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Ten seconds of Astonishment

How do we get to ten seconds when your mind is completely blown with nowhere to go?

This thought was given to me by Paul Harris in "The Art of Astonishment." When we are born we have no rules and no idea about who we are or what anything is, we are just being. And it is awesome! No worries in the world, no opinions or judgments, just us trying to take everything in. As we get older, experiences, emotions and circumstances come our way, and we start to put everything we learn into certain boxes in our brains. The good, the bad, the never go to that place again! Everything we have learnt fits into these little boxes as we compartmentalise. As time goes on and we have put all our experiences into the boxes, we might smell a certain aroma and it brings us back to a childhood memory. Eat a certain food and it reminds of our favourite holiday. Listen to a certain song and all these emotions come flooding back. When people see magic they try to fit that emotion into a certain box. As humans we try rationalise everything and we don’t like to be fooled, so a lot of people will put it into the box of “it’s up his sleeve”, or “it has to be a trick.” If we put it into a box we feel better about ourselves and proud that we haven’t been taken for a ride.

There is a moment just before people try justifying what they have just seen, it’s the moment of Astonishment! For ten seconds after the final reveal when they have seen something totally impossible and they are trying to put it into a box but they can’t. They are left there with jaws dropped, nothing to say, just in amazement their minds have exploded with nowhere to go. This ten seconds is what is all about. It’s delicate, it’s intimate, it takes me back to the first time I had a moment of astonishment and I get to share that moment again and again with other people.

At a gig a couple of weeks ago a lady came up to me after the show and said, “how do you handle when there is no loud reaction because everyone is in shock and awe with their jaws to the floor at what just happened?” It can be a little awkward when people have nothing they can give back. It’s easy to clap and cheer when your team scores a goal. That is how we are programmed, but when something truly astonishes someone they are paralysed for a brief moment, physically unable to do anything and that ten seconds of silence is the pièce de résistance. It's when the real magic happens.

Let's all strive for moments of astonishment.


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