Photo by Vitezslav Vylicil on

As a child I loved watching magicians perform on the old variety shows that were so popular on television. Some of the truly great acts were featured on the Ed Sullivan Show and now again they would pop up on other programs as well. Back then the tricks were mostly sleight of hand, with a few disappearing assistants, and sometimes the horror of sawing a box in half with a person inside. I was fascinated by the doves that would seem to come from nowhere and the card tricks that made the performers seem like mind readers. 

There was a Christmas when one of my brothers got a box of magic tricks from Santa. He practiced so well that he was able to fool us for a time, but eventually we caught on to how he was tricking us. There was also a kid from the neighborhood who worked part time as a magician at parties. He had a black suit, a top hat and a cape that his mother made for him. He was actually pretty good for someone so young. 

It seems like one has to travel to Las Vegas to see a magician these days. I haven’t noticed one on television for years. A nephew usually invites a magician to his parties and that is alway fun as well. Mostly, though, the big time magicians have expensive props and tons of smoke and mirrors that somehow make their tricks less exciting than the more simple ones.

Not long ago my husband and I watched a master class on magic featuring Penn and Teller. It was fun to see them revealing how to perform some fairly simple tricks. It took me back to the days when my brother practiced his feats on us. I found that the big secret is in having long and flexible fingers and knowing how to switch the audiences’ focus from what is really happening, talents that are not exactly my forte. 

Of course there is no real magic, at least not in the purest sense of the word. Everything is an illusion, a trick perfected by hours and hours of practice. it takes a special person the be dedicated to doing something that in a sense usually ends up being little more than a hobby. The possibility of actually becoming famous and making a career out of being a magician is undoubtedly small. 

If there really were such a thing as real magic, I would want to make war and hate disappear from the earth forever. Given that not even Jesus was able to do that I understand that such evil is here to stay, but I just do not understand how it breeds in so many hearts. Are people born that way or is it created in them through abuse and trauma? Why do humans have a violent streak? We don’t seem to start out that way as infants, but somewhere along the way it begins to creep into some souls. 

I’m taking a class on the last of the Russian Czars. Ironically I signed up for it before Christmas but it has been fascinating to learn the history of that country that very much plays into what is happening there today. Russia has always been a vast land that somehow was unable to decide if it was more European or Asian. The Czars were the head of the Christian Orthodox Church and they were believed to have been chosen by God to watch over the country. While Russia has a vast coastline along its northern border the freezing temperatures of long winters made them landlocked for many months of the year. It became important for them to command areas along the Black Sea which did not freeze in the winter. Dominating real estate there made it possible to engage in trade all year long. To the Russian people it was their right to conquer and move farther and farther west. Thus Czar Alexander I was heralded as a hero because of his military victories that made Russia an important nation in Europe. 

Sadly the land in the present day countries like Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic have been fought over for centuries. They have been claimed as pawns over and over again with Russians in particular believing that those places rightfully belong to them. Many a battle has left blood in those places and a wounded population longing to be free. 

Perhaps more than magic I long for miracles. Somehow I would like to see humans transformed into the very best versions of themselves. That often happens indeed in the people that we call heroes. Why it can’t change everyone is one of the saddest things to me and the reason that I enjoyed teaching so very much. I was able to watch young men and women becoming very good people who are contributing magnificently to the betterment of the world. Perhaps that is the magic trick that will ultimately save us all.

I often wonder what might have happened if the worst villains in the history of the world had been influenced to be good rather than despotic and bloodthirsty. I know that such things have surely happened without sleight of hand or trickery. The real wizardry in this world is in guiding our young to be fair, compassionate and kind. There is magic in making that happen.


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