Tag Archives: Doubt

Joy in the Moment

There are days I wake up and feel like Sisyphus.

Do you know who I mean?

Sisyphus was an ancient mythological figure punished for all eternity to roll a boulder up a steep mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom when he reaches the top. Albert Camus called him an absurd hero; he struggled perpetually and without any hope of success.

That describes me on some days. Broken promises, lack of perceived ‘progress’, low bank accounts and good old self doubt are my boulder. I struggle daily to push it forward and upward, only to watch it roll back at day’s end. In the reality of my profession, the boulder is mine. I am aided and supported by an amazing set of friends and family, but the responsibility is on my shoulders. Sometimes this burden is crushing.

When times like this occur, I stop and breathe. I count my blessings and I look at my situation from a different attitude. Picture Sisyphus smiling.

The idea is so simple: here is Sisyphus, the wretch, interminably pushing his boulder up the hill, watching it roll down and repeating.  In my mind he was always completely defeated, hopeless.  And then, as I read Camus’ book on the ‘Myth of Sisyphus’, everything about the picture changed.  Imagining Sisyphus smiling, embracing his situation as his reality, not wanting a different past or a different future, but accepting the present, the scene totally rearranged itself.  He was no longer hopeless, but happy in his acceptance of the situation.

He must, in order to accept the absurdity of the situation, adjust his attitude and fulfill what has been put before him.

On the road to your dreams, there are certain absurd truths you must acknowledge. You must work as hard and as tirelessly as you can. There is no guarantee of success, but the burden and the struggle contain a successful measure of their own. To simply be doing what you love, and to master it, may be enough. Our ultimate fate is all the same, so why be miserable? Live your passion in the task at hand, and find satisfaction in your minor successes and your crushing failures.

Like Sisyphus, some see no other option than the mountain and the rock. Burdened with obligations, lack of control, hopelessness, low expectations and no alternatives, they continue to toil in dead-end jobs and uninspiring environments.

You, however, can see opportunity in obligation, freedom in failure and hope in hopelessness. You are unique, as are your burdens. Keep shouldering on, and be thankful for the journey.

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Validation

I believe that my work is important, vital even, to some people.

My fellow entertainers and I bring relief to the machine. Levity to buoy the spirit and return it to flying … or soaring. We inspire, we enlighten, we save lives at our very best. We change them, too.

One of the most difficult things for me to handle is praise. I don’t know how to accept it graciously. I feel gratitude and thankfulness for those that take time to tell me their thoughts on the show and how it moved them, I just don’t know how to respond properly.

A friend recently wrote the following on Facebook about meeting me and getting to know me offstage. (We recently worked together in a play about Jack the Ripper called ‘Whitechapel’)

“I knew of you long before i actually met you… but Whitechapel sealed the deal.
Upon first seeing you, I thought: “He really sold his soul to the devil for magic.” And that’s amazing. And pure. And true. And omg that was amazing.
What do i like most about you? You aren’t afraid to bare your absolute soul to the world. You are an artist in the truest form. There was a day, i think it was the second to last or maybe the last day of Whitechapel, i parked next to you over off of 36th by Rat’s Nest, i got out of my car to wave hi to you in your van. You were listening to music, I’m not sure what song, but you were crying. Sobbing. I knew things were difficult at the time…with life and things, but to see you expose the emotions so fully, so unabashed, so freely brought me peace. Knowing that it’s ok to bare our troubles in such a way, to music even. I will never forget the day you made me love being human.”

I will never forget the day you made me love being human.
On the one hand, how do I express how grateful and happy I am that I was able to give her such a gift? On the other … words and letters like this let me know that I’m on the right road, doing the right thing, and using my gifts well.

Don’t be afraid to live fully. And love who you are.

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On My Death

A casually morbid post. Nobody panic: I’m not depressed or particularly sad at the moment. There’s just some thoughts rummaging around and … well, this is what I do.

I’m at the jumping off point of an adventure. New Orleans for the weekend, performing for the art gallery folks, then off to the Magic Castle for a week and finally FISM. After that … well, we’ll see. NOLA, Hollywood, Italy. I’m happy and excited to share my show, my vision. I have no illusion about winning, but that’s really something I want to write about separately.

Today I’m thinking about death. The finality and the non-finality. This may seem random, because it is.

I’d really like a broken wand ceremony. And I’d really like for my friend Tony Miller to execute it at CRF. My friends and extended family there have provided a great deal of magic in my life and I think the setting is appropriate.

In that death is a genuine physical ending … do as you will with my remains. In my whimsy, I would ask to be cremated and have my ashes strewn into the wind and surf near what used to be Scotch Bonnet pier on Topsail Island in North Carolina. My childhood, my ‘coming of age’ and the realization of who I am all happened there. There’s real magic in that place.

In that death is a great vast unknown … I hope that my consciousness continues, that I get to explore new truths. Who knows?

Don’t mourn me. Celebrate what we had. I did my best to spread joy and love. At times I failed utterly, usually to the people I’m closest to. Loving me has meant having to share me with the world, and that can be real hell.

