The Extra Mile, the Last Mile, and the Only Mile

Recently, I’ve been working on a months-long research project of sorts. While I can’t go into a lot of detail, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it’s a lot of work, a long commitment, and definitely won’t yield anything concrete that would seem to justify the trouble. Recently I was catching up with a friend who I hadn’t seen in some time and mentioned it, and one of his first questions was “What made you want to do that?” Not in an accusatory way, or a dismissive one, but honestly wondering. And in that moment I realized I had never fully articulated even to myself the thinking behind it, so I wanted to lay it out here.

At first I thought it was that I wanted to go the Extra Mile. I wanted to really, deeply understand this topic in a way most magicians, and even most people who specialize in this area, don’t. But I realized it wasn’t that exactly. It wasn’t wanting to go beyond. It was that too often in magic I see people (myself included) with an idea, an interest, a method, a presentation, what have you, who don’t take it all the way. They get it to a workable place, they research it just enough to satisfy their curiosity, or practice it just enough to do it into a mirror, but never actually make it into what it could be. I realized I see that all the time and I didn’t want that to be me anymore. This research project was a way for me to prove to myself not that I would go the Extra Mile, but that I would go the Last Mile, and completely understand the topic, not just know enough to bluff my way through a conversation about it. Because that’s the thing about the Last mile: it’s the Only Mile. It doesn’t matter how far you have traveled or how far you have taken a project, if it never crosses that final threshold from “eh, it works,” to “yes, this is what this was meant to be,” then it still isn’t done. So this project is a promise, and a reminder, to myself not to settle for “it works,” and make sure that I always take things through to that Last Mile.

 — Z.Y.

Four Suits