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 Post subject: Is magic really worth it? (essay by sirbrad)
PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 5:46 am 
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I know what your thinking, of course it is! How on earth could magic not be worth it? Well this is a thought I have had for many years, especially while growing up and having little money to buy the "next great" effect, book, or DVD. I tend to ask myself this question quite often, and still have not been able to grasp the true answer entirely. We as magicians spend a ton of money on magic equipment, as well as invest a ton of time into practicing this art diligently in order to make others believe in the impossible.

The question is why? Is it because we want people to think we have special powers far beyond that of mere mortals? Do we like all the attention we get from our proposed miracles? Is it good for our ego's when we are able to mystify, and amaze an unsuspecting individual, or group of people? What drives us to keep coming back? The joyful interaction amongst peers? Bringing sheer happiness to people by making them believe they have witnessed a true miracle? Is it a combination of all the above?

Before I began performing magic professionally on a more consistent basis, and was simply a magic hobbyist, I found that I was not doing magic for as many people that I would have liked to. I was always "striving for more" so to speak. In fact I would show my family my newest effects, and they were bewildered, awe struck, and gasped with amazement, but of course all of the fuss eventually subsided.

They talked about it for a few minutes, and then it was over. So I showed the same effects to my friends next, and produced almost the same results, and then the memories of these spectacular feats of the impossible were soon faded ones. I eventually ended up with a pile of tricks, tricks that were already shown to everyone I associated with on a frequent basis. As a hobbyist, this seemed like a waste to me. Unless I got out there and performed a heck of a lot more, and for a lot of people on a daily basis, I now had a pile of useless tricks.

Now as a kid living outside of a small town with no transportation, or much money, there is not a whole heck of a lot of options. I was limited to a very small group of people, and my friends at school. So I could not exactly "get out there" so to speak. It seems as though after all the hard work I had put into my magic, I got some great reactions, lived up the moment, but then it was all gone. The fact is most people have short term memories. I tested out this "theory" before it became fact, by asking the people whom I had performed for to tell me what their favorite effect was that they saw me perform.

I asked this months down the road, and sometimes even years, and although some were able to describe some of my magic in vivid detail, most were like "Um I don't know, the one where...you...make the card....change into a different one in my hand." Which brings up another question. How long does the audience in general actually carry that feeling of astonishment with them? It seems as though most forget all about it the next day, others will remember what you did for the rest of their lives. Regardless of how well you presented it, some people just simply do not care, or won't be bothered by it.

I am one of those who will always remember when that magician at a local fair made those two sponge balls appear in my hand twenty four years ago. I shared this magician's same enthusiasm immediately, and it was from that point on that I knew magic was to become my destiny, if it was not already decided for me.

This is one of the reasons I have gotten to where I am with magic today, because I did not "forget." I absorbed that moment of astonishment into the deep recesses of my mind, and it seemed to take control of me and motivate me to achieve all that I have achieved today on my long continuous magic journey. I would stop at nothing, until I too was able to create that same sense of wonderment in others that had been instilled in me. I wanted others to feel that same sense of extreme gratification that they had just witnessed the impossible, yet at the same time we knew better.

So why do some just simply pass it off as not important, yet for others it could change their entire life? Is all the effort put forth truly worth it? Well I guess if you can make a positive impact, or difference in just ONE person's life, then I would say it is all worth it in the end.

Now ask yourself these same questions. What keeps you coming back? Why are you able to just buy that twenty dollar 'twenty five cent' piece only to later pass it off as nothing more than twenty five cents? Is it all truly worth it? What makes magic worth it to "you?" I wrote this to inspire those to look deep within themselves and try and find answers as to why they have invested so much of themselves into this great art. What is the true payoff, and does the payoff live up to, or exceed the price?


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 5:53 am 
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When I worked a regular 'wage slave' job I could not get enough of magic, nor could I perform it enough. Then when I went full-time with magic at first, it seemed as though I wanted to do 'other things' more all of the sudden. It has always been hard for me to find that happy medium so to speak, where I wasn't being overloaded with magic, nor was I neglecting it too much.

No doubt the entertainment value of it all is very pleasing to say the least, but I more so ask myself the question, Is it all really worth trying to sell myself as this type of "character" overall? What makes us strive so hard to become masters of deception, and why do we want people to believe something "magical" has just occured?

They are the questions I have asked myself for a long time, and even more so presently. It is tough to find an honest answer to all of them, and it seems as though the deeper you look, the more confused you become. Sure I am just as "selfless" as any magi out there, and most of the reason I do magic is to indeed make others happy, and to entertain them. But I was trying to grasp why magicians choose to devote so much time to pleasing others? Is this a born personality trait, or something that is acquired over time as one grows with the art and matures?

Obviously magicians do magic for their own personal enjoyment as well, and not just solely 100% to make other's happy. Heck if we didn't enjoy practicing that tough new sleight, or well honed routine, we would be miserable the whole time. Personally if I didn't enjoy what I was doing, I would not last very long, nor would I be doing it simply just to please others.