Enough with the maudlin. I’ve got some decades left to live, in theory, and I’m going to continue to strive for more: more excellence in my art, more love in my life and more joy in my soul.

I’ll share these things with you.

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With Great Power …

… Comes great responsibility. Right?

Well, of course. But what about a little power … or power you don’t realize you have? I’m going out on a limb here and I’m going to state that your main responsibility is to be true to yourself and the journey you are on. Because, honestly: you don’t know who you’re affecting and how.

How’s that for vague? Let me give you an example, a really powerful one. Now understand, things like this are happening to me all the time to a lesser or greater degree. It comes with the territory of being a public figure … of putting your heart out there. Hear this and understand the potential behind it: You AFFECT … You CHANGE THE VERY LIVES of people every day. Every. Day.

When I first got into the corporate entertainment arena (that is to say, when I earned my way in) I had a very regular client, Rob. He worked for a great company that used me in varying degrees on a regular basis and we established a close working relationship. He liked my performance style so much that he started bringing his family in to see me at my regular restaurant gig. I could just about count on seeing them every week.

Now, Rob had a young son: Roddy. Roddy became an instant fan and I would strive to do something new for him weekly. I could always make them laugh and … well, it was just a really good moment in my working week to see them coming in. As I’ve stated before, I think I have more friends amoung my audience than I do ‘fans’. I get close, you know? Rob would even have parties at the beach and put me and my family up just to get a show for his friends and clients.

Alright so, passage of time: I move on from restaurants and Rob changes companies and people slowly drift apart, sometimes. Jump head about 14 years and out of the blue Rob calls me up to perform at Roddy’s 22nd birthday. Absolutely. Let’s make this happen. I won’t mention how hearing that Roddy was turning 22 made me realize jut how fast time goes …

The party was awesome and raucous and I had a bunch of fun (as usual) while doing my work. It seems Roddy has embraced being a race car driver and he’s an up and coming star in his field. He works hard and he’s really good at what he does. Bonus points: he’s following his passion. There’s a good possibility that he’ll be the star of a TV show being pitched to major networks, based on his charisma and skill in his chosen profession. Kudos, right?

Toward the end of the night, Roddy sought me out and we had a very brief but very moving discussion. Roddy told me that he had two secrets to his success. The first was to surround himself with positive, talented people. People with skill and vision, but(most importantly) with a great attitude toward life. The kind of people that believe in you even when you think you don’t belong or you feel you aren’t capable of something. They stick with you and keep you motivated to move forward.

The second thing was: Me. Hannibal. #cardmonkey from his childhood. He told me that when things seemed very tough and dark and he felt like giving up … he would think of me. Out there doing magic tricks night after night and grinding my way toward excellence. The thought of me NOT GIVING UP gave him the courage to push through just a little bit longer.

Responsibility. What you are and what you do affect people. The tenacity to keep going when it seems everyone is against you. Performing night after night after day after week after month after year … gave a boy with a dream the inspiration to become a man on the move. I was overwhelmed. I still am. I’m grateful and I’m massively humbled.

This isn’t an isolated occurrence, either. The longer I work at this it seems the more people I meet who tell me that something I said or did (or didn’t do) gave them a gift of some kind. The desire to strive for something difficult, the insite to look within themselves for beauty and greatness, the courage to LIVE for another day.

And all I can say to them (and you) is: I didn’t intend to be a role model. I just do what I do to the best of my ability and I hope it tells you a good story. Ironically these incidents have given me will and courage, too. The thought that I can’t give up … that someone I don’t even know is counting on me.

I know. Pretty heady stuff for a guy who just does card tricks, right? Only (dear friends) let me state this: I am not incidental. Neither are you. You are unique and you possess a passion somewhere within you that can literally change and save lives and possibly the world. That is a great power, and with great power …

You know.

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A Bit More Exposed.

So … I did it. Then I wrote about it and people responded with enthusiasm and compliments. I felt empowered and grateful and like I’d won some small victory over my demons.

Then … my blog was linked by Amanda Palmer and things went crazy. Overnight I got dozens of emails, messages … all thanking me for taking this “Giant Step”. Folks: I’m humbled. I did this bit for my inner voices and for the 9 people who showed up. I asked for the pictures to be taken so that I could go back and read what people actually wrote. I was thinking of individuals … and, selfishly, myself. i wanted to overcome.

What I got in return was an outpouring of gratitude and love like I’ve never, EVER experienced.

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“I can hear your heart.”

Let me share one story. Not the most gut wrenching of what I received, but powerful and amazing.

October 12 was my daughter’s wedding. We had a big, backyard, down home celebration with family and friends for the reception. Late into the evening I was approached by one of our family’s friends. A young man I had known for years. He asked if we could speak privately and we moved into a quiet place in the garden.

He explained to me that when he was younger he had been involved in a traffic accident that left his chest (in his words) ‘horrifically scarred’. He lived with it in some discomfort … and then he showed his scars to his (then) fiance. Her reaction was less than supportive. She was repulsed and disgusted. Worse, she told and showed him that she was repulsed and disgusted. The scars she laid on him were far deeper than the physical scars he bore.

