The Art of Astonishment

During our Channel News Asia interview yesterday morning, Ning & I were asked what we love about magic. I said it is because magic is the “art of astonishment”. This is a description coined by Paul Harris, a legendary close-up magician or close up kinda guy in his own words. (Incidentally, I met Paul in 1994 in Vegas and thought he is as eccentric as you would think he is from watching his tapes and reading his works).

Paul views magic as creating astonishment for the audience. Everything about the presentation of magic is to elicit that moment of astonishment from the audience.

It is this moment of astonishment that allows a person to truly believe that the impossible has just occured, and by extension, their paradigm of what is and is not possible is shattered, even it is just for a few moments.

However, these moments are very powerful as is it evokes a child-like wonder. A wonder that is often forgotten… or taken over by skeptism, jaded experiences and life lessons.

So, for me, magic is about knowing that nothing is impossible. No matter how unlikely, no matter how difficult, there is always a way. So, it goes beyond just a moment but is the portal to an optimistic outlook on life, knowing that anything is possible. It gives hope. Some people think that hope is dangerous. But hope is what keeps us going.

I draw a lot from Albert Einstein’s quote “Learn from Yesterday, Live for today, hope for tomorrow”. I’ve learnt & am learning everyday. I’m working unconditionally every day, with the hope for tomorrow.

But, one doesn’t really need hope when you believe and know. You just need perseverance, patience and strength. And then it is a conscious choice to be resolute.


About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
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10 Responses to The Art of Astonishment

  1. daniel says:

    Personally i’m a big fan of magic – i love the astonishment that it brings, the wonder, and fact that it brings one as close to a real miracle as much as possible (or rather, for that moment, there IS a real miracle). On a more personal level, magic brings hope to myself that nothing is impossible and i think that gives so much to the people who love magic. Possibly that is the reason why magic is such something that transcends age and culture.

  2. Aaron says:

    yea, i find it really sad that some people find all sorts of reasons to prove that magic is “unreal”. i personally love magic, and really enjoy the element of surprise. luckily there are people like you around to impress people like me!

  3. Jack says:

    wow, i have never seen it this way.. especially putting it into such words.. i only know that i enjoy magic, but i never really thought so deep about it..

  4. Josh says:

    Saw the interview and Jc sum i am really really really upset at what u said when being asked what the difference was between a trick and illusion, U replied in a really smug manner saying that dogs did tricks. I found this really reaally offensive and searched u up on the internet. being a magic enthusiast for 2 years now i do small tricks for my kids and family. Does this make me a dog? I really like tricks as it helps me break a barrier when i meet ppl at work. I have seen great magicians like armando who do coin tricks and even the newer magicians liek criss angel do coins/card tricks does this make them dogs?Not everythign a magician does need to be big.The funny part was when ning went on to do a card trick. Talk about shooting urself in the foot.
    I never had anythign against u and in fact respected the fact u are doing singapore proud but its clear u do not view magic as an art. With suttle jabs at smaller magicians it really does seem u are threatened by other illusionists in singapore or should i say dogs?

    • jcsum says:

      Josh… It is a JOKE… a tongue-in-cheek comment. I say it (as with many many many magicians) as a reference that what we magicians (amateur, pros, semi-pros whatever) do are magic effects or illusions – not tricks because it is derogatory. So, it is a playful chide on the host for calling what we do as ‘tricks’. Check out every interview I do… I say the same thing. I’m helping all magicians by educating the media and you think I’m making you look bad…. that is hilarious. If you do good magic, do you want someone to equate what you do as a ‘trick’… the same way a dog ‘sits’? No, you want them to call it a magic effect or an art of astonishment as Paul Harris likes to say. Eugene Burger lectures the same thing. Do not call what you do tricks. You are a magician… you do magic. Hence…. the phrase. “Dogs do tricks”. You have completely missed the point and I’m afraid the only one too. I view magic as an art, which is precisely why I don’t let ppl call what we do ‘tricks’! Ask your friends what they think I meant. Trying to tell the host that we magicians do not do simple ‘tricks’ like dogs or take the opportunity to put down ‘lesser’ magicians…. Gimme a break… But, no offense taken. J C

  5. daniel says:

    Gracious. I’m a HUGE magic hobbyist as well and i saw the interview. J C was definitely not putting down ‘lesser’ magicians in any way. In fact, i never liked it when people ask if i could show them a trick. Yes i may be just a magic hobbyist but in my mind, trick is as in trickery and is used only to ‘con’ and ‘trick’ people. Magic is an entertainment and we do effects, never tricks.

    AND i feel it is so unfair that you say J C do not think of magic as an art. Please read the post again. NO one, in my opinion, can ever write such a piece of writing about magic unless he (or she) loves the art form and genuinely regards it as such.


  6. magicfan says:

    @ Josh: PUH-LEEZE man……..

    @ J C: Please ignore such idiotic comments. This blog entry is my absolute favourite. There is no other entry that shows the love for the magic artform as apparent as this. Keep doing SG proud!

  7. magicman says:

    I absolutely agree with Josh, to utter such a comment in a public setting/interview is down right crude and quite unimaginable, i can even hear the host of prime time morning taken aback. Lets not dwell on semantics the reality is no layman will ever say, “wow i loved your act of astonishment ”. If we magicians want to drive home the message, it would be not to use the word “tricks” when we perform. I believe this should be taught within the magic community and not to the layman rather than utter crude remarks like dogs do tricks in an interview.
    The fact of the matter is that lay ppl use simple terms like tricks to describe acts done by magicians especially when it comes to sleight of hand or close up performances vs big illusions. I am very sure they did not mean to be derogatory and it is we oursleves who make it derogatory. Its a problem with the mind i am afraid.

  8. Will says:

    seriously josh, calling illusions “tricks” are wrong. tricks are defined as cunning or skilful acts or schemes intended to deceive or outwit people. it gives a very negative impression the way i see it. if you enjoy doing trickes, it gives me the impression that you like to impress people or deceive people, not that i really think you do. it’s just that people particular about english want to give the correct impression. take it easy man.

  9. zack says:

    GUYS!!! Its a joke! Tongue in Cheek! Don’t you guys get it? OMG! What is the magic world coming to?

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