Sometimes magic sets you up for disappointment as well, such as maybe a spectator gave you a great reaction one night, and in fact this provided you with great satisfaction, and a good stroke of the magic ego, only to have another spectator perhaps give you a blase' reaction the next day after you perfectly executed one of your effects/sleights.

Course you will not always get the perfect spectator, and you are expected to just move on, but that emotional baggage could possibly remain with you through the rest of the night, and even have a negative impact on your performance. Also a potentially disasterous outcome could turn out for the best as well, so it is a double edged sword for the most part.

Of course if we have done quality magic, and we know we have done quality magic, there is not much more we can do I guess in the event of a poor outcome. But, since we are basing our assumptions on 'reactions,' a question that arises is do negative reactions, or lack of any type of reaction make what we are doing seem any less in value to us as magicians?

What if the audience is in actuality completely joyous, yet are stone faced, and possibly even expressionless on the exterior? Even though we did everything correctly, should we feel a sense of failure for not getting that great reaction that we all so desire?

Now if we are doing it "just " for the people, wouldn't we be a little upset with these circumstances? However if we were doing it for ourselves as well, maybe we would not be as upset because we simply enjoy performing regardless of the outcome, or response. So the question being, if we do not get the response we are hoping for, was it all worth it? Was all the time, and money spent worth it?

Thinking about this on a deeper plain makes me begin to realize that it is not about only the audience, but about the magi as well. He/she is creating the wonder afterall, and is not just some robot up there going through the motions, nor should he/she be.

If we don't love what we are doing regardless of the outcome, why should we even do it? I think a lot of magi do not want to admit that they actually enjoy their art, and they are only all about providing enjoyment to others, but if that truly was the case they would be nothing more than monkeys on a string for the purpose of other's amusement. I am not doubting most magicians do not love what they do, but it seems like many do not want to admit to it.

I think by trying to make everyone else think that they are simply doing it "for the people" is a far better illusion than their entire magic act itself. Who are they trying to fool though, themselves, or just others? I am really not sure what I am trying to insinuate here, but hopefully some will be able to make some sense of it all.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:03 am 
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As far as reaction goes, sometimes people simply do not "know how" to react, or "when" to react. Heck some don't even know they are suppose to react at all! Another thought that comes to mind is, is mystifying an audience actually entertainment to "them?"

Sometimes I believe that fooling the audience, or in their terms maybe, "pulling one over on them" seem to be more entertaining for the magi than for the unsuspecting laymen. Is performing a miraculous feat that they can find no plausible explanation for really entertaining to them, or simply frustrating?

Sure they might express sheer joy for a few minutes or so, but put yourself into their places for a second. Would you not be frustrated if you had to go home and think about the alleged miracle you just saw all night, and not be able to come up with some feasible explanation?

As magicians. sometimes we are blown away by a new effect that we see, and we simply cannot wait to buy that effect, or the source to that effect so that we can learn it. True there is a difference between a magician wanting to know, or "needing to know," than a laymen needing to know, but isn't this basically the same thought process? We as magi will most likely know eventually, however they will most likely "never know."

They most likely will move on with their lives however, as magic is not a constant thought process running through their mind every day such as the case with a magic enthusiast, but the thought of what they once saw could come back to haunt them, and maybe even be quite torturous. So the point I am trying to make is, just how "entertaining" is being shown something that you cannot come up with any logical, or scientific explanation for? Is the audience really entertained, or simply made to feel stupid? I guess this all varies from person to person, and no two cases are ever the same.

Some may have stronger desires to "want to know," others may simply just accept it for what it is, "magic." So the real question is, who are we really entertaining, the audience, or ourselves? Is the "high" that we feel as performers after we have pulled off a miraculous feat of the impossible, equal to, or greater than the joy felt by the spectator?

Will that potential joy turn into frustration later, become even more joyous, or just simply forgotten? What one gets out of magic seems to vary a great deal from performer to performer. Seems as though how much one gets out of magic, or how much one invests into it has an influence on their overall general attitude towards it. Course this attitude, or interest so to speak can fluctuate either way over any given period of time.

Most laymen cannot appreciate the hard work, or values that go into this art, because they lack the knowledge of what is actually happening, but if you would reveal the "secret" to them they would actually be even less impressed, and even annoyed that they were stumped by such a simple, or basic method. They would be like "Oh is that all you did?"

Which actually makes magic's 'secrets' very important, and why they are so closely guarded. No one likes to be fooled for the most part, and they especially do not like being showed how dumb they were by not being able to see through what was merely a 'simple trick.' In fact they will actually lose respect for you, and just tell others "he doesn't know magic, he just does confusing puzzles."

Just thought I would pick everyone's brain on this a little bit, as it really does provoke one to think a little deeper, and outside the box if you will, hope you enjoyed what is probably the longest essay in penguin history! :)


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:24 am 
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born to perform.

