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.
This failing is not unique to magic. 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.
Occasionally, it has 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 do that. Nor can Beethoven’s music. Nor can independent cinema.
If an idealistic magician wants something more sublime than giving audiences a fun time, then he is in the wrong business or avocation. Let him drop magic. He might want to consider joining Greenpeace or the Peace Corps, instead.
Or he might consider performing miracles.
There’s a world of difference between magic and miracles. Magic makes people smile. Miracles shake up the world.