There’s a lot of reasons we’re proud to be magicians. The art has enhanced our lives in so many different ways, from the way we can size up situations instantly, to the way we share joy and beauty with all sorts of people.
David Copperfield reminded us of another reason we’re proud.
The legendary illusionist, who has inspired so many modern magicians, wrote a column for the New York Times about the power of magical thinking. It’s a testament to how magic profoundly affects the human psyche.
“My fellow artists and I are here to create, if only for an hour or two, a concord among every member of the audience. Art has the ability to unite people into a collective mind. That’s the real magic, what those in the hate business can’t countenance.”
In making his point, he takes a trip through history, and how people have tried to suppress art, from how King James I in 1584 tried to destroy all copies of a book about sleight of hand to how a street magician was beheaded by terrorists in Syria. He also ties in other pop culture and efforts to suppress it, from the hacking of Sony Pictures to the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
And for those who think Copperfield has never had to deal with any of those issues, they would be wrong. He tells a story about a trip to mid-1990s Moscow, where the Russion Orthodox Church claims his upcoming performance there is anti-religion.
Of course he won them over.
“Boris N. Yeltsin invites me to the Kremlin. When I arrive, who’s there but the patriarch, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Through interpreters we talk, we hang, titles and official roles fading as the night (and the vodka) wears on. At the end of night, the patriarch smiles and gives me the thumbs up. We’d started as strangers, suspicious of each other, and ended as pals. He realized I’m not Satan’s emissary, just a hard-working guy from New Jersey, as controversial (and, I hope, as entertaining) as a Cole Porter melody.”
His column is definitely worth the read, because it reminds us that we magicians are on the frontlines of a war against division. All that practice, all those performances; every business card we pass, every card we have signed, torn and restored — it all works toward bonding people together, and sharing a beautiful experience.
“Those of us in the entertainment business have a duty to vanish the idea that there’s an “us” and a “them.” When audiences unite in joy and wonder, you realize that the key isn’t the suspension of disbelief, but the suspension of divisive beliefs.”
Thanks for that reminder, David. Bravo.