I was recently performing at a school for a group of older students, and I explained that I am very different than their teachers because I do not want them to understand what I am doing. As a matter of fact, I told them, I would prefer that they didn’t understand anything I was doing. They looked somewhat curious and perplexed when I said this, which is exactly where I wanted us all to go.
Rather than fostering understanding, it is the goal of the magician to create the experience of mystery, and of wonder, in the minds of the audience. This can be somewhat liberating or disturbing to the spectator, depending on how strongly he or she is attached to their brain. To understand how something works is to feel secure, to be in control of one’s domain, whereas to not understand— to have the brain fall short of grasping the cause of the effect that is being witnessed— is a kind of short-circuit of the brain. Many people who appreciate the artistic or spiritual odyssey enjoy the short circuiting of their brain; others prefer the safety of rational parameters and do not feel comfortable straying into the realms of mystery.
Who is to say that the magic tricks we magicians do are not true magic just because we are privy to the rational method which achieves these ends? I posit that a mere moment of unease in the scientific bulwark of the mind is the crack where the magic sneaks back in and is welcomed by most like a long lost friend, for we are creatures born of wonder. And after I had made things appear, vanish, multiply and teleport in unfathomable ways, most of the students’ brains seemed to have been pleasantly disturbed, and so I considered it a successful show.
Now go forth and make magic!