The Magician vs. the Con Artist

The death of magic is not failure but cutting it down to size.

When magic works, we’re amazed — it’s magic!

When it doesn’t, we’re not too surprised — it’s magic, after all.

But when we think we understand the mechanism, magic dies. What once was dazzling now appears as fakery: it’s not flight, it’s a person on a bunch of wires against a painted backdrop.

Doctors, teachers, coaches, leaders, and artists of all kinds practice magic every day. It doesn’t always work: patients don’t heal, lessons don’t go according to plan, a call to unity falls flat on deaf ears.

But the good ones always approach magic with a sense of reverence, whether or not it works. Cynical magic — channeling power as though we’re safely in charge, isn’t magic at all, but con artistry.