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The End of the Biggest Illusion
By Rongqing Dai
The essence of the notion “illusion” is something that feels real but indeed unreal. The key point here is the antithesis between real and unreal. Obviously, in order to make something more illusory, we could either make its fake appearance look more real, or make its substance even more unreal, or push it in both directions so that it would feel more real while it is indeed more unreal. Based on this understanding about how to make things more illusory, we can conclude that the most successful illusions would be those that could have billions of people feel it real for generations. Still, if someone can make billions of people to believe something that is in fact real to be unreal for generations, then it would be even more successful than just making people feel something unreal as real, because it is more difficult to have people collectively disbelieve what they clearly see with their eyes. Furthermore, if someone can make billions of people believe something real not just unreal but actually illusions for generations, then I would feel compelled to credit them collectively as the biggest illusion.
The logic here might be a bit brain teasing, but we have all seen a familiar example of the above described biggest illusion in real life, for generations. It is one type of entertainment shows which is among the most familiar (or even the most favorable) ones to the general public: the magic shows!
Of course, in order for a show to be qualified as part of the biggest illusion, neither can it be an ordinary play that could be accomplished only with the help of complicated props, or at least long sleeves of an oversized coat, nor can it be one of those simple tricks that are normally used as demonstrations of how incredibly simple all magic tricks are. Simply put, in order to be qualified as part of the biggest illusion, a magic show cannot be completely an illusion, although it might involve some minor illusions during the show. Yes, it has to belong to the kind of high-end magic shows, which are truly supernatural, but still explained and believed by many as natural illusions, simply because all magic shows were portrayed so for a very long time in human history.
In the past few decades, more and more high-end magic shows have demonstrated the following three types of characteristics: 1) the outputs of a show are permanent, in the sense that some of them are eatable, some of them are drinkable, some of them can be kept permanently after the shows; 2) it is physically impossible for those permanent outputs to be created through any natural ways under the given conditions; 3) the process of presenting (or creating) the outputs is unambiguously free of the possibility of involving any hidden mechanism that might evade the chance of being spotted by the viewers or being captured by high-speed cameras.
Obviously, any magic show with the above mentioned characteristics is not illusionary since both its outputs and its process of producing the outputs certainly defy any definition of the notion “illusion”; besides, it must be supernatural since it violates natural physical laws.
Owing to the miraculous development of the modern science and technology, during the past few decades, countless high-end supernaturally bent magic performances have not only been recorded by high-speed digital cameras, but also broadcast in real time to thousands or even billions of people around the world instantly. By the way, researchers in the labs of some elite universities are now claiming to aim for capturing near-the-speed-of-light motions with their avant-garde recording technologies since they could record a trillion frames per second. Meanwhile, it is a common sense that no matter how swift a magician could act, he would be undoubtedly far slower than the speed of light. Thus, we could be assured that we do have the necessary means to capture whatever maneuvers of the magicians if necessary.
In fact, in most cases, there would be no need to have any fancy video recording equipment at all for the audience to distinguish a magic show, which obviously violates the so-called natural laws in a clear and definitive way, from those illusions that could be created only with the aid of specially designed mechanisms through swift operations. It might even be ridiculously simple to recognize a supernaturally bent high-end magic show in real life. For example, if during a show, an audience is given a container by the magician and then she can get whatever she wants from that container without telling the magician what she wants in advance, then it is not illusory but a real supernatural show since it is naturally impossible for the magician to trigger any hidden mechanism after the container is in the hands of the audience; if the magician physically penetrate a solid barrier in a visible and definitive manner without breaking or climbing over the barrier, then it is not illusory but a real supernatural show since it is naturally impossible for anyone to do so.
If someone senses the feeling of being startled to wake up from a dream now, it is nothing strange because many in the world might share the same feeling since we have been told that magic is nothing but illusions for a very long time.
Then one might ask: “Does this mean we have been lied to by those who have told us that magic is nothing but illusions?” Well, it depends on how you would look at it. In general, magic does involve illusions all the time.
