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Alan Wheeler
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Lawrence O, Happy Birthday from October 23, 2007--a year and a half ago!
I am sorry to disappoint you but here was my definition of magic at that time:

Magic = a performance art giving unexplainable experiences of the impossible.

1. Presentation and Theater = performance
2. Beauty, Truth, Expression = art giving an
3. Mystery, secret, unknown = unexplainable
4. live connection, real contact= experience of the
5. supernatural effect or miracle= impossible

At the time, I felt that if the word "unexplainable" was redundant, then I could make the definition shorter. But I think the word helps separate our magic from magic in movies and stories.

More than the definition, I like to keep in mind the elements that I do not want to leave out--presentation, art, mystery, connection, and impossibility. I think on a trick-by-trick or show-by-show basis, these elements merge, fuse, become superimposed on each other in a way that somewhat defies analysis. The persona will become part of the method by creating shadow and moments of tension/relaxation. The connection and communication becomes part of the effect in places. The meaning and message arises from the theme (substantive meaning), from the conflict (situational meaning), as well as from the magic (impossible effect) itself. [The terms substantive and situational meaning come from _Strong Magic_ by Ortiz.]

Rather than a two-section Yin and Yang image, I see all these elements working together to build up that impossible experience--could it perhaps be called a Ying/Yang/Yeng/Yong/Yung?

I am eager to learn more in both theory and practice.
The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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Lawrence O
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Getting into your logic, I would propose:

Magic = a performing art shaking truths verified by personal experience with progressive consistent proofs enabling to share, live, experiences of impossible causes to effects relationship with both ends carrying their part of the responsibility

1. Presentation and Theater = performing
2. Beauty, Expression, Emotions = art
3. Belief established by general knowledge and personal experience = truths verified by personal experience
4. Facts progressively organized, undeniable proof = progressive consistent proofs
5. Live dialog with the audience = sharing, live, experiences
6. supernatural effect or miracle= impossible cause to effect relationship.
7. Magicians are triggering audiences' imagination = responsibility for a shared moment


That can't be true because it's against everything I know from experience.
That must be true because I allowed you to just irrefutably prove it by making it happen right in front of me.
Both ends sharing an experience cannot avoid their responsibility in creating a temporary flawed impossible cause to effect relationship


Thus we are not far off the mark
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
Michael Kamen
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It is true that the audience shares the responsibility factually. However, to the extent that they may awake and feel taken, I do not think we can afford to leave them with that responsibility.
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Lawrence O
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Who is it too big an ethical responsibility for to leave them with the responsibility of wanting to believe something they know they cannot believe?
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Lawrence O
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What is magic
Thank to you all, I think I finally got a viable definition of the word and solved the definition enigma.

Magic = the voluntarily unspecified oxymoron referring to the dilemma created by a performing art tearing apar truths verified by personal experience, thanks to allocated consistent proofs progressively enabling to share "live" experiences of unnatural cause-to-effects relationship.

Hence both the spectators and the performer carry their part of the responsibility for the dilemma.

Defining the concept (as opposed to defining the word) would force this mythical oxymoron to fall on one of its two sides (supernatural powers or physical skill) destroying the balanced unity needed for the concept itself to exist. Only the word can be defined but not the concept which permanently remains in balance like the concept of "god", "love" which defy any definition or are, in some cultures, forbidden to define.

Any comment or refutation?
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Michael Kamen
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First I want to seek some clarity. You are mentioning a "shared responsibility with the audience for the dilemma." I responded to this perhaps without fully considering the implications. I would argue that given ethical boundaries around leaving the audience with false evidence of the supernatural, the performer has 100% of the responsibility to prevent this, by creating the dilemma in such a way as to allow them, in falling off the "horns" (which they are very likely to do, eventually or sooner), on the side of reason, and that if they choose otherwise, that is 100% their own responsibility. Does that work?
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Jonathan Townsend
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I like the notion of the dilemma here in that if you look up "taking the bull by the horns" and the ancient Minoan sport of Bull Jumping...

you get something close to that parable about footsteps on the beach.

no bull.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Lawrence O
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Hi Mickael
The performer is not "leaving the audience with false evidence of the supernatural" in any way: he is leaving them having used their imagination to experience an "unnatural cause-to-effects relationship", a feeling they want to have and that you are delivering for them.

