Is the Magician a Stoic?

Dear Friends:

Our guest columnist this month is our long-time friend, recently named as an instructor here at the Magic & Mystery School, Tim “Santiago” Converse.

Tim has an extensive background doing Quality Assurance for companies ranging from small startups to enterprise level software systems for the US Military. He is the owner of his own business, as well as being an instructor in the art of magic, and has used those opportunities to develop a significant skill in “out of the box” thinking. He regularly uses his skills as a magician and entertainer to enhance his workplace skills in communication and management of people.

Is “The Magician” a Stoic?
by Tim “Santiago” Converse 
One of the things that has long fascinated me about things like magic and philosophy is how often I find connections between them. Those connections are usually about vision, training, and discipline.

For the past year or so I have been making a serious study of a particular philosophical discipline known as Stoicism

Stoicism has its roots in Athens going all the way back to the 3rd century BCE. Originally founded by Zeno of Citium, and practiced by philosophical luminaries like Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, Stoicism is based on the foundational idea that being virtuous would lead to one’s happiness. The way to judge what were “virtuous actions,” would be by observing behaviors of people and the results of their interactions with each other, rather than their words. When it comes to random external events, we must take the time to pause and carefully reflect on what the best course of action might be, rather than to react instinctively on what we might perceive, as that would often be to our own detriment.

Magic teaches us forms of control over the perceptions of others, and it does so by virtue of our own understanding of our perceptions. The Tarot Magician teaches us to use our tools to exert control over the world around us, and both our own perceptions, and the perceptions of others.  But thanks to the efforts of our special corner of the magic world, the Mystery School, we find that as we dig deeper, it also teaches us to understand and master ourselves. 

So I found it particularly interesting when I ran across these words:

“Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.”
— Epictetus  

I can spend a lot of time explaining anything I want to an audience, but if they can simply see for themselves by looking at me that I have magic to give, that will mean so much more. Which brings us to an idea we’re all familiar with; “Magician 24/7.”

As I have spent more and more time trying to master myself, I have found it easier to pass on a sense of magic – a sense about how my audiences, too, can be magical.

We strive to teach our audiences that they have magic in them – that they can use that magic to take control over their perceptions of the world to be in charge over their lives, rather than simply being reactive to everything around them. In times like we have been facing, that is a very precious gift.

“It’s time you realized that you have something in you more powerful and miraculous than the things that affect you and make you dance like a puppet.”

– Marcus Aurelius  “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”
– Epictetus

Don’t we deserve the best for ourselves? No one is going to give it to us, but if we truly are magicians, then certainly we have the power to go out and get it for ourselves. What is that power? It is nothing more than the willingness to face the world in control over our own choices and our own perceptions.

Does any of this have a practical way to translate to the stage, or to a performance? My answer comes in the form of three of the most powerful words I have ever heard spoken:

“I don’t know.”

What I do know is this: the better I understand myself, the better I understand what I have to offer an audience. I can share their hopes and fears by sharing mine with them. I can share my magic and be some kind of light that says, “Look! That’s where your magic is too!”

“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well-ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is, and pass some time in his own company.”
 – Seneca

The classical Stoics never really speak directly of magic. But the legendary magicians in literature, often seem to have a stoic philosophy about them.T hey are comfortable with the world as it is, knowing that they get to choose how they respond to it, knowing that they can change the course of things with their power, but only so long as they remain in control of themselves. They often see the world for what it is, and are perfectly content to live within it as it is, reserving their magic only for those times when it is truly needed.

“It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.”
 ― Seneca  

I have noticed more and more, especially in our current time of turmoil, that we magicians really do seem to be unconquerable. In a world that has been brought nearly to a standstill, most people have been frozen in their tracks, afraid of which way to move. There are many brave souls who have taken to the defense of our physical bodies, our health, and our overall well-being. They are amazing people to be respected and supported in all that they do.

There are also the artists and entertainers who have adapted to this new world. They find a way to continue to bring something to the rest of us that is in defense of our hearts and minds, doing all they can to help keep us sane.

