Magic on 34th Street

I’d never seen Miracle on 34th Street (1947) all the way through from beginning to end before.  It’s one of those movies that I’d caught six or twelve or fifteen scenes from, but out of order and with only a general sense of the plot without caring too much about the specifics.  Which is fine; I imagine that many of you have seen other charming movies in much the same way.

Yet this time, seeing it all the way through, two things stood out for me.  First, the movie is utterly without special effects.  It may be that there are ‘behind-the-scenes’ film-editing techniques that are creating astonishing results.  Yet those results are invisible to the audience member.  The whole movie is told with (sometimes campy) acting and storytelling, not with flash-bang and crazy imagery.

The second thing I was aware of is how much Miracle on 34th Street looks like magic.  Or more specifically, how frequently magic works exactly as it’s presented in this movie.

Consider: a series of coincidences results in the real Kris Kringle being able to replace the old lush who was intended for the parade.  The real Kris has a variety of people come to his aid.  Mr. Macy and Mr. Gimbal come to various detentes and agreements because it seems to be good business.  The right place for Kris to sleep opens up for him.  The Post Office delivers the letters on exactly the right day, exactly at the right hour, to release Kris from custody and win the day.

This is what magic looks like.  Don’t expect lightning flashes and Goetic emblems to manifest in the air in fire as you cast spells (though that sometimes happens).  Don’t expect demons to manifest in lightning and cloud (though admittedly they sometimes do.).  Don’t expect powers and principalities to respond to your requests with voices like thunder and volcano (though that sometimes happens).

No — instead, recognize that your magic is likely to manifest in synchronicity and coincidence, like a 1947 movie about Santa Claus.  The letter or the check arrives in the mail on the right day.  The bill is delayed from arrival for a little while.  The old lush gets fired and a job opportunity appears for you.  The friend has a spare bed in the right neighborhood.  The right opportunity opens at the right time.

So… recognize that you are in the business of altering probabilities. Creating synchronicities. Inventing coincidences.  And accepting certain benefits that arise from that.  You cannot expect that your magic will ever generate Hollywood-style special effects, of course.  But that doesn’t prevent your magic from generating spectacular results that are nonetheless perfectly natural.

But it does to some extent depend on believing in Santa Claus.

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