I used to work with a guy who is, among other things, a magician. I think they prefer “illusionist” nowadays to distinguish themselves from the people who believe in MAGICK! and are trying to get Aleister Crowley to spoil someone’s eggs or something.
Anyway, he is really good; good enough to belong to the Magic Castle, where you have to submit a portfolio and convince other magicians that you have the stuff. I went there with him a few times and saw him perform as well as some of the greats in that field.
I saw some “close up” magic, which is really amazing stuff. You’re in a little room like an independent theatre, stacked up on these almost vertical bleachers, and a man sits in front of a table and does things right in front of your face that are impossible.
I had a kind of zen moment thinking about this experience. The tools these guys use are ordinary objects: lit cigarettes, bits of rope, playing cards, a lemon. But because of the fixed attention that they and their audiences give these objects, they become infused with a new set of qualities. The dollar bill or the paperclip starts to sort of glow, and when the trick is completed suddenly everyone wants to look at it.
This is what I always thought Zen meant; attention. To everyday things. So odd to find it while holding a drink in a funny old Hollywood castle full of entertainment types.