The human experience thrives on a convincing act of magic. At least mine does. One of the most emotionally staggering of all magic tricks is the sudden appearance of a fully formed person — a baby being born.
Of course it follows that the greatest disappearing act of all is death. Once the light in a person’s eyes evaporates into eternity, no investigation of hidden wires, trap doors or sleight of hand can account for its secrets. Search and ponder as you may, but in the end we are at the mercy of our ignorance.
To be sure, anyone who employs practical magic must be skilled in the art of misdirection. The element of trickery must be elegantly masked to generate an effective illusion.
But what about the magic of human interaction?
It occurs to me how easily interchangeable are the stages of a relationship with the categories of traditional magic tricks — many of the same illusory practices apply:
. MAGIC ROMANCE
• Producing something from nothing (Two people meet and hit it off)
• Teleportation from one place to another (A growing together in affection)
• Prediction of an outcome (Partners project their dreams on each other)
• Levitation in defiance of gravity (Romantic love)
• Transformation from one state to another (Suspicions and doubts develop)
• Penetration of one object through another (Sex, or a knife through the heart)
• Restoration of a destroyed object (Making up after a fight, or therapy)
• Escape from a restraining device (Losing inhibitions, or coming clean on a lie)
• Vanishing (The breakup, or divorce)
However closely these mechanisms of magic and romance may seem to parallel each other, many would not conceive of romance as being the more unreal of the two.
Consider that, even though traditional illusionism is widely acknowledged to consist of intellectual puzzles and riddles, the audience still wants more than anything to believe the magic is genuine. Why else would they pay good money to experience something they know is fake to begin with?
Sound like any relationships you know?
If secrets behind these tricks were to be revealed, captivation would fall away and, robbed of our amazement, we’d be disappointed that we were so easily taken in.
Our wishes, wants, hopes and dreams are the pilot lights of true prestidigitation. In our finest goals we discover the alchemy of our aspirations.
Where Robert Heinlein remarked coldly that “One man’s magic is another man’s engineering”, an optimist may counter with Danielle Steele’s hopeful notion — “If you can see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future.”
Personally, I’ll go with Erich Fromm who observed, “In love, the paradox occurs that two beings become one — and yet remain two.”
For my money, that’s as good as magic gets.
The end of awe is the beginning of hubris. And with hubris, innocence fades, excitement wanes, and love diminishes.
But the foundational root of all real magic is the wonderment we first experienced as children, wide-eyed to everything new in the world — breathtaking music, a child’s first sneeze, the opening of a tulip, a staggering sunset, the allure of a lover’s eyes, the flush from a first kiss.
With each of these enchantments something in you understands that genuine magic is more the province of the soul than of the mind. Any rational account of one’s life requires the inclusion of the mysterious.
Despite the occasional employment of smoke and mirrors, I still very much believe in magic.