Every working magician has had a child, or sometimes even an adult, come up after a show and ask “Is magic real?” And every performer has crafted their own response to that question. But for me to truly answer the question, I had to ask myself “What is magic?’ and “What is real?’ I know I’m sounding a little like Bill Clinton here, but they’re legitimate questions. (Also, I did not have magical relations with that woman!)
So, what is Magic? Mirriam-Webster describes it as “an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source”. That’s a good start. Oxford Dictionary calls it, “A quality of being beautiful and delightful in a way that seems remote from daily life.” The Free Dictionary has, “A mysterious quality of enchantment”. Now we’re getting somewhere! Since Enchantment is defined as “a feeling of great pleasure; delight: the state of being under a spell; magic”, it might be said that magic is a facilitating art that helps its audience experience pleasure and delight.
If the public really thought about it, they would know that magicians do not possess supernatural abilities. If we truly had other-worldly powers, powers that could transform time and space, what would we do with those powers? Would we lie on a beach in Cabo and have food and liquor float towards our mouths, or would we stand for 7 hours at a trade show booth doing card tricks? Yeah, you guessed it – Cabo!
But we do indeed have very special “abilities’ and I will even say “powers”. We are a gateway, a portal, through which our audience can glimpse the enchantment of the world. And we use our hard-won abilities to make our audience feel delight, and reconnect with the mysterious. Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” So, magic is not something we “DO”, it’s the way we make people “FEEL”.
So, when a kid comes up after a show and asks “Is Magic real?”, I say “Magic is that feeling you have when you see something mysterious and amazing. Did you feel that feeling during the show? Well then magic is DEFINITELY REAL.” I will close with a quote from the great Maya Angelou, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”