When I was little my very large Italian family would gather around my grandparent’s long dining table, the one only used for more formal events. We would hold hands before we ate, dig into the traditional spread, and listen to football on the TV in the next room. I was always certain to get a good seat, right next to my Grandma at the head of the table. And after we finished dinner, and after dessert had come and gone, all of my cousins would gather around that same table to watch my Uncle Joe do magic.
From pulling coins from behind my ear to yanking an impossibly long handkerchief from an endless bag, we were mesmerized by his antics. The man who I knew then is very different now. He has trouble remembering who I am, and time has put distance between us. But I will always remember the way he made us laugh and stare in wonder at his magic.
When I was five years old I had a dream that I flew. I ran downstairs and told my mom with full confidence that I had just flown. What I didn’t realize was that I was wearing my nightgown and I was only dreaming. I fully believed that it had happened. And my mom, in true form, let me believe it was true. “Everyone flies once in their life, and this was your turn,” she said. And so I went through my childhood, and even some of my teen years, believing that I had flown.
Over the years people have tried to talk me out of my belief in magic. Commonly used words are “impractical”, “childish”, “weird”, and “silly”. I love those words. They are the best kind. Though I have not wavered in my belief of magic, my definition of magic has changed. When I was little I believed in something blindly. Santa. The Easter Bunny. My ability to fly, literally, off the ground and through the air. My uncle pulling a coin from behind my ear. And though I question magic now, that doesn’t make it any less important, or, well, magical.
The distinct pleasure that we have as adults is to understand why we believe in something. Now that I have lived more life than when I was a child, I understand certain things about magic that I had never considered before. Like, for example, the idea that it doesn’t matter if magic is real or not, because it’s main function is to instill a sense of wonder in our lives. Or, as another example, those who practice magic are investing serious time and energy into the “absurd”, “silly”, or “childish”, and that doing so might be a good thing, instead of bad.
The magician works to make us believe in the impossible, while many other professions work to make us believe only in what is foreseeably possible. We face the extinction of imagination each time we discard a thing for not having been proven yet. And so the magician is akin to a great scientist making the next leap forward in technology, or a great writer discovering a story that has not been told yet. The magician works tirelessly to make us believe in magic, so that we too might do extraordinary things.
When I was seven and my uncle pulled a coin out from behind my ear, I believed he really did it. When I was five and my mom told me I flew, I believe that really happened. But now, when I think about those events, I realize that the importance of them does not lie in if they did happen or not, it lies in my belief of those ideas. When my uncle pulled the coin from my ear, I immediately believed that you could create something out of nothing. When I believed that I flew, I immediately put my trust in the idea that I can achieve amazing things.
Magic is not to be taken lightly. It is the foundation on which greatness is built. It is a beacon of hope for those who need something more to believe in. And whether we prove magic to be true or not is beside the point; all we need is to look within to see the greatest magic trick just waiting to be performed.