"Unnatural cause-to-effects relationship" is not "supernatural power of the magician": I get the feeling that you are addressing your self centered ethical fear or ethical social image here! Stay with the audience's desire to be entertained.

If there is no shade of a doubt about the fact that the effect could be purely and only technical or only due to skill or sleight of hand: there is no ambivalence and THERE IS NO DILEMMA LEFT with them (the magic Michael: THIS is the MAGIC!). We would have unethically fooled them in suggesting that we would deliver some magic but would deliver our boasting ego. IMHO this is not magic it's ego (granted hiding behind flawed ethics).

In the proposed definition, we are just showing something they badly want to see (they figured it out under your lead) but that they know by themselves to be false: it was constructed by them in their imagination, and they know it. No supernatural power of the performer: there are three parties involved (them, the performer and "Magic") They know they don't have any magical power and, with due respect that you don't either (especially since you don't claim it). Let's keep a tighter leash on our dragons... No cruisade to be made here (Lol)
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Lawrence O
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Quote:
On 2009-02-16 17:09, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
I like the notion of the dilemma here in that if you look up "taking the bull by the horns" and the ancient Minoan sport of Bull Jumping...

you get something close to that parable about footsteps on the beach.

no bull.


Do you mean the Jules De Barros poem "where there is only one trace in the sand, it's the days when I carried you..."? ? ?
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Michael Kamen
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Yes, I see what you mean given your,
"Magic = . . .enabling to share "live" experiences of unnatural cause-to-effects relationship. "

So, putting my dragon-like ego on the tightest possible leash, how do you establish that the cause-to-effects relationships shared live, are unnatural?

And regarding not claiming supernatural powers, every time we wave the magic wand (or establish similar moments when the "magic" occurs) we are saying we have supernatural powers. I assume you are countering that somehow. Please indulge my excessively egoistic ethical bent by acknowledging that.
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Lawrence O
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"every time we wave the magic wand (or establish similar moments when the "magic" occurs) we are saying we have supernatural powers"
I disagree here. When we mark the magic moment, we only do two things:
We set the magic moment (not one of your spectator ever ever believed that your wand or your magical formula was the real cause or teh effect, but they need an imaginary cause to be entertained otherwise their logic gets frustrated. They don't think tha when John Carney snaps his fingers this really casues a sponge ball to appear, they don't believe that when Al Goshman, after Charlie Miller, was saying the magical formula " and like a ghost gets through the wall of an ancient castle..." it makes the coin to travel under a salt shaker. Take a glass of fresh water and get your well sturtured analytical mind afoot: if they don't believe in it why would they need it? They want to see the "MAGIC": something they know to be false but that is away from the constraints of nature that they resent (having to work, to carry, to suffer, to be responsible...)

Now, admittedly, we set at a late stage the earliest point that their memory recorder will reach (everything before that was contextual) if our entertainment job was imperfect and if they attempt to logically rewind the facts in they minds. In other words we organize for them to keep the dilemma even after they "land" (it will just be less vivid, it it will remain there).
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Jonathan Townsend
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Quote:
On 2009-02-16 18:11, Lawrence O wrote:...

Do you mean the Jules De Barros poem "where there is only one trace in the sand, it's the days when I carried you..."? ? ?


Yes, we know what the horns on the bull are and how unsafe it can be to us/them to get trampled/gored etc... so IMHO what we do is lead them (or carry) them through the entire jump and it is our character which has a firm grip on the horns during the jump and then puts them down safely at the end of the show.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Michael Kamen
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Ok, thank you -- I had a glass of water, that was a good idea. "They want to see the "MAGIC": something they know to be false but that is away from the constraints of nature that they resent (having to work, to carry, to suffer, to be responsible...)" You are describing a desirable characteristic of your ideal audience. These folks are also more fragile than you give them credit for.

