Halloween, Loneliness and Solitude

From Eugene Burger –

It is late September as I write these words. The temperature in Chicago has now begun to drop and the wind has definitely picked up. This is my favorite time of the year in the city. It is a time of transition from the warmth of Summer to the cold of Winter. As the leaves change, life changes as well — and one realizes that all this is a continuous process, a magical rhythm, and we are part of it.

Curiously, I have read that this time of the year in the United States, between Halloween and the New Year, this holiday time, is also a time of increased emotional difficulty for many people, a time when loneliness and even suicide rise in frequency.

My present brief time in Chicago is organized around three main things: my friends, my magic students and the Halloween show that I am working on. Last year, with Benjamin Barnes, Robert Charles and Jeanette Andrews of Magic Chicago, I presented a Halloween show titled “Fear and Fate.” We happily sold out two shows, and so this year, since Halloween is on a Sunday, we have decided to do three: Friday and Saturday at 11:00 pm and Sunday at 7:30 pm.

This year becomes especially challenging for me because I have decided that I only want to repeat two pieces from last year’s show — and both repeated pieces will be changed considerably from last year’s presentations. (For magicians, I want to repeat the Burned and Restored Thread and also my Spirit Slates.) I want the rest of the show to be different magically.

I suppose that I have always enjoyed putting shows together — and then performing them. It started when I was a small child and it has continued to this very day.

Eugene Burger on Austin City Limits

Last week, for example, I was in Austin, Texas (and had a truly wonderful time; I had the rare opportunity to perform and speak on the “Austin City Limits” television show stage). When I returned to Chicago, I had dinner with my friends Gale and Gordon Meyer. Thinking about the fact that I need really to focus on the Halloween show now that I am home, I said to them, “You know, if someone had told me thirty years ago that, when I was 71 years old, I would be putting together a new Halloween theater show, I would have laughed at them! I would never have believed it — and would probably have said, ‘No, at that age I’ll either be dead or drooling!’” Yet, here I am. And I am loving it!

Indeed, there is a part of me that deeply enjoys having different projects, many of which involve deadlines. When I look back upon my life, I see that such deadline-based projects have always been present — from school papers to chores around the house and later to work projects and then magic projects. Among other things, and at a deeper level, I think these many tasks and projects, while they have sometimes brought exhaustion, have also helped teach me the difference between loneliness and solitude.

Over the years, I have had friends who confided to me how lonely they felt. Who has not experienced such thoughts and times of loneliness? For myself, I feel that I have been definitely blessed because I seem always to have been able to move beyond the crippling thoughts of loneliness to action — to working on projects that deeply interested me. I think it is a blessing to have tasks and projects that we care about, that we want to accomplish, that can grasp our attention and interest.

When I was a child, being alone in my room was a time that I cherished. It was my opportunity to do what I wanted to do. I have always thought of these periods of aloneness not as times of loneliness but, rather, as periods of solitude. For me solitude is the opportunity be alone and pursue things and subjects that greatly interest us. I have often thought of those times, when I can be alone, as gifts and not as times for lamentation or despair. To my good fortune, I seem always to have had too many projects for me to become trapped in thoughts of loneliness but, instead, to experience the joys of solitude.

And so, as the leaves change and Autumn and then Winter appears, perhaps it is a good time to ask ourselves whether we need to give ourselves the gift of a new project, a project that deeply fascinates us to which we can devote our time and attention and love — a project that can transform our loneliness into solitude.

You are invited!

Friday October 22nd

WITCHES & WIZARD’S BALL — Doors Open at 9:00

Join us for an amazing community celebration. It happens only once a year…

Featuring music mixed by DJ Master Diaz, a special midnight ritual, and lots of astonishing wonders, including:

* The Mystery School All-Star Magicians
Jeff McBride, Eugene Burger and the faculty and students of the Magic and Mystery School

* Ritual of the Phoenix
… an interactive act installation. The Phoenix will be decorated during the course of the evening, and is a place for writing or drawing messages, prayers and blessings for our ancestors. The Phoenix will be ritually offered to the BoneDance fire the following evening in the desert.

* Costume Contest

* The amazing music and percussion genius of “That 1 Guy”
To take a sneak peek at what you’re in for, go tohttp://www.that1guy.com.

All this plus tarot readers, interactive close-up magic, bizarre magic and story-telling installation with Michael Fraughton, middle eastern food and full bar, and much, much more!!

If you are planning to attend, you MUST register online. Our event is being held in a public place, as a “Private Party,” and there will be a list of names at the door. All you have to do to get on the list is Register, so please do!


Our final event for the year will be Magic and Medicine, November, 4-7.

Yours in better magic.

