Reflection: If this be magic, let it be an art

When one observes magic, let it be clear that the magician is a skilful human, an artist, and not a born wizard. His acts are crafty examples of sleight-of-hand, and no supernatural forces are involved.  

Beyond the wonderfully positive effects of the Harry Potter series (for example, the reported growth in the number of book readers, notably – of children, worldwide), an auspicious downside may be the diminishing in importance of “fake” muggle magic, as opposed to “true” wizard magic. To my mind, the best living magicians are those who pull a trick a few centimetres away from the tip of your nose, and still you cannot detect how they did it, even through they openly admit that their tricks are just that – tricks and nothing but tricks. I feel that humans who claim to have (or imply that they have) special magical powers are probably faking it (read James Randi’s fascinating story on the now legendary 1983 “Project Alpha”, created to provide an answer to Randi’s question “[w]hat would happen if two young Conjurors posing as psychics were introduced into a well-funded university parapsychology laboratory?”) 

Stuart Lightbody and The art of magic 

I saw Stuart Lightbody – a sleight of hand artist – performing on two different occasions (here and here). I was therefore able to see some of his tricks performed twice. You may be aware that magicians are usually reluctant to repeat a trick in front of the same spectators, in case people would figure out how the trick was done.  No such danger with Stuart Lightbody: even though I knew – and anticipated – the ‘punch line’, I was twice totally unable to see how he did the trick. 

Right at the start of his show, Lightbody stresses that he has no supernatural powers. This is an important admission, because some of his tricks are spectacularly unbelievable (try to figure out how he guesses which nine – hidden from him – cards were selected by nine different members of the audience, or how he manages to make a full deck of cards vanish right before our eyes, the guy is mesmerisingly good!) Lightbody specialised in misdirection – and his craft is impeccable. 

Best of all, Lightbody – a graduate of Cape Town’s famous College of Magic – allows people like me to enjoy the way my imagination drives my brain. I can see things happen because he makes them happen through sleight of hand and misdirection. This is the stuff my dreams I made of and I insist on retaining the privilege to be tricked by an inspired – and inspiring human artist.   

The bard said: “If this be magic, let it be an art“, Lightbody’s art is true magic, just as his magic is true art.  

Visit Stuart Lightbody’s website