Last night we watched a terrific documentary film about Ricky Jay, a scholar, actor and magician. The documentary is called Deceptive Practice.
In the movie, a martial arts teacher told us about Jay’s tremendous focus illustrating it with a story of some artifice Jay did at a dinner with his fellow Aikido students. The trick involved folding two one dollar bills together to produce a two dollar bill. Everyone at the dinner begged Jay to tell them how the trick was done. Jay, of course, refused. Just so, he refused on many other occasions to say how it was done. A certain mythology developed about what circumstances it could be done or not done. The students puzzled over how they could con Jay into a position of being unable to perform.
They saw their chance when, after a workout, they presented Jay with two ones while he was nude and showering. The picture is priceless. Jay is roundish and gnomish with a slight speech impediment. Still, Jay performed the trick flawlessly. To this day, the sensei carries around the two dollar bill to remind himself and his students about the power of focus and of their own inability to tease out how it was done.
The story reminded me of David and Goliath. The story is well known, so I won’t repeat it here. Suffice to say that a Philistine giant challenged the Israelite army to single combat to settle certain territorial claims. Goliath had been causing trouble all during the opening skirmishes in a valley between two mountains.
David was a slinger. Incredibly, when David told Saul he could rid him of this pesky hulk he never mentioned the sling. Rather, he told Saul he was a bear and lion fighter.
Goliath was accompanied to the valley by a shield-bearer. Upon seeing David, he began taunting calling him a mere boy carrying sticks.
David prevailed that day because Goliath was slow, dim-witted and probably visually impaired. That’s why Goliath had to be led out. David had one stick (a shepherd’s staff) and hid the presence of the sling.
David ran toward Goliath who was dumbfounded by the move. When it was too late David produced the sling and fired off one of his smooth stones. Goliath went down. David finished off Goliath with Goliath’s own sword. The Philistines took flight and were routed by Saul’s forces. The Philistine camp was looted and many invaders died.
David appeals to us even today because he is one of those prized people who was both a warrior and a poet. This story also shows him to be shrewd and exceedingly blessed. David’s lineage puts him as a direct descendant of Ruth, the Moabite woman. It’s important to note that the Moabites were an unsavory lot. Despite his questionable purity, David was a forebear of Jesus. David was anointed King when Saul failed.
In the case of Ricky Jay’s deceptive practice, he depends on our slavish regard for both the usual measures of success and insistence on believing only those things we can see. The story of David and Goliath points to the folly of a slavish regard for the usual measures of success and an insistence on a belief only in what we can see.
I’m Just Sayin’,