As an ancient brand name, magic shows encompass extremely complicated varieties, from very rudimentary tricks to very advanced supernaturally bent performances. As for magicians, even ordinary people outside the magic circle can observe two common facts about all magicians: 1) they all need to learn and practice various magic skills industriously to reach the advanced level of what they do, no matter through natural illusions or by spiritual supernatural powers as openly claimed by some magicians; 2) the capabilities of magicians are quite diverse, with some are more capable and some are less capable.
Accordingly, the high-end supernatural feats performed by very advanced magicians would still most probably involve very basic natural skills of swift maneuvers, which would create simple illusions. Therefore, if someone says “all magic shows are illusions”, at least, he is not completely wrong, not to mention that we might not exclude the possibility that some self-taught magicians actually do believe that magic is nothing but illusions. Besides, based on our understanding of what illusion is about, making people believe what is real as an illusion itself is not only an illusion, but the biggest illusion. In this sense, if a magician tells the audience that whatever he is doing through the show is nothing but an illusion, that announcement itself could be assumed as part of his illusion making if he does involve supernatural effect in the show.
In recent decades, as many high-end supernatural magic shows have been openly performed and more and more magicians openly claim that their shows are indeed supernatural, magicians in general seem to have gradually lost the interest of making the audience believe that they are creating illusions. In the meantime, magicians tend more often to invite some helpers from the audience to participate in the shows, not just to make the shows more dramatically interesting, but more importantly, to help rid the audience of any doubt that the magicians might be using some hidden mechanisms. This is because the participation of an audience could often make it physically impossible for the magician to trigger any hidden mechanism.
However, there is still a catch: this type of activity could become meaningless if the helpers picked by the magician from the audience are actually paid collaborators of the show. Accordingly, there have been various conspiracy theories from online discussions concerning the supernatural performances by magicians. The typical ones go like this: those apparently random helpers from the audience are actually accomplices of the magicians; or the videos of those supernatural performances are not authentic at all, but technically edited.
THE ROLE OF TALENTS SHOWS
But very interestingly, this kind of challenges from the hard line believers of the illusion theory have utterly offset by the unintentional endeavor of a public figure, Simon Cowell, an English businessman of entertainment. His name is closely related to several famous entertainment programs, the so-called talent shows, which are either initiated or developed by him and his partners. Those talent shows provide a special platform for contestants of all kinds of talent backgrounds, and magicians are one category of contestants that appear on the stage of the talent shows from time to time.
The following three facts about those talent shows are worth special attention for the sake of the current discussion: 1) the shows are broadcast globally in real time or through recorded videos, and have attracted billions of audience worldwide; 2) it is expensive for the onsite audience to get the tickets of those shows; 3) the lives of the top winners of every season of the contests could be completely changed for good, and accordingly the contestants are all coming with tremendous dreams for the future of their lives, and they do make great efforts to be there to give their best in the shows, under incredible pressures.
Consequently, if any judge of the contests is caught of any cheating behavior to favor one contestant over others, it would be a huge scandal that would arouse the anger of the global audience, and the suspect would most probably be sued somewhere in the world.
When a contestant of magician gets onto the stage of a talent show, those judges would naturally become the best candidates for the magician to invite as the helpers to demonstrate the unquestionable supernatural actuality of the performance. On the side of judges, what they would expect and enjoy are truly high quality authentic performances without any unethical behavior, since they don’t have any reason to favor the category of magicians over all other categories of contestants at all.
As a result, for the practices of inviting helpers from the audience during magic shows, the judges of the Simon Cowell related shows have become the most trustable candidates in the whole world to carry out the mission of witnessing the authenticity of performances, because the above mentioned factors rules out any logical foundation for them to do any foul play to help the magicians. Thus, the Simon Cowell related talent shows have become the most important places of the kind for magicians to showcase their supernatural potential during the past few decades.
