What Stargazing Can Teach Us
Last year, I started advertising my services as a professional magician around the holidays. The idea was that I’d perform at holiday parties to small groups of adults while they talked, ate, and drank.
So I booked my first gig and found out there was a miscommunication (or perhaps a non-communication) and instead of walking around doing tricks for adults, I was going to be at a table performing tricks for children. This wasn’t the worst news; I had spent years as an elementary school teacher, so I was used to working with and performing for kids.
Still, it made me think, as many situations tend to do. It was assumed that as a magician, I’d be performing for kids. In fact, whenever I perform for the children of friends, the adults tend to tune out.
A magic trick, in their mind, is the equivalent of a balloon animal. Delightful for the young, but useless for the old.
I’ve written about magic before. I see it as a gift, an opportunity to escape the chains of the “real world” for a moment. To experience something surreal.
Most adults don’t see it this way.
Unlike the balloon animal though, a magic trick gives an adult access to the child within them. We live in a world of daily routine, of 9-5, of soccer practice, of yearly traditions, of family dinners, of Netflix sitcoms, and of political theater.
And honestly, maybe the same goes for the balloon animal. Maybe the same goes for Saturday morning cartoons, and fruit loops, and summer camps.
Maybe the same goes for long road trips where you fall asleep listening to the same 12 songs on your discman.
Same goes for coloring books.
Adult coloring books were a popular holiday gift a few years ago. Up until then, we hadn’t thought of “coloring” as an adult activity – but some marketers came along and changed our perception. It wasn’t as if the activity itself was inherently childish, no, it was that the activity was associated with children.
If you don’t love the feeling of not knowing how something works, magic can sometimes be unsatisfying. And this is how many adults operate.
Except that we don’t know how everything works, we just convince ourselves we do. The only difference is that with magic, the mystery is intentional. It’s administered by a professional wonder-smith.
When you look at a stars, are you picturing unromantic giant balls of gas? Do you know the intricate details of the math and science that brought you this incredible view for stargazing? Do you need to?
Or are you simply in awe of its beauty?
Like the song asks, “what’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing?”
After all, to gaze is to be in awe.
Kids, on the other hand, don’t need to know how everything works. They don’t care. What’s important to them is how an experience makes them feel.
And while we can’t operate in that mode all the time, there’s room for it in our lives if we allow it.