Wisdom in Magic


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Magic is considered by many as a childish hobby, but I feel lucky to have chosen magic as a stress relief hobby. You know why?

Not because I can fool people or astonish them but for the books written by magicians who are teachers and philosophers such as Eugene Burger. His persona is an acquired taste. He is on the other side of those you see on stage. His magic is deep, reflective, and most of the time, dark, but the power of his magic comes from psychology and the way he connects with the audience.

I have read his articles, interviews and conversations and here are my takeaways.

1. ON THEORY & PRACTICE

“In my twenties, I was deeply influenced by the traditional Buddhist teaching that right thinking must precede right action. In other words, if our thinking is confused, how can we expect those actions which spring from that thinking to be clear and focused? To me, this has always seemed a most profound question. And the answer Buddhists gave was that we can’t expect clarity of action to follow from confusion in thought.If our thinking is confused, our actions must be confused as well. In magic, for example, if my goal is to produce real impact upon an audience, shall I then read the explanation of a magic effect in a book and immediately attempt to perform it without prior practice, rehearsal and thought? If I do, the result will almost always be a disaster. To produce impact on an audience with a magic effect always requires prior thinking. And the better and more cunning our thinking, the greater the impact our magic will have.”

2. ON TAKING ADVICE

“Absolutely! Don’t listen to too many people. I listen to three people in my magical world when it comes to putting a magic presentation together. I listen to Max Maven and Jeff McBride. I’m very willing to take direction from them. That’s another thing. You have to be willing to be open to take direction from people.”

3. ON CREATIVITY

“Put that way, sure it is foreign! Heidegger, for example, said humans are existentially thrown into existence. Thrown-ness is one of the basic descriptions of the human situation. We’re thrown into life and we find ourselves in this world — and that very fact produces anxiety.

Well, that’s one way of looking at it, but for me a more interesting way is to say that we grew here. We’re all part of what’s growing here. The trees the grass and you! That’s a little friendlier and not quite as combative as being thrown into existence with all this anxiety. When it gets right down to it, how much can you really accomplish in magic by an act of will. You can accomplish certain things, very important things. For instance, it’s an act of will that will put you on a rehearsal schedule.

So I think, structurally, acts of will are very important. Either I’m going to do it or I’m not. But when we move away from structure and talk about content, I don’t know. I just don’t find that I can grit my teeth and tense my muscles and come up with a good magic presentation.”

4. ON WORK. (my personal favorite)

“Romany: Eugene, you’ve been performing magic full-time for 25 years now…

Eugene: 25 years plus.

What is the most important lesson that you’ve learnt in that time?

(Smiles) To make the magic that I do appear important to the people who see it.”

There are more profound essays to be found on his books and internet. Not only magicians can benefit from this but those who are looking to improve their craft and life.

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