But the magicians? We not only seem to be able to adjust and adapt, but we are thriving under this very strange time. Beyond that, we are even creating something that gives hope. I think that is a very stoic place to be. I think the Stoics knew that they had the vision to see not just what they needed, but to see what we all needed – not just to survive, but to thrive, no matter what the adversity may be.

The Stoics teach us to consider everything carefully with all due deliberation. Then from there, to determine what it is that we cannot affect, and what it is that we most certainly can. To act with purpose in order to bring about our own happiness and the happiness of others. That seems like an act of deliberate magic.

And so I have to wonder, is “The Magician” a Stoic?

New Ways of Seeing Our World

Let’s take another shot at 2020.

When this old computer I’m typing on freezes, I just remember to reboot! Turn it off, wait, then turn it back on, and “poof” – like magic, it is working again! It seems like the world we live in needs a “Reboot.”

We all need to take a breath and start over.

A few years ago, there was a great essay in Psychology Today by Barton Goldsmith: Starting Over. Instead of making a resolution, which most of us aren’t all that great at keeping, why not look for some areas in your life where you’d like to begin anew?

“Here are some tools to make starting over a little easier and your new year a little more emotionally fit.
 
1. Starting over is not the same as recouping from a failure.
It is a new beginning. This mindset is helpful because it keeps you from wasting your time being too hard on yourself.
 
2. Moving through life is like climbing stairs.
You go up a level and then you level off. Nothing is ever a straight shot. Have some patience with yourself, and with your newfound direction.
 
3. Endings are not necessarily bad things.
Even if the past year was your best so far, the one ahead might just leave it in the dust. This is also true if it’s been your worst year so far, and you’ve suddenly found yourself unemployed or unattached.
 
4. Starting over may feel scary, but it’s really a cause for celebration.
Think of it as exciting, and many of your anxious feelings will begin to fade.
 
5. Remember that your future is not governed by your past.
No matter what has happened in your life, you can find a way to make things a little better for yourself, and hopefully for those around you as well.
 
6. Having to start over is different from choosing to start over.
For those whose lives are still in chaos because of man-made and natural disasters, starting over is not a choice. Giving support to those in need and being able to accept it when necessary are great qualities.
 
7. Starting over is about giving yourself a chance at real happiness.
You will have to be brave and get good at learning new things, but how bad can that be? At the very worst, you will acquire the skills you need to start on the next project.”

Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. is an award-winning writer and columnist for The Chicago Tribune
Read his full essay here: https://tinyurl.com/y9wjkd6t


We are YOUR helpers!
Yes, we are in dark times and all of us at the Magic & Mystery School are responding to the global crisis. We are committed to helping the magic community flourish online. We also offer a free online class every Monday evening.
 
Here is the ZOOM link for each Monday night for the next few weeks. We go live at 7 pm pacific time. You can just save this, and click the link: https://zoom.us/j/685273864
 
We are also posting these shows at our virtual Magical Wisdom site, so if you do not get a chance to join us, you can enjoy the on demand shows here:  
http://virtual.magicalwisdom.com/tv/episodes
  
BEHIND THE SCENES: Jeff McBride in the News.

Jeff McBride: The King of Cards
Here is an article of interest. I know you will enjoy the history of my mystery! https://tinyurl.com/y7uecdos

Magic News! Join us for the 2020 Lance Burton Teen Seminar.
This year, the Teen Seminar will be online, using the Zoom Platform. If you are an I.B.M. member between the ages of 13-19, or with a family connection/relation with the I.B.M.,you can attend the Lance Burton Teen Seminar ABSOLUTELY FREE.

The Seminar will be facilitated by Jeff McBride and Dr. Lawrence Hass, the Founder and the Dean of the world-famous Magic & Mystery School in Las Vegas. It will also feature special guests.
 
The dates for the Seminar are July 7th and 8th, from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM PDT.

