The ongoing nature of discovery

by Steve Brock on August 23, 2012

Discovery starts with a single point of awareness.

It’s the realization that you’ve encountered something new – or at least something new to you. But discovery doesn’t always end with our initial finding. Sometimes, our discoveries unfold over time and provide us with ongoing revelation, insight and meaning, often of a very personal nature.

This continuing nature of discovery reminds me of an old illusion from years ago when I worked as a professional magician. The effect went like this: The magician takes a simple bowl or jar and pours water from it, emptying it and setting it aside. Moments later, he picks up the bowl and again pours more water, again emptying the bowl. This happens repeatedly, a seeming inexhaustible amount of water coming from this magic bowl.

The illusion was called the Lota Bowl. I’ve heard the word “lota” pronounced with a long “o” but also with a short “o” so it sounds like “lotta” as in (as one magician explained it), “There’s a lotta water in that there bowl.”

Here’s a video I randomly pulled off of YouTube, so I’m not necessarily endorsing the magician, his performance, costume or that fine soundtrack. I chose it simply so you could get a visual sense of how the Lota Bowl (or in this case, Lota Vase) works:

Our trips are like the Lota Bowl: In the hands of God, they provide us with an almost endless supply of insights, memories, and revelations over time.

  • We recall small details years after we return.
  • We make connections between experiences we didn’t realize we’d had.
  • We become aware of instances unrelated geographically or in time that somehow, in a flash of intuition, now seem inseparable.
  • We process and clarify discoveries from our travel experience long after we have returned home.

There’s a lotta meaning in that there trip…

Have you ever had an experience on a trip that may not seem all that meaningful at the time but that comes back to you later? That connects to multiple other “unrelated” experiences and starts to reveal a pattern or perhaps a message, something you realize you’re meant to learn?

Heed those small blips on your consciousness because that’s often how God speaks to us. He uses something that happened on a trip, perhaps one traveled in the distant past, to make us aware of issues in our lives that we need to deal with…today.

Discovery can go on and on, kind of like the Lota Bowl only without the fancy props. But we do need to pay attention…


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Magic, music and Montreal – Part 3

by Steve Brock on September 19, 2011

Just Sumner, me and several hundred of our closest newfound friends at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

In Part 1 of this series, we saw that I wasn’t as wild about jazz as I’d like to be. In Part 2, I told of a trip to New York as a teenager that was magical for me, but mostly a soggy trial for my parents. And through it all, I’ve raised the question of how these two issues relate and why I would want to spend time this summer at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Here’s the scoop.

I went to the jazz festival not because I like jazz, but because my son Sumner does. You may recall the story of Stein on Vine and Sumner’s surprise baritone saxophone performance for his grandparents. That was just one manifestation of his passion for this music.

When we found out we would be in Montreal this summer during the famous Jazz Festival, I was just as excited – well, almost – as Sumner was to try and catch at least one or two shows there.

The festival runs for a few weeks with multiple performers playing at various venues in a central area. The music goes non-stop from afternoon to late in the evening. Thus, while we weren’t able to make any big name performances (we were traveling with my parents and my brother’s family, so time with them took priority), we did catch some wonderful acts in the afternoon on two days.

There we were, Sumner enraptured by a big band performance, oblivious to everything else around him and me, well, I was enjoying it for reasons other than the music.

I wasn’t thrilled to be standing – there are no seats for most performances – in the hot afternoon sun, surrounded by hundreds of other perspiring bodies. But that didn’t matter. We were there together, my son and I and all these other strangers who, for that moment, weren’t total strangers.

Like a jazz ensemble itself, we came together for a time and were all part of that performance, swaying almost as one to the rhythm, smiling and nodding to each other like old friends after a particularly accomplished solo.

As I stood there with this crowd, I thought back on my trip to New York and my parents accompanying me through the rain to the various magic stores and the Broadway performance. And then it struck me.

Was I now just modeling something I’d seen my parents do for me? Putting their own interests aside because they knew how much the experience meant to their son? Perhaps. But it’s not that simple.

Or maybe it is.

Maybe what I realized there in Montreal was something that lies at the heart of being a parent and is central to meaningful travel: Our best trips – our best selves – aren’t necessarily found in pursuing what we think we most enjoy.

