Perception or Reality? (Or, “What’s That Behind Your Ear?”)

When I was growing up, in the now-vintage years of the 1980s, there was a family friend who stopped by from time to time.  His name was Bill.  And Bill was a lot of fun.


He’d hang out on the driveway and shoot baskets with me and my brothers, at the old hoop we used to have perched atop the garage.  He’d tell stories of his life in the military, the places he’d seen, the memories he’d accrued over the years.  He’d tell jokes, one after another, with a repertoire so vast he could have had a career as a stand-up comic.


But for me, back then, what I liked most about Bill was the magic.

“Pick a card, any card,” he’d say, and I would.  I’d fake taking one, then pluck out another, hoping to derail him.  I never did.  Bill was always letter perfect with his tricks.  And they weren’t limited to cards.


He would make items disappear, then reappear, cut things in half and then somehow present them, in the next moment, as whole.  And he’d invariably pull something out from behind my ear–usually a quarter or a silver dollar.  Sometimes, he’d even let me keep it.


“Your ear’s a real moneymaker,” he’d say.  Little did I know at the time, but Bill’s showmanship and style would, decades later, manifest themselves in The Singularity Wheel.  No doubt, his tricks and performances from my youth played a sizeable role in shaping Ryan Swinton‘s passion for legerdemain in the sequel to The Eye-Dancers.


Of course, I often asked Bill the secret behind the wonder, the key that would unlock the mysteries of his many and varied tricks.  But he never revealed a single one.


“A magician never shares how he does what he does,” he told me one rainy night in those long-ago days before Google and YouTube made discovery so much easier.  “If he did, he wouldn’t be a magician.”


But then he leaned in closer, and, in a soft, conspiratorial whisper, said, “I can tell you one thing, though.  Magic isn’t what it seems.”  I waited for him to continue.  With a performer’s appreciation for drama, he waited a beat.  Then he said, “It’s all about what I want you to see.”

I asked him what he meant.


“In a way, life and magic are one and the same,” he said.  “It’s not so much about what happens, or what you see.  It’s really about what you think happens and what you think you see.  That’s really what a magician specializes in.  Nothing more.”

He didn’t elaborate beyond that.  He wanted me to chew on his words, let them marinate and take root.  And they did.



“There is no truth.  There is only perception,” Flaubert said.  On a cloudy day, you may see only the gray and the gloom.  Someone else may perceive the blue beyond the gray, the sunshine that exists above the clouds, waiting to break through.  I may rail against the catalogue of snowstorms that have beleaguered Vermont this month, impatiently longing for the arrival of the ever-capricious and timid New England spring.  You may counter that the snow is beautiful, a natural wonder, and that I should enjoy it while it lasts before it yields to April’s warmth and sunshine.


Note, I am not talking about facts.  Facts are facts, or at least they should be.  That concept has been sorely tested since November 2016.  But a tenacious protection of inviolate laws of the universe must be preserved.  No.  This isn’t about facts.  It’s about the interpretation of those facts, the way we perceive and filter reality, the very world around us.  How we respond to love and life and loss.


Where some may perceive a setback, others may see an opportunity to learn and to grow.  Where, on the surface, there may be death, perhaps, more profoundly, there is renewal and deliverance.


Yeats wrote, “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  Indeed.  Is it possible that miracles abound, only we do not see them?  Do not notice them?  Do we think we’re free when we’re trapped, and trapped when we’re free?


In the final stanza of his poem “To Althea, From Prison,” 17th-century British poet Richard Lovelace expressed it this way:

“Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free;
Angels alone, that sore above,
Enjoy such Liberty.”

I’m sure my old friend Bill would agree.

Thanks so much for reading!

35 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Boo
    Mar 22, 2018 @ 20:11:17

    Love reading you


  2. jjspina
    Mar 22, 2018 @ 20:55:41

    Another wonderful post, Michael! Thank you for sharing. I love the story about your friend, Bill. Fascinating magic! Look forward to reading your book. Have 32 books ahead of yours but I might fit it in before some. Doing my best! Sigh! Wishing you all the best! hugs


  3. Lyn C
    Mar 22, 2018 @ 22:47:20

    Your posts are always fascinating, Mike. I think Lovelace would have been a “glass half-full” man.


