The most common question I’m asked as a mentalist is if what I’m doing is real or if it is some kind of power. That question tells me that I’ve done my job, which is to create an experience that defies categorization. I love to expand how we look at reality. And just as there is extraordinary potential in our ability to categorize reality – such as advances in science, medicine, and all kinds of fields – there is also an under-appreciated potential in suspending our process of categorizing.
Sometimes when people ask me if what I do is real, my response is that I am an artist! It might not seem like a direct or honest response to the question, but it is quite true to who I am. Like many artists before me, I see that art has the potential to expand the way we understand and look at reality. As a mentalist, I discovered a unique opportunity to go beyond doing things that amazed people, to create art, to create an experience that stretches our imagination.
I do that by not telling people whether it is real or not, and deliberately creating an experience where they will not be sure (although I freely admit I do not have miraculous powers). I sometimes explain on stage that we have become very good at categorizing everything. It is an extraordinary development in culture that has led to some of the most important advances in science, medicine, communications, and many other things. However, there is also value in leaving a space of openness where nothing is categorized. In this context, my art form is a metaphor for the real power in wonder and in not knowing. It points to the unformed ground from which extraordinary innovation arises. There are many people bringing about amazing potential in innovating how we do things, and I hold a passion for the less recognized potential for innovating with who we are…it all starts with making room for what we don’t know and possibilities that we don’t yet perceive.
My own sense about life is that it is a mysterious interplay between the known and the unknown, between what is finite and what is infinite. This is not just a theoretical, great sounding idea to me, it’s something I see in my experience. By suspending my own ideas about myself, by not categorizing myself, I’ve experienced this mysterious interplay. I’ve witnessed the vast space that is created when we don’t know, the field of limitless possibilities, and how something creative can emerge that becomes something known that we discover.
This passion for what’s possible is what led me to create Open Future Institute, a non-profit organization. Our main program, the QUESTion Project, supports high school and university students to explore the big questions about life. I’ve found the deepest way to explore these questions is by creating a space where it’s okay not to know. Students thrive when they have the space to address questions that often go unanswered. And when they are free from having to have fixed answers, they find things in their own experience and in each other’s experience, that can give them an incredible confidence that life, that who they are, is positive…positive because it is “open.”
My work in Education: Open Future Institute