I think Jonathan has nailed it. They do not take John Carney seriously, because he does not take himself seriously. It is his performance character, so brilliantly over the top, who spoofs himself and in so doing makes the implicit disclaimer. I would say the same about Juan Tamariz. Both these performers create strong magic (strong in the dilemma), by articulating through their comical personalities, that this is all in fun. Whit would probably say that these trimmings just make the dilemma easier to bear, and he would be right. But I feel that they also convey the "wink and nod" that Whit displays in his own Pop character, that balances against the "no other explanation" side of the equation. In spite of my over-sized ego, I recognize that I am not so learned, and there are many other examples, each with their own way of making the point that, "there is no such thing as magic." In all humility (for me anyway), I believe they (or some other technique serving the same function) are critical to avoid falling into inadvertant charlatanry (from the audience perspective, not the performer's intent). It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I would add there must be method to our madness.
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Lawrence O
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Now I agree 100%, only adding that no matter how big an ego gets, it always meet another one to match it... Smile
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Michael Kamen
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Now I am blushing, and too honored!
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Alan Wheeler
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Quote:
On 2009-02-16 18:49, Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Quote:
On 2009-02-16 18:11, Lawrence O wrote:...

Do you mean the Jules De Barros poem "where there is only one trace in the sand, it's the days when I carried you..."? ? ?


Yes, we know what the horns on the bull are and how unsafe it can be to us/them to get trampled/gored etc... so IMHO what we do is lead them (or carry) them through the entire jump and it is our character which has a firm grip on the horns during the jump and then puts them down safely at the end of the show.


After 7 years and 700 posts, I finally [think] I understand one of Jonathan's posts!
Could it be because you created double jeopardy by phrasing the question in the form of an answer, my friend?
The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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Lawrence O
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Smile

I confused Jules de Barros with Adhémar de Barros

Here is the poem I was referring to (which doesn't mean that what Jonathan is presenting is arguable):

I had a dream on Christmas eve,
I was walking on the beach, next to my father.
Our steps were visible on the shore
Leaving a double imprint
Mine and my father's one;
The idea crossed my mind (it was a dream) that each of our steps
Represented a day of my life.
I stopped to look back
I saw all these tracks which were ending in the horizon,
But I noticed that in certain places,
Instead of two steps, there was only one.
I saw again the film of my life: Surprise!
The places of the unique imprint corresponded
To the darkest days of my existence.
Anxious days or bad-will days,
Egoism days or bad mood days;
Challenging and doubting days, unbearable days...
Days where, I as well, had been unbearable.
Then turning towards my father,
I dared addressing him criticism:
"You had promised us however
To be with us every day.
Why didn't you keep your word?
Why did you leave me alone at the worst possible moments of my life?
Aux jours où j'avais le plus besoin de ta présence?"
But my father answered:
"My friend,
The days when you see only one trace on the sand,
Are the days when I carried you".

Adhémar de Barros, Brazilian poet
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
Lawrence O
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I realize that the de Barros poem has put the thread off track, so let's put it back

Presenting “real magic”

So how can we define a form of “magic” that is not charlatanry. Before getting into such a definition let’s use a metaphor. There is nothing complicated about a metaphor: when we say “my computer crashed” or “he watch every move of mine like a hawk” or “No strings attached” or “he had his eyes riveted on my hands”, we are using metaphors: it’s just clearer than an intellectual explanation. A picture is worth a thousand words. Metaphors and similes are figures of speech used in creative communication to express thoughts in a non linear fashion to show to others with visuals what is happening in a situation. In fact we will demonstrate along the way that real magic and charlatanry are metaphors themselves. So let’s use one for representing “real magic” (as opposed to charlatanry).