  4. Trackback: Perception or Reality? (Or, “What’s That Behind Your Ear?”) — Eye-Dancers | Fantasy Gift Sources: Book Reviews, Article Resources, News
  5. Jennie
    Mar 23, 2018 @ 12:58:14

    Great post. Thank you!


  6. evelyneholingue
    Mar 26, 2018 @ 13:57:16

    Great post about perception, Mike. We all see things slightly differently from one another. That’s what makes our world and lives fascinating. And this is probably why artists can keep creating. The same elements and feelings can be described so differently depending of the writer, musician, painter’s personal perceptions of the world around them. Hope all is well for you.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 26, 2018 @ 16:49:33

      Thanks so much, Evelyne! That is a great point, and very true. When it comes to plots and ideas, there really aren’t that many new ideas–if any! What makes something “new” and unique is an individual writer’s take on the situation, their own personal point of view. That is indeed at the heart of creativity.


  7. Alexis Rose
    Mar 26, 2018 @ 19:34:05

    Im almost done with your book. I made myself stop reading it for a couple of days because I couldn’t put it down. 😃 I hope to have your review up on Amazon by the end of the week. Yay!


  8. Ste J
    Mar 27, 2018 @ 01:55:45

    The now vintage 1980’s, what a terrifying statement. Interestingly your talk of cards has dovetailed with that bit in your book (spoilers successfully avoided). Review to follow next week after I get back from a short bit of travelling.

    Perception is certainly an interesting phenomenon, as you say even more prevalent with your mentioning (I assume your point was) the censoring and misleading language obfuscating facts from much of the mainstream media these days. No wonder people use fact checkers (if they have sense) and alternative sources of news that don’t work to an agenda of the owner.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 27, 2018 @ 16:55:39

      It is terrifying indeed, isn’t it. Sometimes I have to remind myself, and ask myself, “Is it really 2018? 2018???” And you are right–fact checkers are essential in this day and age. It is way too easy to spread misinformation. Social media is great, but when used wrongly, it can be damaging to the truth. And I will certainly look forward to your review!


  9. imambertan
    Apr 03, 2018 @ 10:37:50

    very intriguing


  10. booksandstuff431
    Apr 04, 2018 @ 17:45:50

    Amazing! Thank you for sharing.


  11. ellie894
    Apr 05, 2018 @ 14:02:05

    How absolutely lovely 🌷


  12. natuurfreak
    Apr 05, 2018 @ 18:13:24

    Erg leuk om te lezen


  13. Anna Waldherr
    Apr 08, 2018 @ 23:58:10

    I very much enjoy it when you share your inspiration.


  14. The Eye-Dancers
    Apr 09, 2018 @ 01:23:34

    Thank you! Much appreciated.:)


  15. Steph McCoy
    Apr 25, 2018 @ 13:58:03

    Powerful piece Mike. I really enjoyed reading this as perception is one of my favorite topics. With well over 7 billion people on the planet, each of us is going to see life differently. It’s astonishing to me that we’ve seemingly take opinions as facts and believe everything we’re told without doing the research. One of my favorite sayings is “The greatest thing about the internet is everyone has a voice. The worst thing about the internet is everyone has a voice.” And the need to be ‘right’ and prove someone else ‘wrong’ is totally out of control. Okay, I’m done now.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Apr 25, 2018 @ 15:08:48

      Hi Steph! I agree completely. This is a problem that’s spiraled out of control in the digital age.:( And unfortunately there are no signs it’s getting any better. Not sure how we as a society are going to fight this, but we definitely need to figure out a way before it’s too late. On that cheery note . . .:)


      • Steph McCoy
        Apr 25, 2018 @ 16:04:02

        I don’t want to sound morbib but since the death of “common sense” we’ve got an uphill battle. Thankfully there are still people who believe that anything is possible so I hold onto hope for positive change. 😊

  16. America On Coffee
    Apr 27, 2018 @ 04:11:02

    So full of wisdom. Most inspiring, good family friend in this beautiful share!!


  17. kutukamus
    Jun 16, 2018 @ 12:46:40

    Very much enjoyed
    That Lovelace’s poetry
    And what an exciting and resourceful character
    That friend of thee 🙂


  18. The Eye-Dancers
    Jun 16, 2018 @ 15:03:45

    Thank you! And you’re right about Lovelace. I figure, anytime you can work Lovelace into a blog post, you do it.:)


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