“Why is Lego the most ingenious toy in the world?” – Alberto Knox, Sophie’s World
We love Lego. All of us. It’s amazingly popular. There are 400 BILLION Lego blocks in existence. That’s 62 for every person alive. Or rather there were. This impressively large number is ten years old. I have no idea how many blocks there are now, but its going to be a lot.
The quote above, from a character in the book by Jostein Gaarder, inspires the hero to think about the nature of reality. Sophie, the hero, learns about Democritus, a Greek philosopher. He believed that everything was made up of tiny, invisible, and eternal particles. He called them ‘atoms’. These are the fundamental building blocks of everything we see. To be perfectly honest, when I originally read the book I got bored at that point and went off to play with some Lego. But I do think there is something universal about it. The sheer thrill and joy of pressing two blocks together is – I believe – one common to anyone who has ever played with it. As you’re reading this in English, if you’re under the age of 45 I’m going to guess this is you
I think it is this universal appeal that made me want to start doing magic with Lego. It’s so tactile, so familiar. We all know and understand Lego. It’s not a magical prop or stage illusion; it’s something we stand on at night that makes us swear. It’s real, we know what it does, and so it’s perfect for magic. If I make a wand appear from nowhere, it might have a spring inside, or it might fold up. If I make a Lego man appear from nowhere, that’s magical! This is why Mini-Paul was born.
When I show my Lego tricks to people I get a rather mixed bag of reactions. Many magicians just look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language. In the age of social media trending and magic actually being kind of cool, the fact that I’m proud of a trick where I remove the clothes of a Lego version of myself in an instant is something of an oddity. Other friends worry that I might give the impression that I’m a children’s entertainer as I’m constantly playing with toys. (My response of “No, actually it's a highly sophisticated inter-locking brick system” normally goes down like a lead balloon). But a few get it. When a magician shows you a trick, they are showing you a part of themselves. We have put far more work into this illusion than many of us like to admit. And our choice of magic tells you a lot about us. If I show you a trick that is cool, then I’m showing you that I am cool – or at least I want to be. Those incredibly popular tricks you see? Sometimes I don’t know if a magician is showing you a trick because they love performing it, or because it’ll get them attention. Now, I’m all for doing magic to make money, it’s why I’m a professional. But I believe what we do needs to be more than that. Our performances should let you know who we are. Our magic should give you an idea of the kind of world we want to live in. Mine is one where things go wrong, I often look a bit silly, but with a bit of muddling through together we make the world a little bit better. In short, when I show you a trick – whether it’s one I bought or have developed myself – I’m showing it to you because it speaks to me. It makes the child inside of me smile.
Just like pressing two Lego blocks together.