Let’s suppose that we tie a long rope (no false knot here, just a regular honest simple tying), we obtain a long loop. Let’s now hand over one side of the loop to a spectator or an audience, the performer taking the other end. In our metaphor we now have three entities: the performer, the spectator and the loop which illustrates the magical theme. Now let’s suppose that the performer starts to let the rope circulate clockwise (or counter clockwise) between his hands and that the spectator, playing the game, goes along. The rope circulates between both of them. This circulation of the rope will represent “real magic” in our metaphor.

If the tension on the loop is too lose between the performer and the spectator, it means that the spectator is not “attracted” by what the performer is attempting on his side of the rope. He may play along and let circulate the rope but interest is low: magic needs a bit of acting showmanship to create a pleasant tension between the spectator and the magician. This is done by using emotional implications.

Now let’s suppose that the magician pulls too hard on the pulling side where the audience is supposed to give in. One thing immediately happens, the rope does not circulate freely any more with three possible outcomes: the spectator resists, blocking the “rotation of the rope” (real magic); or the spectator drops his end of the rope (he doesn’t participate emotionally any more); or the knot unties and the rope becomes a line (a demonstration with an end). Some spectators may keep watching the performer turning the rope in his own hand or pointing at the direction it ends into, but he no longer shares an experience of real magic by bringing his own input in the effect. These situations occur generally when the performer’s attitude is too challenging: when the attempt at dominating the spectators people are no longer emotionally involved in the magic. They watch something visual which fools their eyes but not their minds any more.

Thus for a good circulation of the rope certain criteria must be met:
There must be a soft tension supplied by showmanship which attracts the audience without blocking the circulation. How does the performer achieve this? He uses two types of moves. He releases rope on one side and pulls on the other. In magic the release of one side of the rope is concretely realized by the performer delineating the perception that he will disprove, as closely as possible with the spectators global perception (truth in the spectators’ eyes).

This is not done just initially but all along the demonstrated cause-to-effect relationship, corresponding to everything the spectators know on the subject and which has been confirmed by their experience. With the other hand however, the performer pulls the facts that he needs for his demonstrating something opposite to the rope he releases (the truth confirmed by personal experience) and he must obtain the consent of the spectator to freely release the facts opposing the “truth” so that the rope keeps on circulating. The pulling side is a paradox: it goes in an opposite direction to the “truth”. Most of these facts are supplied by the spectator accepting to suspend the disbelief that the performer is pulling on (he must not resist to release some of the rope even feeling that it goes against the “truth confirmed by his own experience”).

In magic as in life, facts are distinct and end up related between them only by a logical process which our imagination selects and supplies. It is our imagination which creates the necessary links: if, as an example, we place a coin from the right hand into the left (whether legitimately or not) the coin is initially visible, the moves convey the fact that it is placed there, then our imagination deducts from the fact that the right hand is now empty and that the moves visually reproduced our experience of transferring an object from right to left, and the left hand assumed a position that our image processing capacity describes to our imagination as the left hand holding the coin. This example aims at underlining that without the audience’s imagination consent to release some rope (the coin has been transferred), the magic stops: it could mean “show me that you really put it there” or more simply “why did you put it in there? Somehow I find it suspicious”. Circulation of the rope is either slowed down or blocked and, in any case, the spectators are no longer focused on the rope which the magician releases for their imagination, but on the paradoxical rope he is pulling.

It is essential to understand that for magic to exist, the audience has to take part in the process. The metaphor is rich in the sense that it is clear that the magician cannot do magic without this constant dialogue with the spectator. Allow me to repeat that if the spectator blocks the rope the demonstration stops and he will soon release his end of the rope: he will then possibly watch a demonstration of skill but there will be no magic because he will not have shared it and experienced it. Forever magicians did notice (not always analyzing why) that audience participation in an effect was making it more magical.