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sirbrad wrote:
Sure they might express sheer joy for a few minutes or so, but put yourself into their places for a second. Would you not be frustrated if you had to go home and think about the alleged miracle you just saw all night, and not be able to come up with some feasible explanation?



Thats how we get more business from other people, because they want another chace to figure it out or they want to enjoy seeing it again!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:42 am 
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benlewis2004 wrote:
sirbrad wrote:
Sure they might express sheer joy for a few minutes or so, but put yourself into their places for a second. Would you not be frustrated if you had to go home and think about the alleged miracle you just saw all night, and not be able to come up with some feasible explanation?



Thats how we get more business from other people, because they want another chace to figure it out or they want to enjoy seeing it again!


True, but little do they know we won't be repeating that same effect again regardless of how much they beg. Right? :) Speaking of which, why has there not been an essay forum implented here yet?


Last edited by sirbrad on Thu Feb 17, 2005 11:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:48 am 
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Also I don't think clients call us back to try and 'figure out our tricks,' per se. They call us back because they want to be captivated by more magic! It is not like they all form a tight circle around you, and say "Ok lets bust this chump guys, he ain't gettin us this time!"


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 9:42 am 
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SirBrad, I always enjoy your articles and essays.
I have had friends ask me why I spend time doing magic.
When I perform and see someone smile it just makes my day.
I have been able to meet some really nice people this way as well.
The feeling that I get from magic can't really be expressed in words.
It's just felt..


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 9:52 am 
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born to perform.

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I just love entertaining people, sharing my character and interacing with different people. Thethrill I get from peforming is something that is so unbelivable it can't be explained in words as keithamosX said.

Good essay! :D


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 10:33 am 
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wow, that will keep me thinking for a while!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 10:51 am 
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I enjoy magic because what it does for me and for others. For me it keeps me on a track, a road that i will stay on, it helps me perform well in school, and stay away from bad things. As for others, when performing it takes the person to a place where there is no fear, no worrying, no problems. It takes them to a place filled with wonder, and amazment. I will keep doing magic because how it makes me feel. Every time I perform and get a great reaction, it sticks with me, that feeling is such a strong feeling that i strive to maintain it by performing for others. And for this reason i will do magic for years to come.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 11:23 am 
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When I perform, I really present the trick as if I don't want to trick them, mor entertain. This could be compared to a comedian, why do they do it? They just love the feeling of people laughing at their jokes. Does the fun stay a long time? No, the fun is jst when the comedian is performing. The same is with magic. Also, will the audience of the comedian remember the jokes? Most likely not. Just like magic.

Why do I perform?

I love standing in front of an audience talking, I love the rush when accomplishing an effect and I love the reactions of the audience. This keeps me motivated.

What do spectators think of magic?
Most of them see it as a way of entertainement. Magic takes them to a world they can't understand and if the setting is right they will have the time of their life and remember the feeling of magic. Of course, the presentation and environment can make them see you as someone who wants to trick them and then, they wont remember you for so long, but to make them remember you it is good to emotionally move them in your presentations and shows.

Thant's what I think!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 12:21 pm 
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It's a good essay and very well written at that.

For the question part, why do you enjoy food?

Why is your favorite color green?


You can't really come up with answer for these things. You enjoy what you enjoy.

Of course you can rationalize that if I like soccer, then I must like being active and being in a team and lalala. But bottom line is, I just like the sport :)


Why do women like flowers? You know?


With that said, my grandfather showed me a magic trick, where he would guess the card I picked, and he never told me how he did it, so I always wanted to find out, since I was very little :)

I am actually still not sure how he did it, but I do have a good grip on how most card tricks are done and there is some sense of loss in that as well.

It'll take me at least another year to spend enough time to actually perform to anyone outside my family, where I can afford to screw up. So it's like, you are let in on the secret, the magic of it is gone, yet you cannot bring that magic feeling to others, sucks :P

So now that I have pretty much learned how 95% of card tricks are done, was it worth finding out, what did I get out of it or what do I get out of it now? I don't know... Curiosity killed the cat.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 4:44 pm 
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i find that a discussion with the spectators is really good. recently i performed a bunch of mentalism for a bunch of psychology students and talking about magic, psychological cues and other things really heightened the performance. i dont do many readings, but when i do, its in these situations


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:28 pm 
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Great Essay. I really think you've on on a couple key notes here. I read it twice - 100% pure joy.

Ben


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2005 6:51 pm 
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Very good essay. I don't think i ever fully will be able to answer why i started doing magic. It started for me when a cousin did a trick where he would call out a card and have me touch one out of a spread deck and he would always get it right. I now know how he did it but its what sparked my interest. I probably started because i didn't know how it was done, and that bothered me. But now i preform for the joy of preforming and making ppl laugh and smile. It makes my day.


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