The McBride Magic and Mystery School has been facilitating Lance Burton’s Teen Seminar since its inception in 2003. In the past, among others, our special guest instructors have included: Jeff McBride, Eugene Burger, Suzanne, Oscar Munoz, Joe M Turner, Larry Hass, Joshua Jay, Jessica Jane, and Shawn Farquhar.

If you are a teen and have a serious interest in magic, then this is the place to be in July… seriously! Need more info? Contact Simone Marron at simone@marrons.us. To sign up for the Lance Burton Teen Seminar, please download the application by going to, bit.ly/2020LBTS and clicking the “CLICKING HERE” link at the bottom of that page: You can complete the application, and email it back to simone@marrons.us

Special Thanks to The I.B.M. Endowment and Development Fund (EDF) For Sponsoring This Event.

WONDERGROUND NEWS
Join us for the longest continually running variety show in Vegas! Thursday, June 18th at 7pm pacific time

We are now LIVE online on ZOOM. https://zoom.us/j/96560532772

Jeff McBride, Scott Steelfyre and Tim Wise welcome you to a new world of wonders!

Jeff McBride – Welcomes you with NEW magic!

Tim Wise – Hollywood Stars of Magic

RJ Cantu – A New Light in the World of Illusion

John Shore – Presents “The Fabric of Time” a Mysterious Victorian Illusion.

Charly D’Carlo – The Magic Factor, Live from Cancun

Paul Draper – Perhaps the Nations #1 Zoom Magic Performer

See you online soon!

Your friends in magic,
Jeff & Abigail


Enough is Enough

Enough Is Enough
At the McBride Magic & Mystery School, Black Lives Matter.

We are horrified at the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. These are far from isolated cases: we remember Botham Jean in Dallas, Stephon Clark in Sacramento, Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina. We remember Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Laquan McDonald in Chicago. We remember Michael Brown in Ferguson, and so many other Black Americans who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement.

We know the deep inequities toward Black Americans that run rampant through the criminal justice system. We know the long history of racism in America from slavery, through “reconstruction” and its lynchings, through Jim Crow laws, practices, and terror, through the brutality and bigotry endured during the march for Civil Rights, up to today’s stunningly common patterns of inequality before the law, along with violence and death at the hands of those sworn to protect it.

We recognize and condemn the systemic racism that has existed in America since its very beginning. We stand with those Americans, and people all around the world, who are raising their voices, protesting the injustices, and demanding real change.

In our own small world, we recognize that the subculture of magic in America is predominantly White and male, and we will double our efforts to create not merely diverse, but actively inclusive environments, where underrepresented magicians can perform, learn, speak, teach, and flourish.

As our Dean, Dr. Larry Hass, recently said, “We must hold ourselves accountable for the ways, large and small, that we have contributed to this culture of injustice. And we need to suspend our opinionizing, listen with an open heart, and actively learn about the history of these systemic inequities, so we can act in ways that might serve to heal our broken world.”

Jeff McBride
Abigail McBride
Tobias Beckwith
Larry Hass, Ph.D.


Magical Experience Design & Collateral Magic

Dear Friends:

Our guest columnist this month is Cyril “C.J.” May, aka Cyril the Sorcerer. You’ll learn just a bit more about him a bit further down the page. But for now…enjoy his story!

Magical Experience Design & Collateral Magic
One of the greatest magical experiences I have had in recent years took place in my car. It happened both by accident, and by design. The magic show was of such scope, it encompassed an entire town.

Many summers ago, my family and I passed through a small New Hampshire town on our way to my wife’s family home in Maine. The sight of strangely dressed villagers caught us off guard. We were nowhere near Halloween on the calendar, and yet witches and wizards walked the streets. As I took in ever more “wizarding folk,” I began to have a Rod Serling moment….where were we?

The moment quickly shifted to a JK Rowling moment:  could we have fallen through a veil into a wizarding community like the Hogsmeade Village depicted in Harry Potter?  A van passed us driven by a wizard. The witch in the passenger seat was tending to the young witches and wizard in the back. The hair on the back of my neck was now full rise. This was all so very eerie and yet delightful at the same time. We had been transported to some place or time truly magical. The rest of the world was gone. 

