It probably won't surprise you to learn that, over the years, I have experienced my own involvement with the art of magic as endlessly fascinating-and so my enthusiasm for magic is today as intense as ever. As I see it, there is so much to learn about this marvelous art, so much to study and then to experiment with for ourselves. There are plots that have not yet been imagined and explored, and there are exciting new methods that are waiting in the future, in the next clearing along the path. For me, in other words, magic really is a road that has no end.
As I have written, when this thought first occurred to me as a teenager, I found it both sad and beautiful. Every accomplishment in magic was balanced by the deep knowledge that I would never be able to master all of this art, not in an entire lifetime. There is simply too much material and our lives are far too short. And so we must make (hopefully intelligent) choices.
On the way, as each of us travels along our magical pathway making our various choices, if we are attentive to what we are doing, we sometimes do make interesting and important discoveries about this art of magic, and also discoveries about the ways in which we might perform our own magic to greater impact and power. With most of these discoveries, it isn't that no one has ever made them or thought of them before us. It is, rather, that finally discovering them for ourselves, in this individual way, gives them new power and makes them real for us in a new way. We can claim them, not as original discoveries, but as our own personal discoveries.
In our mad scramble to devour the newest magic books and videos, we are in danger of sometimes forgetting the important things about being magicians. The important things fade from our consciousness as we become lost and tangled in things that are less important. But what is important? And who is to answer that question?
For me, one thing that has steadily grown in importance over the years is discovering certain things for myself, through my own work and magical experimentation in solitude, and not simply relying on what other people say I should be doing. Yet, today, this seems but rarely valued in the magic community. We appear much more concerned with gossip and politics and finding out what is new and what other people think. We look to others to be our magical authorities. Yet, sadly, if we are always trying to fill our heads with what other people are thinking, there is little room for recognizing and appreciating our own thoughts and ideas. And without some sense of ongoing personal discovery, our relationship to magic becomes, at best, second-hand. Putting this in down-to-earth, practical terms, don't you see that you can learn far more about naturalness when palming coins, for example, if you spend a day with a coin secretly palmed in your hand than you will learn from reading several books? And if you were to do this every day for a month, I suspect that your hand will exhibit real naturalness when palming even if you can't explain everything that is going on in words.
Here, then, are two things that I have discovered through watching the performances of countless numbers of close-up magicians over the years. Let me state them The first discovery is that most of them, as performers, talk too much and, other than when giving specific directions to audience members, say very little of consequence.
My second discovery is that most of these performers are going too fast. The vast majority perform their magic at a pace that is much too rapid. They are in too big a hurry. Performing close-up magic at a fast pace, except in the work of the few who really can do it entertainingly, is the breeding ground for experiences of confusion rather than experiences of magic.
I think that for magic to happen at all in performance, at least two things need to hold. First, there needs to be a sense that what is happening is special. By almost anybody's definition, magic is special: we speak of "magic" when we are confronted with the amazing, the astonishing, the impossible, the uncanny. Performing too fast loses this sense that the performance is special.
Second, magic requires focus. If audience members lose focus, the performance become unclear and even confusing. We get the sense that anything could have been done by the magician. Impact dramatically drops.
In my work, I want to create a sense of magic in the minds of my audiences. My first concern is to give people the sense that my performance is special and, by extension, that I am a truly special magician-and even that it is their good fortune to be able to witness one of my performances. And, need I add, I want to do this without coming off as an egotistical bore?
Second, I want to perform my magic in a manner that allows my audiences never to lose focus on the proceedings, so everything remains clear and there is no confusion about what is happening. To do that, for me, has meant learning to slow down and to treat what I am doing with a conviction that my magic really is important and worth your time and attention.
How are you relating to your magic during your performances? Is it with the underlying presumption that magic is silly, trivial, unimportant? Are you performing at a pace where your audiences lose focus and lose the sense that what is happening here is special?
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