Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beginning To Understand An Ethics Of Deception

.:Why Mentalism?:.

For someone who wishes to write a dissertation on the ethics of deception for his doctorate, it's a bit odd that the particular branch I specialize in would be mentalism, which is just a stone's throw from the charlatans of our times, the mediums and the quacks who try to pass off their abilities as genuine supernatural abilities that make their clients hang on to every single word they have to say.

While I do enjoy mentalism, I deliberately keep the opportunities for my audience to be influenced beyond my performance to a minimum, because I really do not want the kind of responsibility that comes with shaping people's lives through a reading of their personality that, while most of the time accurate, is still never foolproof. Reading a person involves psychology, insight, and quite an amount of guesswork, so the fact that you will influence a person, and unlike a teacher, cannot follow up on the effect you managed to catalyze in them.

As a teacher, if I would shape a student, I would have the ability to guide that influence in the proper direction, because I know I would deal with my students often enough to be able to do so. As a mentalist however, I have no such capability since more often than not, that will be the first and the last time I would ever meet that person. Thus, that being the case, I cannot help but underscore that while I certainly have the potential to read people to a tee when I do mentalism, I have little choice but to not rely on it as much lest I influence people adversely.

Despite that obvious conflict, mentalism is still arguably my favorite branch of the art, because it stands as arguably the last bastion of the art, insofar as in a world of special effects and made-for-tv magic, mentalism still holds the morally ambiguous distinction as one of the truest forms of the art that still remains, because of the simplicity of its nature and its dependence on an audience that is not out to see the performer fail.

I choose mentalism because it taps into the unexplored realms of the human person's abilities: it taps into the sense of wonder, yet at the same time is grounded in reality because in a time where everything can seemingly be summed up handily by science, the small nagging questions about clairvoyance, psychokinesis, and telepathy, still hold an allure all its own that few other things in this planet can hope to even approximate.

Mentalism may not require you to have knuckle-busting skill, but the kind of mindset you must constantly and consistently will yourself into when performing does not come easy, even for those with an innate gift for it, as it were. It requires restraint, subtlety, and showmanship all at the same time, and the mix one needs to endeavor into these three factors are unique to mentalism all its own.

Ultimately, as someone who wishes to specialize in ethics for Philosophy, mentalism proves to be a lived example of the fine line that only it manages to cross with much aplomb, that fine line between ethics and deception.

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