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Here’s an interesting letter I received from regular reader Zephyr:
Good day Leodini,
I’m sending you this email, because I would like to hear your thoughts on something my friend and I have debated about.
He is also a magician. Our debate started when he said that 52 pieces of cardboard can’t change the world. He seems to have issues with magicians that say that magic is a higher art form. His point was that magic is nothing more than a performance art and can’t make a difference in the world.
Now I do agree with him that magic is a performance art, but just like anything else in the world (performance art or whatever), it can make a difference. This friend of mine further said that magic can’t feed the hungry and it can’t heal the ill.
I reminded him about his argument that we are talking about magic making a difference. Yes, magic can’t heal the ill directly or feed the starving poor, but it can raise the money to do so.
I pointed out how Copperfield’s program called Project Magic had helped rehabilitate physically challenged patients by teaching them sleight-of-hand. Or how magicians like David Blaine, Paul Wilson, and many other magicians joined the effort to help Haiti to help earthquake victims.
He had no rebuttal to these facts I presented him and said things like “Magic can’t change the world, it can’t make a difference like World War II“.
I pointed out to him how Jasper Maskelyne, if memory serves me right, was a British stage magician. He was consulted to help the military avoid the axis. I pointed out there was a book published about this although the title eludes me.
I started pointing out how science has used magic and illusions to better understand the mind.
What do you think, Sir Leodini? I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.
One of your many followers and fans,
Paul Potassy has a favorite anecdote about how magic saved his life. In the last World War, he was a young soldier captured by the Russian army. Facing imminent death by firing squad, he entertained his captors with magic. The Russian soldiers enjoyed his card tricks and manipulation so much that they set him free.
Potassy’s near-brush with death illustrates that magic can be a life-saver, even if it cannot alter the course of world history in a big way.
Unless I’m greatly mistaken, all art forms don’t create impact that is important enough to change the course of human history.
Art was never intended to be the keeper of the universe. Art’s intention is to feed our souls and senses. To entertain us, to make us laugh, to make us cry, and to make us think and ponder.
Art operates in a small niche in the universe’s scheme of things. In its niche, art saves lives, helps the poor, comes to the aid of the under-privileged, in small and unique ways you mentioned in your letter.
It has also some practical purposes, like the way it helped Paul Potassy escape the firing squad, or how in 1856 the French government quelled agitations by Marabouts in North Africa.
But if you ask art to bring world peace, prosperity to all, create Utopia in every land of the world, you are asking it to do much more than it can. Ballet can’t. Nor Beethoven’s music. Nor independent cinema.
So why single out magic for falling short in the change-the-world-in-a-huge-way department?
If your friend wants something more sublime than giving audiences a fun time, then he is in the wrong business, profession or avocation. Let him drop magic. He might want to consider joining Greenpeace or the Peace Corps, instead.
Or he might consider performing miracles—not just magic but miracles.
In sum, here’s the difference between magic and miracles. Magic makes people smile. Miracles shake up the world.
Now, if your friend wants to avert world wars and revolutions with tricks with 52 cards, he probably can’t do it. He is in the wrong career path. Switching to working miracles might do the job.
- War of the Wands: Thurston vs. Houdini (wired.com)
- David Blaine’s Magic – perfect witnessing tool? (davejohnlucas.wordpress.com)
- Magician Paul Daniels sells thousands of pounds worth of props on eBay (telegraph.co.uk)
- 3 Things Leodini Says to Make Your Day (innermagicclub.wordpress.com)
- Do You Recognize These Four Types of Magician? (innermagicclub.wordpress.com)