Even after 20 years of being the most successful performance artist in history, David Blaine is still a mystery to most.
Whether he is holding his breath underwater for a record 17 minutes and four seconds, or fasting for 44 days in a glass box above a crowded London street, it’s clear this man is driven by something otherworldly. What it is that’s driving him exactly—well, that is what I’d like to find out.
When I first started watching Blaine’s stunts, he struck me as a burgeoning careerist who used his nihilistic death drive to garner fame and money. The stunts were fascinating, but there wasn’t anything that struck me as all that compelling about the man, other than his weird eye liner and excessively monotonous tone.
Despite my initial judgement, I found myself watching more and more of his videos. What’s more interesting is the reactions by his onlookers—the sheer amazement and wonder on their faces. It’s almost as if they are taken somewhere else, as though he guides them through another dimension of reality with no resemblance to the mundanity of daily life.
This is when I started to understand who David Blaine really is.
Blaine’s success lays in his exposing of the unknown—the great mystery of life—by doing things that cannot be interpreted by the rational mind. He reminds us how extraordinary all of this is, of the sublime and and fantastic nature of life, by achieving things that we do not think are even remotely possible.
“As a magician, I try to show things to people that seem impossible. I think magic, whether I am holding my breath or shuffling a deck of cards, is pretty simple. It’s practice, it’s training and experimenting, while pushing through the pain to be the best I can be. That’s what magic is to me.”
We have to stop and think for a moment: What kind of person would be driven to do all of these things? He could’ve done card tricks for celebrities for the rest of his life if he wanted to and been just as rich and famous without any of the risk, but he sought to achieve much more than this.
What kind of person attempts to sit in a giant ice cube for three days and three nights while consuming nothing more than water?
This is a person who wants to push the boundaries of reality. This is a person who wants to live on the cutting edge of human perception, face down their deepest fears, and experience life as intensely and powerfully as possible.
That is immensely inspiring to me, and I truly don’t understand how someone could feel otherwise about his endeavors. That is why the whole world watches when he does his stunts. It awakens within us the dormant astonishment that we all feel about this crazy adventure we call life.
We all get bogged down by the system. We all feel crippled by the tremendous weight of it all from time to time. Being human is a difficult thing, particularly in a culture that demands a certain degree of uniformity and control. That is why someone like David Blaine is so captivating to us; he strives for something unimaginable and pursues what seems preposterous and inconceivable. In doing so, he sheds light on the astonishing miracle of our existence.
As someone contending with a severe chronic illness, the art of endurance that Blaine embodies is particularly appealing. I deal with deeply debilitating and painful symptoms on a day-to-day basis that rip apart the fabric of my soul and push my psyche to its furthest reaches.
I look at my illness as one extended endurance art piece—a spiritual performance of sorts. This makes my experience with this illness more uplifting and makes me much more capable of powering through it, because I know this suffering serves some greater purpose by forcing my mind to test its perceived limitations.
Our ability to face down our deepest fears is essential to living out our greatest potential as human beings. David Blaine is a walking embodiment of this. That is why he is a spiritual warrior.
We don’t need to attempt any of his stunts to improve ourselves as human beings, but we can certainly learn from his unbelievable strength and wisdom and carry it with us in our daily lives.
We can do this by simply reminding ourselves of the far reaches of human potential and how miraculous being alive really is.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Youtube still
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Yoli Rammazina