“Wisdom begins in wonder.”
My oldest son was a magician. He started as a young teenager practicing sleight of hand tricks in front of a mirror. After joining a local group of adult magicians, he learned many more tricks and perfected his patter as well as the magician’s code of never telling how the tricks worked. He started performing at birthday parties, meetings of different organizations and often went on his own to nursing homes or pediatric wards at hospitals to perform. For his birthdays and at Christmas, I gave him magic tricks I’d bought at magic stores – in sealed packages, of course, so no one but the one opening it would find the instructions for using them. He even performed his magic between chemo therapy treatments at the Cleveland Clinic. Three days before he died at home, he put on a magic show for the priest who said Mass at our house and some family members there that day.
I find so much else in the world quite magical to me even though I know there are scientific explanations for all of them. Radio for instance. How is it that by turning the dial just a tiny bit one can get different stations or any station? It seems like magic that all those songs, news reports, etc. are there completely invisible to the eye and the same song or interview is going not only to my house, or car, but also other people everywhere. If it still seems magical to me, imagine those people gathered around radios when they first became available to them. Some people actually thought the radio was evil. I can remember sitting on the stairs with my brother after we had gone to bed to listen to scary shows until some sound gave us away and we were sent back upstairs.
TV is even more magical to my mind. Not only the words and music but pictures coming through the air, in my case being captured by an antenna with prongs sticking out in all directions from my roof. That same antenna has been capturing all those shows for almost twenty-five years now. I was thirteen or fourteen when my grandparents got a TV. It not only thrilled my siblings and cousins, but I remember my grandmother, a little bit of a woman always in house dress with an apron and cotton panty hose that sagged on her skinny legs showing us a can-can dance she’d seen on the TV the night before. As kids, we all giggled and laughed at the sight of her kicking up her heels and flipping her dress.
I marvel at modern medicine and all the devices to see inside our bodies, to probe, to save more lives than before. Then there are the computers, i-Phones that can do just about anything, and GPS that direct us to where we should go and recalculates when we ignore Nancy or Rosemary or whoever that voice is coming from. Do you catch a bit of annoyance in her voice when she tries to straighten us out when we think we know better than she does? I could list so many other modern things like today’s cars, microwaves that can cook meals so quickly, and sweepers that vacuum your house on their own. No, I do not have one. I don’t really understand how any of these things work, but I know it’s not really as magical as it seems, but based on scientific engineering and research.
Even more magical to me is the natural world. I’m thinking of the tiny hummingbirds who manage to cross the Gulf of Mexico when migrating without stopping to rest or eat. And there are the Monarch butterflies and their migration each year to Mexico. The ones who go to that one place in Mexico are young ones who were never there before. There is so much in nature to marvel at; so much that seems magical to me.
If I were to have all these magical things explained to me in scientific terms, I’m not sure if they would lose their magical appeal to me whether its nature or mechanical or I would still feel it’s magical.
As children we believed in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. We loved books of fantasy and fairy tales like Alice in Wonderland or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or talking animals. And as adults we still embrace the magic in books and movies. Look at how popular the Harry Potter series became with adults as well as children. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have remained popular long after they were published. I don’t care for vampires or zombies, but they are hugely popular as well as science fiction.
In a way, we as mystery writers are creating magic, too, by allowing the reader to become the character solving the crime. Allowing them the feeling of fear as our main character is in danger, albeit safe in a comfortable chair or bed. We can fudge details a little like my police chief having a good friend who can speed up fingerprints and DNA, etc. For the most part, readers are willing to suspend belief, just like as children we knew that some of those things were unreal, but continued to believe. Hence the nightmares children have after seeing scary movies no matter how often their parents reassure them that vampires do not really exist. An evil stalker in a book we’re reading or a movie we just watched, at night has us closing our drapes and listening for noises even though we know the chances of a stalker being out there are very minimal.
My son’s magic tricks are packed in boxes in the garage. Observing his magician’s code of keeping his tricks secret, I have never tried to figure them out, not even the magical three solid metal linking rings that he could separate. To learn more about my son beyond his magic, I wrote about him in a previous blog, Oct. 4, 2012 in the archives under “Life Changing Events.”
What do you find magical?