I saw a bit of Char Margolis' new SciFi show, Psychic At Large last night, and I loved it.
The Amazing Randi knows how to critique what Char is doing. It's a cold reading, that's absolutely true. But it does take some intution, some ability to actually pay attention and read someone.
One nice thing about pyschics is that they really don't even have to know that they are manipulating. The cues are coming from someplace other than their concious mind, and that's enough for them to believe that it is from outside themselves.
When I was a kid, I used to enjoy the moments when I just made a leap from observations, said something, and people were astounded at how I knew what I knew. I knew it was just watching and assuming, some kind of intuition, but their astounded reactions were not always worth dissuading. And even when I tried, they often didn't believe that it wasn't some kind of pyschic power.
I was at a monestary once when I was about 14 (it was the same trip where I stopped participating in the eucharist) and I was chatting with a guy in the hall. After we talked, he decided to intuit things about me. I listened to his pitch, all the while making connections between what I had told him and what he said. When he finished, I said "Wow! You put all that together from just what I told you!" He grinned a bit and said "You are very smart." It was my guess most people saw his parlor trick as some kind of magic, and he enjoyed that reaction.
Part of the reason I knew it was a trick was because I actually listen. Christine would get angry because I didn't seem to be paying attention to her, so I would repeat the last minute or so of what she said. This frustrated her even more, of course. I remember at IFGE Portland when a friend came into the room I repeated what the staff member had said. The only shepard I ever met at a tranny conference turned around and said to me "That's amazing! I thought I was the only person who actually repeated what people said!"
But Char, well, the reason I loved her isn't because she is magical. Her magic seems pretty normal from where I stand.
I love Char because she is a human I understand.
She went into a diner and did her parlor tricks, which, when edited down for TV look pretty amazing.
But the moments when she talked about herself moved me. "I'm an intuitive," she told the waitress, "I guess that's why I'm here alone." And she liked the writer. "You're so handsome!" she told him, and then asked for a hug after the reading.
I got that. Here is an aging intutive, who can read people, and she feels alone. She reads for people in a way that they like, so she can get affirmation. "I'm not a psychic. I'm a human who has some psychic powers. And the affirmation is important for me," Char said after she drew a crowd at the bookstore, entertained them and signed some moving inscriptions.
I get that too. I have had people who want me to do nice and affirming magic for them, entertain them and assure them that their are powers outside of them that have control. I listen to Char do a phone reading on the website, and the techniques are very clear, but so is the joy of the people she talks to, getting affirmation and context they really want, even if it isn't really from magic. "I love hearing that other people see ghosts!" she tells Diane, "It means I'm not the only crazy one!"
Yet, I see this nice hearty blonde woman who isn't getting any younger, who does the best she can to look pretty, and manage this intutive gift she has had since she was a kid in the context of being just a human who needs affirmation. She does her thing, and she believes she is helping people, and in some ways she is. That's easy for me to get, real easy. Feels like a mirror, sort of.
So I watch Char and imagine being in her sweater. I hope she finds the affirmation she needs.
I hope that we all do.