I was performing last week in San Antonio, one of my favorite cities. (LOVE Riverwalk!) One of the things I like to do in new cities is to explore funky little coffee bars, and San Antonio has lots of them. As I usually do, I took my cards and my close-up pad with me, and sat there with an iced-coffee, practicing.
A young woman approached and said, “Are you a magician?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I love magic! How long have you been doing it?”
Thus the conversation began, and covered all the usual topics: how did I get into magic, how long does it take to learn, and so on. After a few minutes, I asked if she would like to see something. Of course she did, and I blew her away with one of my favorite card routines.
Her response surprised me. “Can I pray a blessing for you?” she said. “Is there any blessing you want me to pray for you?” At first I thought, oh how tacky, her interest was all a feigned set-up for evangelism. But I quickly realized that wasn’t at all the case; she was just an ultra-friendly, uninhibited person, genuinely impressed and responding from a sense of gratitude.
“What you have is such a gift,” she said. “And you have such an authority about the way you present it, it’s certainly a ministry.” Wow. A “ministry?” I hadn’t heard my performances referred to in those terms before, but it’s true: there is a sense in which I consider what I do a “ministry.” I minister the grace of amazement. I give people a lift, put smiles on their faces, take them into a magical space that most people haven’t visited since childhood’s end.
And this young lady was my ideal audience (or should I say “audient?”) because she “got it.” I occasionally encounter the rare person who is her opposite, the person who says, “I hate magic. I can’t stand not knowing how you do these things.” Usually, I don’t have time to engage such a person in conversation, in an attempt to show them a different way to experience the magic, and that makes me sad. This young woman, however, understood that “not knowing” is precisely the condition necessary in order to experience magic. If you know how it’s done, it’s not magic, it’s technology.
Magic, in this sense, is akin to “apophatic” mysticism – the approach to God that speaks only of what God is not, acknowledging that human language is inadequate to comprehend God. Language can take us only so far, like a path that runs up to the edge of a cliff – and at that point we have to take the deep dive. A magic routine is similar. The language that structures a magic routine is there for one purpose only: to lead you down a path that will end in a “belly-whopper” of amazement. (“Belly-whopper” is what as a child I used to call that stomach-churning feeling you get in a vehicle when it suddenly drops, leaving your stomach behind.) Ultimately, the language is misleading; and yet, paradoxically, I cannot get you to the magic moment without it.
At any rate, I was happy to have that young lady pray for my “ministry.” I want to give everyone the gift of magic!