Magicians experience also shows that the pulling has to be progressive for the spectator to accept receiving it back on the other side. Actually part of the art is to focus the spectator on his receiving side, so that he doesn’t care so much about the type of rope he is releasing on the other hand. This is necessary because another ingredient of magical experience is that the audience knows from the start and all along that the magician is tricking the proof (the pulling side) but is more interested in what rope he is releasing (the effect). The art is to draw on the spectator’s imagination without them being wishing to block or analyze the process. The more they do, the more tension the performer gets on the pulling side (the causes) and the less on the delivering side (the effects). To produce a climax the magician progressively pulled more rope than he actually released and he then releases a length that the audience didn’t realized to exist.

To complete the metaphor it is finally essential to be impregnated with the fact that what is specific to magic is that the rope is a loop when for religions or science or ethics for example it’s a line with a direction. Just as the paradox goes back and forth between the performer and the spectator in opposite directions, it creates a circular dilemma in the spectator’s mind:

That can't be true because it's against everything I know from experience.
However it must have some form of truth because you could just consistently prove it by making it happen right in front of me.
But you admitted all along that the proof was flawed so can everything that I know from experience on this subject really be true if it can be denied live by a flawed proof?

This dilemma that remains circulating in the spectator’s mind is the magic effect. Showmanship and entertainment is what allowed the rope not to get blocked. Magic is the circulation process itself that was shared by the spectator to create the dilemma in his head: if the dilemma is explainable by any form of super natural abilities (whether agility, skill, mental powers, or telekinesis…), it is simply not achieved by “magic” which expresses “no solution”.

If a solution is offered, even only hinted, the knot unties, the rope becomes a line with an end. The art becomes a visual artistic demonstration. The dilemma has to end nowhere: if a solution is offered, even only hinted, the knot unties, the rope becomes a line with an end: it’s a philosophy or a religion at best, a performer’s need for recognition at worst and -possibly in between the surprising demonstration of impossible feat- thanks to the skill hinted. We then have lost the spectator’s participating imagination: he didn’t share an “experience of magic”, he just got manipulated into something.

A philosophy or a religion could be smart in using illusions along the way to illustrate a dilemma they contend to solve. It’s however no longer “magic” because a solution is offered where in magic, by definition, there is no solution. “Real magic” is an oxymoron, a figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms. Oxymoron is a loanword from Greek oxy ("sharp" or "pointed") and moros ("dull"). Thus the word oxymoron like “real magic” is itself an oxymoron.

DEFINITION

From the above we can now offer a definition for Real Magic. It is the oxymoron ending into a recurring dilemma created by a performing art tearing apart any truth verified by personal experience, thanks to consistent proofs progressively enabling to share, "live", experiences of an admittedly but undetectably flawed cause-to-effects relationship outside natural laws.

Thus the dilemma created by “real magic” can be symbolized by an Ouroboros: The Ouroboros (Greek Ουροβόρος, from ουροβόρος όφις "tail-devouring snake", is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon swallowing its own tail and forming a circle. The notion of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail can be traced back to Ancient Egypt, circa 1600 BC. From ancient Egypt it passed to Phoenicia and then to the Greek philosophers, who gave its name.

Carl Jung, in Collected Works, Vol. 14 para. 513 states “The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. Ouroboros, has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite”

Across cultures and times, the Ouroboros generally comes out as indicating the existence of an undifferentiated from where everything came out and return. Its meaning is double: it can illustrate a simple repetition where everything ends up returning to chaos: the guilt of being finite minds devours us in our need to grasp our infinitely organized time/space universe, which cannot be grasped by finite minds regenerating our guilt and turning into an eternal circle of reborn research and return to initial chaos. In a positive way it is a perpetual rebirth passing through the same death and resurrection phase enabling us to reach the undifferentiated which is beyond any form of opposed couples and that cannot be talked about for it escapes every categories of our logic.

Hence somehow it represents endless self-reflexivity or circularity, especially in the sense of an interrogation constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things perceived as circular that begin anew as soon as they end.
Showmanship incidence

An impossible cause-to-effect relationship, a paradox or an oxymoron, is proven in a perfectly progressive and consistent manner. Facts are chosen, progressively introduced and organized to form an undeniable tricked proof (Time displacement graph). Magic is a strategic exercise: it has a specific aim.

