An Essay

What Is Magic?

Challenging Our Cherished Beliefs

I am deep into a great book entitled The Magic Rainbow by Juan Tamariz. You are probably saying, Juan who? He is not a household name unless you are a magician.

If you are a magician, you would most likely have studied Tamariz. He is among the greatest teachers of our craft, a genius who provokes magicians and others to think, probe and doubt cherished beliefs about most everything. While reading The Magic Rainbow, Tamarez caused me to rethink the meaning of magic.

What is Magic… the old definition.

As you can imagine, that’s a question that comes up a lot in my world and work. Like many, I had adopted the classic dictionary definition:

The power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious forces,  a supernatural-phenomenon,

the use of trickery to make odd things happen.

Until recently, I had not given the “what is magic” question much brain space. Instinctively I knew I didn’t particularly appreciate how some perceive my craft. It can be a bit uncomfortable as exemplified during a recent experience in Maine.

While sitting at a sports bar in Damariscotta, Maine I showed the bartender a couple of tricks. Her response was not unusual: disbelief, bafflement, and perhaps a little fear.

The fear came out in her words… “You are the devil, get out of my bar.” I started to rise when she said, “I’m kidding, you don’t have to leave, but you are the devil.”

What is Magic… the Tamariz definition.

Most explanations of “Magic” are about the verb, not the noun, nor the feeling or experience. Tamariz has a simple definition that, to me, allows for more creativity and expression.

“Magic is the art of making the impossible, possible. 

It is an art that, at a symbolic level, allows the dreams of man to come true.”

As both man and magician, I prefer Tamariz’s characterization. It offers hope versus fear and extends the opportunity to everyone, not just makers of magic and graduates of Hogwarts.

The Power of Yes, of Intention

When I am working, I like to empower people, especially post Covid when so many people feel powerless. As an extension of Tamariz’s definition, I like to add the power of intention and yes to the equation. 

Years ago, my business coach introduced me to the concept of intention and goal setting. I found it to be a bit like magic. I claim something to be, set a strong intention and it happened. 

In my current work, I often as a spectator to perform the impossible by saying “Yes” to it. Can you read a person’s mind? Say yes. Can you make a coin vanish? Say yes. Can you do the impossible? YES!. 

The bottom line is they do make magic happen. It feels amazing and empowering for everyone involved.

Let Us All Make Magic Happen

Naturally, I use magical thinking to do wondrous things with playing cards, coins, words, watches, balls, cups, and thoughts. In my world, we challenge the word “can’t” and replace it with “how.”

I ask you to join me in magical thinking. Where can you make the impossible happen in your own life? Is there an obstacle you thought impossible? Pretend you are a magician and ponder how you can make the impossible possible.

Examine life’s roadblocks with the eyes of a person who makes magic happen. Perhaps you’ll see new opportunities and change a few “cannot” into “yes I can” moments.

Until we meet again, I wish you great moments of magic and wonder.

Gene Urban


what is magic
what is magic?