Here we encounter the logic of “either nothing or all”, in the sense that if one case is proved to be true then all things of the same type are fundamentally possible. Thus, the credibility of the supernatural performances in the Simon Cowell related talent shows could be extended to the supernaturally bent magic shows anywhere else in the world. In this way, the Simon Cowell related talent shows involuntarily played a critical role in the process of ending the biggest illusion in human history, which is the perception that none of the magic shows could be truly supernatural because magic is nothing but illusions.
THE END OF THE ILLUSION AND ITS IMPACT
The historical ending of that illusion of centuries also indeed marks the beginning of an unexpected new era of human civilization—the beginning of the public recognition that the natural reality can be changed by supernatural power through human maneuvers in a controllable, predictable, and repeatable manner as many magicians have been doing. This would undoubtedly create an immeasurable shock wave sweeping all sectors of human civilization in the coming years.
First of all, even though the theoretical system of natural sciences would not be significantly changed right away due to their stability in the natural domain, after it is openly accepted by the mainstream that nature can be affected by supernatural power because of human actions, not through prayers but through physical maneuvers, the centuries long public faith that the scientific system could be counted on as the solid foundation of human civilization would be shaken;
Secondly, the mainstream academic circle of philosophy would undoubtedly go through a long period of confusion, which would be inevitably reflected in the general public life, and might even spawn some minor panic among the people. But the panic would not last long because of two reasons: 1) People would very soon realize that magicians are not really able to do whatever they want as they might sometimes appear to be, and not every magician can do all things that other magicians can do, even with their supernatural connections. It means that each magician can only do what is doable with his or her capacity that is acquired after industrious learning and practicing; 2) People would also very soon find religious shelters for their own supernatural protections, and thus they would not be scared by the notion that magicians can do something that they cannot do with their own natural capacities.
Thirdly, the academic subjects that are related to psychological theories would definitely be the most impacted cultural territory. Many fundamental conclusions in psychology have to be modified since the acceptance of the supernatural influence on human mind would inexorably nullify some basic assumptions for psychological studies, and thus the current logical foundation of psychology would have to be reconstructed.
Fourthly, the religious sector would also be impacted, but not as much as many people would assume to be. This is because the admission of supernatural reality has always been supposed to be the foundation of any serious religion.
Besides, at least in most part of the world, there won’t be major religiously oriented political conflicts caused by the acknowledgement of the supernatural manifestation of magic shows. In all the traditionally Christian countries, the political development for the past decades has made it impossible for the Church to take any serious political measure in secular affairs. In the rest of the world, things might sometimes get a bit complicated due to various cultural, ideological, and religious reasons, but it is still unlikely for the local people to have severe political conflicts with magicians, even if it becomes clear that magicians might be spiritually oriented. One important reason is that once the scientific community recognizes the authenticity of the supernatural characteristics of the magic, it will change the fundamental perspective about many aspects of human civilization, which is impossible to be completely blocked by any country through simple administrative measures. Thus, instead of waging wars against the change, the governments around the world would most probably find their own ways to adapt their countries to the global new change.
Furthermore, the open acknowledgement that magicians could do supernatural things in a controllable, predictable, and repeatable manner (even without praying) would actually bring forth favorable outcome to the religious sector. In the west, many previously unbelievers might start to go to church to seek supernatural protections for their own.
Fifthly, this coming new era would unquestionably be warmly welcomed by the artistic sector around the world, especially the entertainment industry. However, before the mainstream academic philosophy could walk out their confusion phase, we should expect to see the same confusion among the entertainers and all other artists.
Sixthly, because of the above mentioned impacts, the world would definitely see a radical political and economic impact in the coming years, which might be hard to evaluate at this moment before it happens. The lifestyles of many people might be altered because of the changes in the global political and economic environment due to this impact.
The end of the biggest illusion with the claim that all magic shows are naturally created illusions would mark the beginning of a new era that has never been witnessed in human history. Although many people are still very reluctant to face this reality but choose to ignore it, it has already been here, and an irrevocable global cultural quake as the welcome party for this new era will begin soon.
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