Jeff McBride


Dear Friends:

Jeff is off in France as I write this, teaching a 5-day workshop with Juan Tamariz, and Gaeton Bloom.  We have a piece of fantastic news, before I introduce you to our guest writer for the month:


Jeff McBride will receive the prestigious Merlin Award for Most Innovative Magic Show 2010 on October 21, at a special ceremony during Jeff McBride’s Wonderground at The Olive on E. Sunset Road in Las Vegas.  At the same event, Eugene Burger will be receiving the Merlin Award for Close-Up Magician of The Year 2010.

The Merlin Award to magic is what the Oscar is to the movies.  It is the most prestigious award given in the world of magic.  Since 1968, the Merlin Award has been presented by the International Magicians Society as a recognition award.  The International Magicians Society is listed in the Guinness World Records as the World’s Largest Magic Organization with over 37,000 members worldwide.

Some of the world’s greatest magicians have received the Merlin Award, including Harry Blackstone, Doug Henning, Channing Pollock, David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy, Penn & Teller, Criss Angel, Sylvan, Tabary, Paul Daniels, Peter Marvey, Jeff McBride, Max Maven, Luis de Matos, Brett Daniels, Juliana Chen, Shimada, Mahka Tendo, Sorcar, etc.  Many show producers have also been honored with the Merlin Award, including Kenneth Feld, Elena Palchevski, and Alberto Sperduto.  For the complete list, go towww.IMSmagic.com and click on “Merlin Award Recipients.”

Jeff McBride Teaching MagicWe have a very full schedule in October, with several corporate shows, the class in Street Magic coming up, the Master Class for Mentalists with Ross Johnson (still a space or two available…hurry!), and, of course Magic & Meaning.

Our guest writer this month is one of our favorite performers and good friends, who has been coming to Magic & Meaning for many years.  George Parker is a true wizard, performing over 300 shows a year for many years now, helping various organizations all over the world find new and better ways to operate.  He is an amazing magician, and even more amazing thinker.  I know you will enjoy what he has to say about the subject of Serendipity!   Ladies and gentlemen – George Parker:


George ParkerDo you like chocolate chip cookies? I like the taste, but I like the bite even more. However, if Ruth Wakefield had been in control of her shopping, chocolate chip cookies would not have been invented. She intended to make chocolate drop cookies but didn’t have the right kind of chocolate. Instead, she broke up a candy bar and put the chunks in the mix. Silly putty was a byproduct of the search for an alternative for rubber in WW2. The inkjet printer was discovered by a Canon engineer who accidentally put his soldering iron on his pen and noticed that ink was shooting out.

These are cases of serendipity: an invention by accident. I have always loved the experience of happy and surprising discoveries. I’m a big believer in accidents and coincidences; they are a big part of my creative process. The word ‘serendipity’ was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754. He formed it from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip. The main characters were ‘always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of’. The secrets of how to trigger these discoveries is in the definition. You can’t force serendipity, but you can invite it by:
aiming to find something (the quest)
allowing accidents to happen
keeping an open, alert mind (sagacity).

The last thing is particularly important because we’re always going somewhere, even if we’re not aware of it. Even the most uptight, anal-retentive person can’t avoid accidents. But our senses will only perceive what our mind allows them to perceive. So a one-track mind will notice very little of what’s going on and will look at the world in the same way every day.

To open your mind you need to get off track on a regular basis. That turns out to be difficult for most people because we tend to resist experiences that are out of our comfort zone. A sober-minded person often resists spirituality. A very spiritual person resists sober-mindedness. Republicans resist Democrats and the other way around. Creative people tend to resist pragmatism and pragmatic people resist exploring more options. But our mind becomes lazy if we hang on to our own beliefs too long. Explore in all directions: switch your daily routine regularly. If you take a break, don’t just rest, but do something opposite from the thing you’re taking a break from. If you’re a physical person, do thought experiments. If you’re a thinker, surrender to dance, bioenergetics or sex. Switch religions every month! You’ll discover that beliefs are just beliefs and you can play with them to evoke new ideas.

The playful mind will be open to accidents and notice unusual opportunities. At first, it will feel strange because we learned to control everything in our lives and suppress uncomfortable feelings. But soon you will start to love this strange feeling of being open to chance. Then you will stack one invention on the other just like Francis Crick, the Nobel Prize-winning father of modern genetics. He was under the influence of LSD when he first deduced the double-helix structure of DNA in the fifties. And LSD itself was a case of serendipity, according to Albert Hofmann, who conducted the pharmaceutical research LSD was a byproduct of.

I’m not promoting the use of drugs of course. If you can’t handle alcohol, coffee, or whatever drug you can be addicted to, stay away from it. Because addiction is a sign of a one-track mind. And this type of person has little chance of running into serendipities.

That’s all for this week.  We’ll be back in just a couple of weeks with more news, and maybe even some photos of Jeff’s recent travels.

Best to all!
Tobias Beckwith