Sunday, November 02, 2008


Patter and Buddhism

(Yes, it's been two years since my last post. I just had another idea.)

Magicians talk while they perform. It's almost entirely used as a distraction, and yet it's such an important part of being a magician that they've designated a word for it: "patter". They even write the stuff in advance (although one has to imagine it's not entirely predetermined).

Society calls for patter too. Conversation may be edifying or not, but even when it is, the majority of it is not primarily aimed at the exchange of information, but rather for bonding. A steady stream of talk is useful in its own right, even if the particular information transmitted turns out to be of no independent value. First dates, for instance. Or job interviews. (Economists may note the parallels.)

When I was trying to study Buddhism, in high school, I came across a number of ideas (they all seemed to fall under the general umbrella of "expanded awareness") which, although they seemed meaningful and important on paper, I could not operationalize.

I think the idea of patter may offer a bit of practical insight. It's easy to get caught up in the high-frequency stream of ideas that patter contains, and thereby lose sight of the underlying reality, which is a very slow-moving process of people orbiting each other. Sometimes they get closer, sometimes farther away -- but underneath all the overlay of activity and talk, what's going on is fairly simple, and it's good to be aware of that foundation.

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