The one comment that used to bother me when performing was “I wish the children were here to see this.” I thought it trivialized the hours of work I put into my craft to make it enjoyable and mystifying for adults. This is not kiddie stuff, I’m no clown or balloon twister (not that there’s anything wrong with those professions – I’m sure you keep your therapists in stitches). Then I took a step back and listened to what they were really saying.
Really good art (or “Art”) will take you outside of yourself. Be it music, movies, books, paintings or magic, there is a moment when you forget that it’s Christopher Reeve playing a part, that it’s words on a page and not images free forming and blooming before your eyes … and in that moment Art takes over and approaches the Real. So it is in performance magic. Something inside flashes like a bright light and the audience are taken to a primal state of being. Many people associate this with a childlike state, because they have not experienced the feeling this raw since childhood. It can make you uncomfortable, it can break your world (for the moment) into pieces because suddenly everything you “know” has been called into question.
This is our natural state of being. It is called Astonishment.
When we are born, our minds are a blank space. A void – if you will. We have no concept of the world, but we learn very quickly. Names of things, pain and joy, right and wrong. We begin to form opinions of the world around us. Everything starts to go into nice little boxes. “This is the way things are.” With Art, we occasionally get a peek around the boxes. With performance magic (personal note) every so often something happens that does not fit in any box. The boxes vanish and for a brief moment we are in that primal state of being once again. Astonishment. The neat and tidy world has shaken itself and we are naked before God.
“Wow, Hannibal. You sure have a high opinion of your little card tricks.”
Hear me out. The feeling we have (here on this level of “through the glass, darkly”) will last, at most, 10 seconds. Then the rational mind slams in with the “it’s-up-his-sleeve” box or the “smoke-and-mirrors” box or the “boy-he’s-really-fast-and-I-don’t-know-how-he-did-it-but-I-know-it’s-only-a-trick” box. Then, whether the answer was right or wrong, it now fits more comfortably in its rational box and the primal, uncomfortable feeling fades. With other art (or Art) it’s easier to say “it’s only a movie/book/painting/song” and fit it into a nice box.
Think about music. Have you ever had a song leave you absolutely breathless? As the last few notes rang out – in the one or two seconds before the applause started, have you just stood there completely emptied and … void? When the Artist truely pours himself out, the audience is emptied also. That’s the primal feeling I’m talking about. Total Astonishment. The world laid open and a peek at the true beauty that lies just below the surface we are allowed to see.
The point (yes there is one) is … in my artist’s mind I see Heaven as a place of never-ending Astonishment. When we see Creation as God meant us to see it … when death and evil is gone from all things … we delight in pure wonder. This is why God the Artist and Father of Art will deserve our praise. I have found that sometimes the best praise can be … silence and wonder.
I wish the children were here to see this.