On The Meaning Of Magic

Recently, magician Derek DelGaudio was interviewed by The Creative Independent about his thoughts on magic. Derek recently received the $15,000 Allan Slaight Award for "Sharing Wonder" and his show in New York, In & Of Itself, directed by Frank Oz, has been extended. 

Derek Delgaudio

I don't want to quibble over what is otherwise an extremely thoughtful and insightful interview from someone who is doing very interesting things with the form but there is one line:

I think the word “magician” immediately implies that I’m here to deceive you, which is literally the opposite of what I’m doing. I’m using illusions or sleight of hand magic concepts to deliver truths and communicate the way I see the world.

"Deliver truths" is a weird expression. I think it's our own insecurity which forces us to wrestle with the word "truth". There are things we want to be "true" that aren't in the literal sense and we recoil. There is a desire felt my many (even me sometimes) to say that the works of Shakespeare contain "truth" even though the events in them aren't real. They aren't true, they are insightful. We already have a word for that.

I cringe slightly the tendency, particularly among those in the arts, to take liberties with the definitions of common words. It's a hop, skip and a jump from dishonest politicians and pedlars of pernicious woo. If words stop meaning what they're supposed to mean, then no one can really take you at your word when you say anything.

Magic is an inherently dishonest endeavour. We portray things in a way that is not as they truly are. Trying to pass this off as a "kind of truth" is weaselry. Now, illusion has its value and place, so you don't need to shy away from deception. You can embrace it. It's an honourable thing to sacrifice a bit of your honesty so that others can experience a moment of mystery and amazement. I lie so you can experience an instant of childlike wonder that I no longer can (because I know how the trick works)... at least until someone comes along and does it to me.