Instead, we find a deeper satisfaction, perhaps even a reluctant joy, in seeing the delight of another and knowing that we made it possible. It’s an act that is both simple and yet not easy to pull off, all about us yet not about us at all. Sort of like a certain form of music.

I’m beginning to like jazz.

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Magic, music and Montreal – Part 2

by Steve Brock on September 14, 2011

Last time we saw that I wished I liked jazz more than I do. So then, why would I go out of my way to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer?

The answer lies within another trip taken when I was 14.

At that age, my family took a trip to the East Coast. One of the highlights – at least for me – was our time in New York City.

This photo taken on a trip to NY many years later reflects the vibrancy of the city, but none of the magic that rainy day when I first visited Manhattan.

Back in The Journey to the MagicCastle– Part 1, I explained my passion for magic as a teenager. Hollywood may have had Hollywood Magic and The Magic Castle, but New York had Al Flosso’s and Louis Tannen’s, two of the most famous magic shops in the country. You can read the history of Al Flosso’s (the oldest magic store in the US which was at one time owned by Houdini) here.

So when we found out we were going to New York, I begged my parents to go to these two stores, both of which were in mid-town Manhattan. They agreed.

What, in their minds, should have been a quick in and out of some specialty store for their son became a journey of Odyssean proportions. Even though this was the middle of summer, on this particular day it rained. Not this wimpy spittle we call rain here in Seattle, but a Noah-like deluge. We were soaked within ten seconds of leaving our hotel.

Then there’s the whole issue of using the subway and finding your way around when you’re a first-timer to Manhattan. It seems so easy once you know the layout and systems, but on this day, it took us what seemed like forever just to find Al Flosso’s.

Once we entered the upstairs store, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed at first. Somehow, I expected a labyrinth of stacked books, ancient and mysterious illusions and cabinets filled with gaudily-painted tricks. Instead, the place had a worn, thread-bare feel to it. Al, I learned years after the fact, died later that year, so perhaps we caught him at a bad time. Or maybe this was the way the store always appeared.

Still, I bought a book on card tricks and left pleased with at least having visited this well-known establishment.

From there, it took another seeming forever to go the ten blocks or so to Louis Tannen’s. Here was a more modern, efficient showroom that offered more choices than my budget or my parents’ soggy patience allowed. So I quickly settled on an Okito Coin Box and we departed, my magic shopping spree satisfactorily completed.

We had two days in New York and we’d just spent half of one of them wading our way to places that meant nothing to anyone else in the family. Teenagers don’t show their appreciation all that often – I know I didn’t display as much gratitude for this wet morning as I felt inside.  But something must have shown through…

After a late lunch, the skies remained as porous as ever, so we decided to do something indoors: we were going to see a Broadway matinee. When we checked the theater schedules, my heart practically beat in reverse. One of the shows that had tickets available was The Magic Show starring Doug Henning at the Cort Theater.

Now my parents referred to Doug Henning as “that long-haired hippy-like rainbow guy” due to his hairstyle, mannerisms and attire despite his being one of the most famous magicians at the time (yes, this whole story dates me, I know). So when they agreed to get tickets to see his Broadway play (really, a musical/magic show with a minimal plot), I couldn’t believe it.

Yet an hour later, we sat freezing in our wet clothes in an air-conditioned theatre on Broadway…and I couldn’t have been happier. Even my brother and parents admitted afterwards that they enjoyed that part of the day.

So again, what does this have to do with jazz and Montreal?

You can probably guess. But I’ll fill you in on the details next time…


If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here


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Magic, music and Montreal – Part 1

by Steve Brock September 9, 2011

I wish I liked wine, coffee and jazz better than I do. So why then, did I go out of my way this summer to attend the Montreal Jazz Festival? Find out…

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The journey to The Magic Castle – Part 4

by Steve Brock September 6, 2011

The final part of my pilgrimage to The Magic Castle reveals that while we may reach our destinations, that doesn’t mean our journey is over…

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The journey to The Magic Castle – Part 3

by Steve Brock September 1, 2011

Seeing your best friend almost assaulted by a prostitute on Hollywood Blvd. provides you with a different perspective on meaningful travel…

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The journey to The Magic Castle – Part 2

by Steve Brock August 26, 2011

My first encounter with The Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA was memorable, not because of the Castle, but because of what happened along the way.

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