This magic show finished in part, when we learned from the scores of witches and wizards in the restaurant, that they were dressed for the screening of a Harry Potter film at the local library. The film was being shown in celebration of the release of one of the final Harry Potter books. It all made sense now.  But the experience had been one of true magic.

And so I was determined to recreate this magic for myself and for as many as I could by the creation of Waterbury Harry Potter Day. In 2019, the Waterbury library and I expanded upon the small scale Harry Potter activities we had offered in previous celebrations of the fictional boy wizard’s birthday on July 31st. To create a true “magical experience” we spilled out onto the streets. Local restaurants and other establishments joined in by adding wizarding food to their daily menus.  Starbucks added four Hogwarts-themed potions plus Butter Beer. The used bookstore would crank out Dragon’s Blood Cupcakes and the Barnes & Noble would host shows, trivia and other Harry Potter specials. The bank purchased Harry Potter coins and the local congresswoman’s office would hold wizard school classes. The players were geared up…but would there be an audience?

By 9:00 am, witches & wizards were pouring into the downtown copy shop that had offered to serve as provider of the event maps. They had to run another batch because the maps were gone by noon. Witches & wizards coursed through the streets, visiting venues, showing off costumes, enjoying the transformation of a “Muggle” downtown into a “Wizarding” city.  The magic was happening.

Collateral Magic
While happy that those who came to downtown Waterbury for the event were enjoying themselves, I must admit that I was most interested in creating “Collateral Magic.”  One obvious stream of Collateral Magic was that flowing into the venues.  Starbucks went through more butter beer ingredients than ever before. The costume shop sold out of all its witch hats by noon…and made its monthly income quota because of it. The other flow of Collateral Magic went to the pedestrians who may have felt some of the Rod Serling/JK Rowling moment that I had experienced so many years ago. What is happening?  Where am I? Why is Grand Street awash with witches and wizards? Without even attending, they were part of the show.

Some magicians are probably asking “were there any actual ‘magic shows’ during Waterbury Harry Potter Day?” Yes! Slipping back into my role as Refuse/Recycling Coordinator for the City, and “Wizard of Waterbury,” I performed an enviromagic show at the library to a crowd draped in capes, and sporting many a pointy hat. Members of the local SAM Assembly also joined in, providing a fitting finale to the day with their show at the Barnes & Noble. The day was an ensemble show on a municipal scale.

Further Down the Rabbit Hole

We are hoping to take future attendees and sidewalk passersby further down the rabbit hole of magic experience design. A great starting point for research has been the book AMAZE, by friend of the Mystery School  Ferdinando Buscema. This book on “magical experience design” offers a great look into how magicians and non-magicians alike can create magical experiences. The book is now available here: www.TheoryandArtofMagic.com. For now, however, we are looking for our next in-person WHPD to include…

  • Fire-breathing and magic by Daniel Greenwolf
  • Street theater performances by local youth
  • A time-flexible Question Quest scavenger hunt that better accommodates individual family schedules
  • Buses to bring far-flung and under-resourced youth groups to downtown

Eugene Burger once famously said “we need bigger dreams.”  I encourage us all to think beyond our typical magic frames of move, effect, routine or even show. Think bigger. What magical experience can you create? What bigger dream would you like to bring to an audience that flows beyond the limiting walls of stage and theater? 

Cyril John “CJ” May wears both a recycling hat and a wizard’s hat in his roles as Recycling Coordinator and “Municipal Magician” for the City of Waterbury, CT. For more about his work for professionals and other adults visit www.betterworldmagic.com. For his independent work for all-age audiences as Cyril the Sorcerer visit www.cyrilthesorcerer.com. He also has a smattering of environmental videos at www.facebook.com/waterburyrecycling/videos. Reach Cyril at cyril.may@aya.yale.edu.

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