Some years ago, my family took a vacation to colonial Williamsburg, and we had dinner at one of ye olde taverns. In the middle of the meal, a patriotic magician approached the table and commenced a series of magic tricks using an orange. He was no more than two feet from me, and yet I was stupefied by the ways the orange would disappear and reappear under a coffee mug or even in my own pocket. I know how magic works, how the able magician distracts the audience from the real action, thus allowing sleight of hand. Even with that knowledge, I was an easy mark. The magician enthralled me with his distractions. He was able to change what I thought I saw.
My brother-in-law hosts an annual squirrel hunt at his family’s ancestral deer camp outside McGehee, Arkansas (which also happens to be the town in which my father was raised). I have attended this hunt several times, though I have yet to shoot at a squirrel. I cannot imagine eating such a tree-dwelling rodent, Arkansan though I am, and I won’t hunt what I won’t eat. The annual gathering isn’t really about hunting at any rate. It’s mostly about playing poker, telling tall tales, and staying up later than the moon.
The docent spoke in soft tones, as if attending a sacred site. With deliberateness and care, she instructed me how to participate in the simulation. “Sit in the middle seat,” she said, “Put on the headphones and place your palms down on the counter. It takes ninety seconds, but it’s o.k. if you don’t last that long.”