The belief established by general knowledge and personal experience must be well delineated both by rational and emotional perception. It has to concern a simply believed truth (looking for socially shared viewpoints is often a good track) verified by personal experience. Thus, in showmanship terms, the truth verified by personal experience must be exposed before the paradox

The effect must, in entertaining terms, result in a Whit Haydn circular dilemma: “real magic” forges an ouroboros. It’s not just “impossible”, the word used by Darwin Ortiz in Designing Miracles who properly pinpoint each of the needed processes without fully explaining what the “Miracles” of his book’s title consist in. It touches for entertainment purposes the religious dilemma of being finite in an infinite and infinitely organized Time/Space and the guilt attached to finitude.

Magic puts on show the Ouroboros of human knowledge: the better we know of the problems, the less we know of the solutions, the more we feel guilty and the more we need to know to evacuate the guilt… and the snake keep biting its tail.
Now “real magic” is not a philosophical or religious lecture: it’s just an art to present a paradox or an oxymoron in a theatrical way: real magic is just a performing art. It means putting on show, live, with someone at the both end of the loop, the sharing of human experiences and doubts with an absurd but deadly consistent logic. Like in every comedy, distress likes hiding behind humor and lightness. It cannot just be displayed without its meaning actually involving some spectators: it would otherwise fall into the charlatanry category. It would be a lecture by someone with the ability to solve the problem, it would no longer be due to this mysterious, hard to define thing called magic.

There are three parties involved in the tense loop of rope metaphor: at one end there is the performer, at the other end the spectator and magic is the circular rope relating them. If the performer pulls too briskly, the spectator releases his end of the rope, his imagination doesn’t come along. If he doesn’t pull enough, the rope is loose and the spectator looses interest. Magicians are triggering audiences' imagination, they initiate the rotation of the stretched loop between his hands and the ones of the spectator (actually between his and their imagination). Both ends share the responsibility for making alive a third party (magic or loop) for a moment. Thus magic is a live dialog with the audience. It includes suspension of disbelief by the audience but cannot be reduced to it: magic cannot exist without the input of the spectator’s imagination, but, naturally, if they don’t suspend their disbelief, there can be no magic.

Since magic doesn’t materially exist in life. It can only be expressed in a metaphoric form, an artful presentation. As it is not essentially comfortable but aims at presenting it in a comfortable way, it has to resort to beauty, and any pleasant emotions. Intriguing is thus made entertaining: magic is an art form because it has no material existence by itself and has to be made entertaining for the spectator not to release their end and to rotate the loop around.

On an ethically contractual basis, by clearly stating that it sells a dilemma with no possible explanation “real magic” is more ethical than any solution, for no one has the knowledge of the end points in the infinite and the best ones can only propose non self centered consistent hypothesis.
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What is magic? Magic has 3 phases. First it starts when we are born, we see a bird fly and while most people say "wow that's cool" we say "I want to do that". On and on it goes. We see a solid melt down to form another shape---WOW we think maybe I can change one thing into another. In other words we look at things with different eyes. And in our heart there starts to grow a longing.

Second---We start to investigate how to bring these thoughts that we have to reality. We start to learn all we can. Books on magic GREAT! Lectures! Fantastic! TV shows oh yes! And whats this?DVD"S whoooo! And in this phase we start to practice----and blow it. Practice more---a little better. Practice more and wow we got it. And that longing starts growing even stronger.

The 3rd and most amazing phase of all is when after all of our study, all our shows, all our money spent on magic and all our countless hours practicing the art we so love---we take time to go out and look up and see a bird and think "I want to do that!" And it starts all over again.


Good magic to all,


Eric
Lawrence O
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It does not really feed the thread about "what is Magic?" and only deals with the performer's stand point (not the audience) but

:applause: Smile Smile Smile
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
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