Houdini’s life in all of its fullness resonates deeply with us. His skills as a showman, magician, and escape artist surpass what we could dream of accomplishing in this lifetime.
His forbearance from alcohol, tobacco, and other vices impressed and guided us through the awkward teenage years when we were tempted to give up magic and good habits in exchange for entrance into the “cool group.”
As he aged, Houdini was always aware of the very temporary nature of it all. He fought to keep his name in the headlines, to master new aspects of our craft, to stay on top; all the while realizing it was ultimately a losing game.
His physical strength diminished but his experience and resourcefulness supplanted raw strength to accomplish miracles even more spectacular than before.
Despite his public persona of invulnerability, he proved to be as vulnerable as any man. The passing of his beloved mother brought unrelenting grief to this proto-superman. Death brought a permanent end to his doting, unrepentant acts of love for the woman he describes as an angel.
Reading biographies about this time in Houdini’s life evoked sympathy but in the last few weeks we again resonate with Houdini the vulnerable man. With the passing of our beloved mother, we gained empathy for Houdini. We felt his desperation and confusion and sadness.
In our youth, we perhaps judged Houdini too harshly. We wondered why time was unable to heal his wounded psyche. Why did the pain and grief seem so severe even years after her passing?