I am a magician, and I perform tricks, but without meaning there is no magic.
Magic in the literal sense– card tricks, sawing a person in half, or levitating objects, has helped me appreciate magic in the figurative sense– the connection two people share, a beautiful sunset, an emotional snapshot, or a moment in time. These are all magical even without the tricks, because they’re meaningful. For me, performing magic is not about deception, but rather it is about the power to make others feel. It is the power to inspire, to stretch the imagination, to create meaning, and to cause wonder.
Though everything has a logical explanation, we label things we don’t understand as magic. What makes them magical is the meaning behind them. For example, if you understand the art of magic, the tricks can be explained logically, but for the audience, what is happening cannot be explained. This is similar to experiencing a sunset or creating a memory with another person. The neurological reasons for the way someone feels or the reason behind the colors in the sky can be explained logically, but the bigger picture and the explanation of why that special moment is happening can be difficult to explain and easy to attribute to magic.
I became a magician because of the meaning behind magic and the childlike wonder associated with experiencing the impossible. I love creating connections with people and I love helping others smile. I’m in magic because I enjoy being part of something that has no bounds, something that is spread among people from different ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, countries, languages, heritages, etc. Magic is something that brings people together and I cherish having a role in that. Being a magician helps me give this experience to others.
It really is an incredible feeling when a person says to me that they feel happy, wondrous, or another positive emotion after watching me do magic. There really aren’t too many other emotions that can describe how good that feels. The ability to help someone feel a certain way after watching my magic, and in return having me feel a certain way because of the way they’re feeling…Yeah. That’s magic.
Paul Harris, one of the leading magicians in the magic community, has devoted his life to the wonder of magic, and in his series of books, titled The Art of Astonishment, he talks about this idea and uses a great metaphor:
“You come into this world a blank slate. No ideas about who you are or what anything is. You’re just being. And it all feels great..because there are no options, or opinions or judgements… Then, very quickly, we learn stuff. The names of ten thousand things, who we are, what we’re supposed to be, what’s good and bad according to the current rules of the game. And you organize all of this information into little boxes. And when any new information comes along you file it in the appropriate box.”
Magic cannot be truly defined, and therefore, when you see magic happen in front of you, your trained mind has trouble compartmentalizing what you saw and what you experienced. Magic doesn’t fit into one of your preconceived boxes. Often times when I’m performing, adults tell me that they feel as though they are children watching in amazement. As I’ve gained experience, I’ve discovered that the enjoyment of magic doesn’t have to be childlike. That feeling of bewilderment makes a person feel as though they’ve reverted to their childhood. What they were taught to know doesn’t apply, and what they thought they knew becomes inconceivable. As an adult, you learn to see the world a certain way and are no longer taught to imagine, to believe and to marvel; but the way you’ve been taught to be doesn’t have to be who you are.
Growing up, and as adults, we are constantly being reminded that we can’t do things and we will not succeed, rather than assuring ourselves that, yes we can. A few months ago at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, I was sitting next to an elderly man and I was shuffling my cards. He smiled, looked at me, and told me that he’s always loved magic, but he’s never learned anything about it. When I asked him why he’s never learned, he said it was too late for him, and started naming off excuses. He’s too old, hands aren’t dexterous enough, hearing and eyesight aren’t good; the list went on and on. For every excuse he gave me, I gave him an example of at least one magician who has overcome that difficulty. I named card magicians who were born without hands. I named magicians who are blind and deaf. I named magicians who started doing magic when they hit retirement age or older. All of my examples helped prove to this man that he could in fact do it if he really wanted to. The man finally smiled at me and said, “I’m really glad I met you and had the opportunity to talk with you. You just taught me a valuable lesson. I think I might pick up a magic book tomorrow and learn something.” I smiled back and said I was SO glad to hear it. I have no idea if this man ended up picking up a magic book, or if he thought about the conversation at all after it had ended, but that’s not the point. The point is to not be the one who stands in your own way. Don’t be the one to limit the amount of magic in your life.
As a woman, there could be excuses stopping me from pursuing magic, but I don’t let my gender hinder me. Being a magician as a woman in a male dominated world means not fitting into a box. When the average person thinks of a magician, they generally look at the box in their mind labeled, “What a magician looks like,” and they picture an older man with a top hat and a suit. In the same way that many people don’t know how to react when they see magic happen in front of them, many people aren’t sure how to react when they see me either. With magic, what people saw and what they experienced can’t fit into a box in their mind, and in the magic community, I don’t fit into the “this is a magician” box either. And that’s ok. I’m ok with building my own box for many people and I’m happy to redefine preconceived notions of this art. Magic is not about the way you look or the amount of tricks you can do. Magic is about helping others feel and showing what is possible. When I do magic, I want others to feel different than the way they did before they watched me perform.
Magic is all around us and we know that there is an explanation for everything. The feeling of magic is not knowing what the explanation is. Though everything can be logically explained, magic transcends explanation and creates memorable moments and intrinsic meaning. We are able to look beyond literal tricks and determine that those are truly magical experiences. It’s important to realize that you don’t need to be a magician, nor be in the presence of a magician in order to experience this feeling. Create a connection with someone or some place new, be inspired, define who you are as a person, and most of all, create meaning. This is what magic is really about.
Currently living in Los Angeles, CA, Lauren Cohen is a graphic designer by day, magician by night (and weekends). Even though it’s sometimes difficult to balance the double career lifestyle, she wouldn’t have it any other way. Lauren is a magician member of the Academy of Magical Arts at the World Famous Magic Castle, the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM), and the Society of American Magicians (SAM). She has performed for countless clients and audiences including ABC Nightline, CollegeHumor’s All-Nighter, theStream.tv’s Comics N’ Cocktails, Magic Monday LA, Match.com, Miller Children’s Hospital, Los Angeles Jewish Home, Quixey, Hillel Hebrew Academy, and many more. Her article titled, “Being a Magician as a Woman” has been translated and published in ARCANA, the only Korean Magic Magazine and has been featured on DanandDave.com. Lauren loves the intimate experiences that close-up magic brings, and she loves sharing her magic with others.