The Romance of Magic
Why magic? A question that often creeps from the curved lips of curious conversationalists following a performance of mine. A strange question, I always thought.
In my mind, magic is the same or similar to music or dance. Broken down to its simplest form, it is an expression or statement. In the words of sleight-of-hand expert Michael Vincent, "Magic is simply a form of communication." As is all art. It is simply a means of connection with other human beings on some level and though all art is romanticized it is truly nothing more than a means of communicating.
However, in defense of those questioners, magic is an uncommon (though increasingly more popular) form of entertainment, steeped in mystery.
I cannot speak for anyone else. So to answer the question "why magic", I can only speak of my own experiences and thoughts. To me, the power that magic has is in the underlying message inherent in every single trick ever conceived: "what can be dreamed can be accomplished," or "nothing is impossible," if you prefer.
Magic has a structure to it that automatically tells a story and has a message, and a powerful one at that. One that takes us to our most childish wishes and dreams. For example: a magician shows their hands empty and then produces a coin. For nearly all people the magician has just made a deep connection: they force you to think about what it would be like if you could just create money from nothing, a thought most have had when they were children dreaming of finding their Aladdin-esque genie filled lamp. And if the trick is performed competently, then it would have startled you and subsequently made you smile =)
If you don't like the music a band plays, it didn't do anything to you or for you. If you watch a ballet and it is poorly performed, again, it was done to no avail. But with magic, even nine-year-old Jimmy, who can only stumble through one card trick, assuming the trick "works," he will have some impact. This is a solid foundation.
Magic reminds us of mystery of everyday life, as well. What seems to be an empty box out of which comes a lady, more than likely has a lot more going on that is unknown to the viewer (often referred to by us in the trade, loosely, as the "smoke and mirrors").
Life is a complex combination of mysteries and at the end of each line of questioning the answer is a fulfilling "we don't really know." So why magic? Well I suppose it's a mystery, but for now let's just say to make you smile and to make you think.