What is the purpose of magic?

Conjurer's Coffee Break - Episode 019

This podcast episode falls below my high standards of audio quality. Apologies!


- I sometimes get annoyed when people say or suggest that the creative arts, aren't real work. This happened to me recently at an event. I approached a guest, and I said, "Hey, I'm Ed. I'm a magician." and she said, "Oh no!"

- Things like that have happened before, so I said, "Oh, not a fan of magic?" thinking that she would say no, and I would politely wish her well and move on to someone else.

- But instead she said, "I just find it so futile."

- Urgh. I did not know what to say! I mumbled something and left.

- But that experience has led to me thinking about the topic for this week which is, what is the purpose of magic?

- I know it's annoying, but I guess that one way to answer it is, with another question, what is the purpose of anything? At the end of the day, aren't we all just filling our time between being born and dying? And so why not magic? If magic is futile, isn't everything futile. Why be a lawyer, or a doctor or anything?

- Why bother living, if you can't indulge in a bit of fun now and again?

- You might have heard the probably heavily altered story that when Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding to the arts in order to support the war effort, he responded “Then what would we be fighting for?”

- I also like the saying that "art is not what we do to survive, but once the elements of survival are in place, art is what we do."

- And I also want to point you in the direction of a video about emotional intelligence from The School of Life. I'll link to the video and the channel in the notes for this episode. In the video in question, the narrator says, "The central vehicle for the transfer of emotional intelligence is culture."

- But all of that is telling you why art is important? So, I guess the next question you might ask is, is magic art?

- I think it can be, if you want it to be. What I mean by that is if you're happy doing great tricks, and you mostly stick to stock lines or present the magic as it comes in the instructions, then magic can be a really fun hobby. But if you want to elevate your magic, then you have to share something of yourself with the audience, 'turn the eye inward' as they say in Zen Buddhism, and if you do that then you can create something meaningful. Yes, even with a card trick.

- Don't believe me? Let me point you in the direction of Rene Levand's breadcrumbs routine. I'll link to it in the notes so those who aren't familiar can take a look.

- Of course, not everyone will like it what you do, but that's totally fine. That's what art is.

- I've mentioned the book Shattering Illusions in a few episodes, and here's another gem from that book that I'm paraphrasing: "An entertainer gives you the good ol' songs, the ones you know and love. An artist gives you the songs you didn't ask for, and didn't know you liked until you heard them!"

- Just as with catchy choruses or paint by numbers, all art forms have their versions that are commercial and formulaic. I must have seen a version of the film Mighty Ducks about twenty times, but I've only seen on movie that was like, 'Being John Malkovich.' It was called, 'Being John Malkovich'. Seriously, it's a trippy, odd, but incredibly awesome movie.

- We also have 'magic by numbers'. There's thousands of magicians doing the same tricks, ambitious card, invisible deck, ring flight, double cross.

- What I want for you, if you want to make your magic more unique, and more artistic, is to add more of yourself to the performance. Here's three really quick tips:
1. Perform the tricks that excite you, not just the ones that are popular.
2. Write all your own scripts.
3. Ignore others who claim to tell you 'what works' and instead discover it for yourself. You'll need patience, as this takes years and years of exploration. But if you're like me, that's the part that feels like the biggest achievement.

- For me, I often say that magic is the way that I communicate with the world. It's the way that I say, this is me, I was here, and this is all the things I was interested in outside of magic.

- I have routines that talk about baking, comedy, art, secrecy, encryption, conspiracy theories and other anomalies, and a whole lot more. What excites you? What do you want to say?

- Start by being more open and sharing an insight into who you are. As with anything, these things take time, so even if you start with adding just one unique line, that's great. That's one line more than the person who just copied their whole act as written in the instructions of the book, dvd or trick they just bought. But you can't buy personality.

- I promise if you start adding more of you, into your magic routines, you will become a better performer. I'm going to say it again, people are more interested in people than they are in things.

- So, what is the purpose of magic? When you could spend your time doing any number of other things? As I've said, for me performance is a way for me to communicate with my audiences. But why magic? Because, I hope also to grasp them by the hand and lead them into a world where for a few moments at least anything is possible.

- What is magic to you? I hope this podcast has helped you to have some further thoughts on this topic. At the very least you might disagree with me completely and that's 100% fine. Now you know what magic is not.

- The purpose of magic to you is something very personal, but I hope I've helped.

- If you are enjoying the ideas and thoughts I'm offering in these podcasts, then please share them with your magician friends, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from.

- Oh and don't forget to check out the blog posts that accompanies each episode. That's where I add all the links, plus the extra notes I think of afterwards. You can find that, plus all the previous episodes at edsumner.com/magicians

- Until next time, thanks for listening.

Additional Show Notes

- I mentioned in the podcast to think about what you want to share with your audiences, but here's another way of thinking about things, what do you not want to share? what's painful or scary? Sometimes that's where the great art is. If you're heart's not pounding, then are you really being fully open and expressive? That's something for you to think about but remember, people are more interested in people than things.

- Here's a few links to things mentioned in this episode:

Winston Churchill Story

Being John Malkovich on Rotten Tomatoes / The Guardian

And here are some videos:


Being John Malkovich Trailer (seriously, watch this movie, if you haven't already!)

"The central vehicle for the transfer of emotional intelligence is culture."

simplemente increible

Related podcasts

- Episode 010 - Are you performing magic or doing tricks?

- writing your own material [link to come]

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