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Legend has it that when the great magician Howard Thurston would step out onto stage after the curtains rose, the music would suddenly stop, and he would slowly gaze across the theatre, as if he was about to say something. But he wouldn’t say a word. He simply gazed at everyone with a smile.
One day, a child met Thurston after a performance and asked him why he doesn’t say anything. Thurston replied: “Oh my child, I DO say something. From the balcony` to the main floor, I am saying: ‘I love you. I love you. I love you.’ I am sending my love across the footlights each and every show I do.” 
I first heard this story years ago while growing up in the art of magic. It stayed with me, and I vowed to exude that same love for my own audiences. Just imagine: If you sincerely love the people you serve, how would you treat them? And how might this be different from the way you’re treating them now?
Three Poisons to Humanity
The time for loving servitude is certainly now, as three poisons continue to threaten humanity: apathy, hatred, and violence.
Of the three, perhaps the most preferable is hatred—because at least it provides a level of consideration unavailable to the apathetic. Yet the danger of hatred can be a slippery slope to violence.
Perhaps the best antidote to such dangers is Thurston’s loving servitude, yet following through with this mantra isn’t all that simple—for it begs at least two questions: What does love mean? And how do we demonstrate love?
Ancient Greek has several words that we today translate as the same word: Love. Though this single word sounds the same, depending on the context, it can feel different.
As an antidote to apathy, hatred, and violence, what flavor of love are we looking for? Perhaps philia, storge, pragma, and agape fit the bill nicely, but we can’t forget about philautia—for as Aristotle reminds us, how we feel about others is an extension of our feelings about ourselves. Perhaps this is where we get the notion that to love others, we must first love ourselves.
Yet even if we’re able to identify the love we have, we’re still left searching for how best to demonstrate it—for we cannot simply feel an emotion. Emotions by definition contain the prescription to be moved to do something about it—literally compelled into motion.
Perhaps the answer can be found in what the author Gary Chapman calls The Five Love Languages—the various ways that enable people to demonstrate love to others:
Words, time, gifts, acts, and touch can all be worthy strategies for demonstrating love, and throughout his magical production, Thurston was likely able to incorporate all five along the way to demonstrate his love:
Taking the time to come to their city and perform his magic act for them. Metaphorically touching their hearts with his stories (and literally touching them with handshakes as audience members were welcomed to the stage to participate) and offering encouraging words for their assistance. And lastly, giving them souvenir gifts to remember the experience by.
I Love YOU
What I appreciate about Thurston’s example is he didn’t discriminate. He offered his love to anyone who happened to be in front of him. He didn’t first ask about their age, gender, race, heritage, sexual orientation, religion, political ideology, or any of that. He simply loved who was in front of him and demonstrated that love freely.
What we can learn from this is that who we include as us and who we exclude as them will have a profound impact on how well we provide an antidote to apathy, hatred, and violence—because what happens to the least of us creates a ripple effect that affects the most of us.
All Done in Love
As a performing magician for most of life, I’ve become accustomed to hearing the same question over and over again: “How’d you do it?” Inspired by Thurston, the sincere answer is quite simple: “It’s all done in love.” I have truly taken this mantra to heart, and my hope is that it is demonstrated not only in my performances but in my everyday interactions as well.
In 2017, I commissioned the incredibly talented Ukrainian graphic artist, Victoria Gorbylyova, to create a promotional poster for my work, inscribed with this mantra in the lower right corner: “All done in love.” This is inspired not only by Thurston but is also an homage to David Devant—an influential British magician.
One of Devant’s most famous posters had the slogan “All done by kindness” scrawled in the lower right corner, and I asked Victoria to mirror the format of Devant’s iconic poster. What is perhaps most striking about Devant’s piece is that most posters prominently display the magician’s face, and rarely every show the audience. Yet in this iconic poster, the perspective is from the back of the stage looking out into the audience: all you can see of Devant is his back, while the audience’s smiling faces are in full view.
The message is clear: Loving servitude is not about the self; it is about others.
Three poisons continue to threaten humanity: apathy, hatred, and violence, and this is readily apparent today. My heart aches for the innocent lives being threatened in Ukraine, and I’m not sure which is worse:
My heart especially aches for Victoria and her family, the talented artist who created the “All done in love” poster. She lives in Kyiv and rather than fleeing, she has chosen to stay and fight for her home. My heart hurts. But I am armed with words like philia, storge, pragma, and agape to describe my love for Victoria and her fellow citizens.
And while I’m not there in person, I can still touch her heart with encouraging words of support, give her the gift of time by writing this story, and asking you to be moved by the heart to pray for her and her loved ones.
Who we include as us and who we exclude as them has a profound impact on how well we provide an antidote to apathy, hatred, and violence—because what happens to the least of us creates a ripple effect that affects the most of us.
On that note, I’ll leave you with this parting thought:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
 Ewing, T. (1999). Conjurors and cornfields: Magic on the Indianapolis stage. Thomas A. Ewing.
 The 8 ancient Greek words for love. (n.d.) Greek City Times. www.greekcitytimes.com/2020/02/14/the-8-ancient-greek-words-for-love
 Chapman, G. (1992). The five love languages. Northfield Publishing.
 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Jonas Cain, M.Ed. is a storyteller, magician, musician, and facilitator of fascination on a mission to help you experience abiding joy.