One of my favorite confrontations from the bible is between Moses and the magicians in the court of Pharoh.
Moses was there to demand the release of the Israelites. In his own words, he was there representing God. The way to he backed up his claim was with an astounding miracle.
In the prescence of Pharoah and his whole court, Moses took his staff, threw it on the ground, and suddenly the staff became a snake. Even in 2018, that is fucking amazing. If I saw that back then, I would have been amazed too.
But one part that never gets the same attention is what happens next in the story.
After this impressive display, Pharoah summons all his magicians, and they reproduce the same effect. They throw their staffs on the ground and they too turn into snakes.
When Moses did it, it was God. When the magicians did it, the bible said they used their “dark arts”.
This matters a lot to me. I think the reason why is that I am the kind of person that mystifies things that I feel intimidated by. If you look at the success of a friend, or someone you admire, it probably looks like a miracle. They just woke up one day and something dropped in their lap.
This is almost never true.
And not only that, believing that doesn’t serve you at all.
Assuming other people are more lucky than you or more prone to a windfall is a cancer. Assuming their success is a miracle will corrode your motivation to do better. So why do we do that? Easy.
Its soothing to think that other’s success is the result of intervention and chance and not the result of hard prolonged effort. A miracle means that nothing was required of them. Something happened TO them, and something could happen TO me one day too.
Magic on the other hand is hard. For a phase in my life, I was obsessed with magic. I think it was a forerunner to a lot of other artistic pursuits in my life. Card magic is the most interesting because you take a common object, playing cards, and through skill and presentation, you make wonderful and beautiful things happen.
One things people don’t understand, is that high level magicians have the practice habits of OCD classical musicians. Like the deck of cards never leaves their hands. T. Nelson Downs, the famed creator of a trick called misers dream, was said to have spent a decade in a barn in Iowa mastering the trick before his rise to fame.
The difference between magic and miracles is that magic takes discipline and miracles require nothing of you. Magic is in your hands, miracles are in the hands of some bigger force that you have to make supplications to.
I do think there are some miracles in the world. But I think as a life stratergy, and a habit, magic is where the power is.
I can’t control God, I can control what time I wake up and what I do after I disappoint myself. Its ok to catch big waves, there is an art to it. But the ability to make your own is invaluable.