In time, that relationship came to a close … but he wore those feelings for many years. He has a new love now – and, he told me – he never, ever took his shirt off in front of her. Not for any reason.

Because of Amanda’s re-posting, he saw my words and my pictures. He read and re-read. He cried … and he called his girlfriend to come to him immediately. They viewed the blog together … and he took his shirt off. Such a simple action that we do without thought everyday, but to him, to HER … it was a mountain climbed.

He told me in tears that her reaction was very different. She responded with love. With caring. She embraced him and loved every bit. They showered together. For the first time in his life – he knew the true love and intimacy he didn’t know he was missing.

By this time his girlfriend had joined us and she tearfully hugged me and thanked me … my words and actions changed their lives. This story is just one of many that keep coming in to me.

Which brings me to:

How do I respond to such things? “You’re welcome” seems so trite and bland, given what’s happening. Amanda, if you’re listening: How do I deal with these emotions coming to me? What do i say? I’m so humbled by this.

Meantime … to do it again? No publicity, no talking about it afterward? Just let it happen for the people in attendance?

I continue to walk my path, and I appreciate You walking with me through the dark and light parts.

The original article may be read here: Exposed.

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Exposed

I had this idea. I couldn’t imagine how it might turn out, what the reactions would be. Would there be fallout? How might it affect my ‘career’?

Recently I was approached by another well meaning friend about how I could make more money doing what I do. This happens about once a week. Now … of course I need to provide and support my responsibilities and I am driven to help those in need … money helps with those needs, but it isn’t everything.

I perform because I have to perform. I walk in faith, I live in faith. Yes, I market and brand myself, but I’ve come to find that the act of just working … doing the best possible show I can present … provides rewards, both tangible and personal. Once I recognized that, my life became considerably easier and substantially more difficult. Contradiction? Welcome to showbiz.

I came up with this plan. A show. A show that could become legend. Featuring myself and two people I care about, both in person and in vision, and an idea I got from Amanda F. Palmer. The show must be ‘pay what you want’ and it must be presented in as personal and as intimate as possible. Sunday, September 21st at UpStage it all came together.

Avalon Rose opened with her recital/ unique rendition of “Oh the Places You’ll Go”. Whimsical yet powerful: Dreams and Dragonflies, Ambition and Failure. She says it like she means it … because she does.
Following this, 35 minutes of me … doing humor, soap boxing just a little ..earning my right to be heard. Following this was a 7 minute intermission. (Play Marillion’s “Man of a Thousand Faces”)

Megan Sky opened act two with a heartfelt speech on vision, acceptance and loving. All wrapped up in Art. I hope she develops this further, or even publishes. Believe me, it’s moving, surprising and incredible.
Following this was Hannibal’s “LIAR!” show. 45 minutes of storytelling comedy magic that digs deep into my soul.

And then … I dug deeper. At the end of “LIAR!” I announced there would be a third act following a five minute break. (Play Tom Waits’ “New Coat of Paint”)
When I returned … I spoke of the harsh things our brain like to tell us. How we’ve been negatively conditioned to see ourselves as less than normal … less than loved. I told of my two biggest hangups or fears: My body image and my fear of trust.
I am disgusted by what I see in the mirror. I am shamed by the way people look at me in public and unabashedly say hurtful things … this of course leads me to my lack of trust in others. I get panicky in crowds, just can’t handle it. In front of a large group? No problem. In among them? Anxious. Paralyzingly so.

I said I wanted to deal with my two big hangups at once, and perhaps help someone  with their own. “Think of something about yourself that you are ashamed of. Some burden you carry. Some evil your brain constantly whispers to you, causing you pain.” I said.
Then … I took off all my clothes. All but my skivvies (in order to remain legal in NC). I passed out markers and invited the audience to come up on stage and write on me. Their burdens, their thoughts … whatever. “If it hurts you, write it on me and leave it with me for a little while. I can’t take it away forever, but I give you permission to lay it down for a time.” I cued the song “Neverland” by Marillion, closed my eyes and raised my arms.

The results were moving, loving and empowering. I am still speechless to describe how beautiful the moment was.
The photographs below tell part of the story. The brilliance of Austin Caine caught my vision and brings it to you. Here.

From my vision through the eyes, lens and heart of Austin Caine … This is who I AM.

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Click the link below to view the entire gallery. Feel free to share the images as you see fit.
http://photos.austincaine.com/Nightlife/UpStage/The-Full-Hannibal/

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Beauty

Man, the older my eyes get the more they see it.

I see beauty everywhere I look. I see Angels in concrete. Dancers in Dirt.

I see beauty in every person. Many make me struggle to see it, but I know it’s there, so I strive to not give up until I recognize it.

I see beauty in my work. I see my work transformed into art and even Art, because I lace it with the beauty I see around me.

I see beauty in you. Yes, you. In your kindness, in your selfishness. In your anger.

I see beauty, or maybe beauty seeks me out.

I see it everywhere except

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