There’s Always Somebody

The trick was called the Ambitious Card.

The magician was Dai Vernon, a largely unknown quantity on the magic circuit. And the audience was Harry Houdini, the self-proclaimed King of Cards.

Mr. Houdini wasn’t that interested in watching Mr. Vernon’s magic. The King of Cards said he could figure out any trick after seeing it three times. Plus, he had already escaped from a nailed packing crate tossed in the East River and starred in a Hollywood movie. Mr. Houdini was a marquis name. And Mr. Vernon was a nobody.

But at a magicians’ gathering on a late evening in February 1922, Mr. Houdini humored Mr. Vernon.

And with the Ambitious Card, Mr. Vernon, the nobody, did what they said couldn’t be done: he tricked Mr. Houdini.

There’s always somebody.

Somebody who stands up to the king. Who redefines the rules of the game. Who turns a piece of the world inside out.

It’s tempting to put them up on a pedestal. To distance ourselves from them. But they’re flesh and blood, too. As writer Jean Cocteau said, “The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.”

We’re all made of the same stuff. And if there’s one difference about these somebodys, it’s this: they accepted the true order of the world, which is that no one is a nobody.

After that February evening, Mr. Vernon spent much of his time teaching other magicians. Training coming generations of somebodys.

Because in any field, at any time, there are always somebodys.

And as far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason why those somebodys shouldn’t be us.

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