Making Magic Real

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Sharing with you the transcript of my talk e given to the graduating EM students of UA&P. The first paragraph is something that will be appreciated by those who experienced the school.

Before we start, I want to give everyone a quick tour down memory lane. Back in 1995 when I was a freshman, UA&P was known as CRC or Center for Research and Communication. The CAS garden was still a driveway, and ACB was non-existent. When ACB was erected, we called it CAB, short for kabila ng CAS. The big parking building was an open parking space that turns into a mud pond during rainy season. The school was still a smoking campus. You just go out you room if you want a smoke. You can even buy cigarettes from the head guard. The ledge beside the entrance of CAS was only for the all-male EM student. But there was a time when the whole ledge was reserved for the EM students.

A lot changed but the core message of the school, blaze a trail, has not, just like my message today. It is not something new but a reminder which I think is much needed in our culture and society today.

If you watch movies or sitcoms made in today’s world, even the messages promoted on media, there are 2 prevailing ideas: you need to do things on a big scale and the need to be in control of things. My talk today is not about how to be successful or even about taking control, in fact, it is counterculture. It is about the other way around. This is what I propose: Do the little things and allow the unexpected, then you will experience magic in real life.

Magic has been my hobby for a long time now. It is a hobby I picked up from my dad. There are different types of magic: close up, parlor and stage. I do close up magic, I manipulate little objects like cards and coins.

What fascinates me about magic are 2 reasons: the wonder I get every time I see a good routine. Think about the last magic you saw that astonished you, that feeling is unlike any other feeling in this world and that same feeling is also the reason why I do magic, to bring and share magical moments. The other reason why magic fascinates me, is its philosophy and how it relates to life, which is where I draw my inspiration for today’s talk.

We all know that magic is not real, that behind every effect is a clever trick created to astonish or fool you. No, I do not fool people, I want to use magic to make them wonder. Now, why is it that every time we see magic, we feel astonished or amazed and even believe that some supernatural powers are behind the trick? That is because magic makes us experience the impossible and the unexpected, to see in front of us events that defy logic, a miracle: a coin disappears, a man walks through the great wall of China, or a thought of card, lost int the deck, appears in the most impossible location.

(Demo and analysis) Let me show you what I mean. I will not be doing magic but one of you will.

Wouldn’t it be great if we make magic real? So here are the 2 ways on how to make magic (to experience the impossible happen).

The magical moment that happened in the demonstration is because of the magic of little things and the magic of the unexpected. Let me start with the little things.

Magic happens because of the little things and moves magicians do that go unnoticed: The flicking of hands, the turning of head, and the waving of the fingers that manage the attention, or the subtleties that magicians do to convince you of a certain reality. All these little things put together leads to magical moments. The same principle applies to life.

The people who have made a dent in the universe believe in the magic of little things: one is the great painter Van Gogh who said, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” And then you have the great poet Maya Angelou who said, “courage-you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.” Here you see, how greatness comes from the magic of little things.

Yes, little things, small work, lead to magic, to greatness. Just like in real life. However, this is counter to our culture which teaches us that we need to do big things, we need to have big vision, we need to be the most, we need to create a big impact, we need to influence, we need to change the world. Yes, it is good to go big, it’s good to have a big dream. I did not say be lazy. But this culture of big has undermined the power and magic of little daily tasks that build discipline, that build your effort muscle. This culture has put focus only on the big and the most. It led people to justify illegal means, to satisfy what they think is an end. It has disappointed people who judge themselves by the scale of their action because they think they are not enough.

This leads me to say we should not judge the little tasks and the necessary little things we need to do daily. As St. Escriva puts it, “Do not judge by the smallness of the beginnings. My attention was once drawn to the fact that there is no difference in size between seeds that give annual plants and those that will grow into ageless trees.”

In real life the little things that lead to magical moments are the little work we do for others like cooking for the family, bringing the children to school, treating a friend to lunch. Sometimes it is also about changing our little faults before changing the big social problems. Sometimes it is about fixing your bed before fixing the community. All these little things lead to moments that let others, and you, experience magical moments.

If we want to experience magic in real life, we need to give importance to the little things, those that go unnoticed, the things we do not want to do, the things we want others to do for us. In other words, we need to do the little things, the little tasks that are required of us because those little tasks create miracles in our lives. As Saint Francis of Assisi puts it, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The magic of the unexpected.

The magician’s code tells us not to share the secret and not to repeat the magic, the reason is to maintain the mystery. If you already know what the effect of the magic will be from the start, if you know a coin is to disappear, the moment will no longer be magical. This is the magic of the unexpected. The prolific writer, Paulo Coelho, puts it this way, “We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

When watching a magic show and unexpectedly, the coin transforms into silk, the audience will be in disbelief, then astonished. Unexpected transformation is magic. This is true in real life; we experience magic when we are transformed. Now, this pandemic is an unexpected event, something we did not welcome, and something we were forced to accept. It has transformed lives of many people. It has transformed businesses. It transformed schools. Some have gained, some have lost. Is it magical? Yes, to those who see meaning in the transformation. No to those who are still grieving and to those who still find it impossible to see something meaningful behind the painful event. However, I am hopeful that one day they look back and see that the painful journey was part of the magical transformation.

The unexpected is something we do not want in our culture today because we want everything in our control. That is what we were taught and made to believe. We don’t want to be disappointed, and we cannot bear the anxiety brought about by the unknown. We want to have explanation for everything, and we disregard those that we cannot logically explain as superstition. We want to satisfy ourselves the power to be in control. This gave rise to scientism, the belief that everything can be turned into an equation; that science can explain everything or the answer to all. I have nothing against science, in fact, I am thankful to science for what we have today but to believe that science is the answer to everything is not the way to go. If we go down this route, and try to control everything, we shut down the door that lets magic happen in our lives.

Making magic real means giving up what we cannot control and allowing God to work his magic in our lives, or at least accepting that we are not in control. To let go means letting God take care of the rest after doing everything humanly possible. It is not doing nothing at all.

Whatever that transformation or magic is, will happen in the most unusual time, when we least expect it. Nobody knows when and where. The beauty of magic lies in its unpredictability. The more mysterious, the more unexpected, the more magical it will be. You will know it when it happens, but you must first change the way you see, then what you see changes. As Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the chocolate factory said, “watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Today’s talk brings you to the place where the road forks. You can go back to common wisdom and pretend nothing happened and follow the old template, or take the other road, and make real magic happen with the little things and the unexpected.

I leave you with these words from Albert Einstein, “there are only 2 ways to live your life, as though nothing is a miracle or as though everything is a miracle.”