweet, or post, turns us into Homo Interruptus. Instead of that, just say “yes” to real face time rather than face-book time. Have lunch with a magic friend. Spend time with a wise, real teacher of magic. Pick up your props and practice rather than post. Having “big yeses” in our lives make it really easy to say “no.” Which reminds us that much screen time is a boredom default.

3. Cleave to quality. Part of what makes it “noise” is all the junk: low-quality tricks and books, poor writing, undeveloped content, superficial thinking. So here is one rule I follow: as soon as I get bored or put-off, I instantly stop reading or watching and move on to something good. Here is another one: I spend a large majority of my time and money on the work of proven, dependable, high-quality magic writers and creators. With both rules, the principle is simple: “Life is too short!”

4. Re-Read a Golden Book. All of us have “golden books,” ones that have a special place in our hearts. These are the books that inspired us in magic and have a strange power to instantly reconnect us with positive feelings and productive insights. (One of mine is Eugene’s The Experience of Magic.) Re-reading a golden book is always good for the soul.

I hope you enjoy these practices! I hope they help you make every day feel a bit more like that get-away vacation.

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