A definition of magic

I am still pondering all the things the illusionist Prakash Puru said at the Rubin Museum event yesterday. One thing in particular continues to roll around in my mind.

It was a quote from Teller (of Penn and Teller), a definition of magic as: “The theatrical linking of a cause with an effect that has no basis in physical reality, but that – in our hearts – ought to.”

To me this thought speaks to the heart of all fictional narrative. We know that Lizzy and Mr. Darcy are just words on a page, that the guy playing Hamlet up on the stage is just an actor in a costume, that Humphrey Bogart isn’t really Rick Blaine.

Miraculously, it doesn’t matter. Because these characters and the narratives containing them are beautifully constructed, we feel that they ought to exist. In our heart of hearts, they are real to us.

I think narrative Virtual Reality will need to find its own version of that magic. It is not yet clear to me what that will be.

I do know that even VR pieces that I really love do not have that effect on me. Dear Angelica, Pearl, Giant, all of the other wonderful and award winning VR pieces, they are all great. But they don’t move me in the way that I am moved when Rick and Ilsa rekindle their love, or when Hamlet dies.

I am not convinced that this deficiency is intrinsic to the medium of VR. I think, rather, that we have not yet figured out how to use this medium to create magic.

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