An unstable contest of minds

I was reading last week’s New Yorker, and this passage by Adam Gopnik – part of a long piece about professional magicians – caught my attention. I really agree with this:

Whatever the context, the empathetic interchange between minds is satisfying only when it is “dynamic,” unfinished, unresolved. Friendships, flirtations, even love affairs depend, like magic tricks, on a constant exchange of incomplete but tantalizing information. We are always reducing the claim or raising the proof. The magician teaches us that romance lies in an unstable contest of minds that leaves us knowing it’s a trick but not which one it is, and being impressed by the other person’s ability to let the trickery go on. Frauds master our minds; magicians, like poets and lovers, engage them in a permanent maze of possibilities. The trick is to renew the possibilities, to keep them from becoming schematized, to let them be imperfect, and the question between us is always “Who’s the magician?” When we say that love is magic, we are telling a truth deeper, and more ambiguous, than we know. . . .

The magicians have the boys for a moment, between their escape from their fathers and their pursuit of girls. After that, they become sexual, outwardly so, and learn that women (or other men) cannot be impressed by tricks of any kind: if they are watching at all, they are as interested as they are ever going to be and tricks are of no help. You cannot woo anyone with magic; the magic that you have consciously mastered is the least interesting magic you have.

The essay doesn’t seem to be onlineReader Pteryxx notified me that the whole essay is archived online now, here, and the New Yorker also has an interview with Gopnik about his experience researching and writing it.

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One Response to An unstable contest of minds

  1. That is a wonderful quote; I too agree. What an interesting perspective. I have enjoyed following your blog and your artwork. Keep up the good work

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