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  • Steven Delpome


The thing about curiosity is, which we all on some level realize, is it doesn’t go away until it has been sated. It doesn’t care about the plans that others have for it and it certainly doesn’t tolerate rules and restrictions.

On November 10th at Park Ridge Library, we had our smallest SOLE to date. Two curious girls, aged 6, wanted to know how magic works.

While the SOLE is meant to allow children to drive the action, there is a loose structure to it that children follow along, more or less--we brainstorm, go to the Internet or books searching for information for about 20-30 minutes finding info which tends to spur new questions...and so on.

The thing about grown ups is, we tend to think and plan in terms of structure and like when our world falls in line with that structure we perceive is there. When things don’t follow the way we think they should, we panic, we worry, we lose trust in the world. We rarely think that the world is truly an unpredictable place and that the world doesn’t have much concern for our structures and routines.

The girls gathered around a computer and quickly found a video of a man teaching a simple card trick. The girls saw the demonstration of the trick, about 90 seconds of the five minute video, and, upon learning that I don’t travel with a deck of cards, decided to make their own deck from the art supplies.

I asked, “Don’t you want to see how the trick is done?”

“Not yet.”

The girls set to work on making playing cards and I dutifully helped. Frustrated with the crooked edges of the first cards they made, both noticed I was able to cut cards that had straight edges. “How’d you do that?”

I showed them how I used the ruler to make a straight line. Both decided to use a ruler to help them make their cards. Both had very serious expressions as they started by making cards with the hearts and diamonds. I asked them, “Are you ready to go see how to do the trick?” Things weren’t going as I imagined they would. I was nervous--worried that the session would go to waste without ever wondering why I felt this way when the girls were so locked into what they were doing.

“Not yet.”

The work continued when I spotted one girl get up and go back to the video. Oh good, I thought, she wants to learn the trick! She went back to the part we’d watched and paused it after just a few seconds this time and returned, and showed the other girl how to draw the three-leafed club symbol.

It was quiet. SOLEs are never quiet. There was little talking. SOLEs always involved tons of talking. This was throwing my grown-up, plan-following, brain into a tizzy. Outwardly, I was a happy member of the group helping make the cards, while inwardly I was crying out “you’re supposed to be watching the video and learning about magic! That was the plan!” But, again, natural curiosity has no time for my plans.

I dare say we’d spent 25 minutes making the cards. While my internal voice was crying out, I should have been watching closely. I would have seen that there was quiet because the the work that was going on was important work. There was little talking because both girls knew what the goal was and were doing the important work toward that goal. My grown-up brain was so locked in on wanting the comfortable plan and routine, that it didn’t see the problem that was solved (no deck of cards? Now there was), or the close attention to detail (checking the appearance of the clubs, the ruler), or the utter independence both girls were showing in their politely setting aside my suggestions to learn the trick.

And in the end, one girl did find time in her plan to watch the rest of the video. And you couldn’t help but smile when she tried the trick with the homemade cards and, when it worked the first time, she amazed herself to the point that she almost stumbled backwards and fell.

There was magic going on. And as is the case with all good magic, we can’t always see how it works until we’ve looked back and thought about it more closely.

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