Bateson's Sense of Humor


A famous writer who was known for being highly articulate and witty came to meet Gregory Bateson. They chatted for a while and then the writer left. Bateson remarked to a student, “At first I thought he had a sense of humor, then I realized he did not.” The student was confused by Bateson’s remark and asked him to explain what he meant by a sense of humor. Gregory looked at the student for a moment before replying, “It’s knowing that you don’t matter.”


Gregory Bateson (1905-1980) was a creative innovator in many fields: anthropology, psychology and information theory. His work with insight in dolphins and Double Bind Theory in disturbed human beings seems particularly relevant to Buddhism.

Beside what is said, the attitude of the speaker is particularly crucial. The best teachers are serious all the way down to the bottom and completely playful; completely themselves to the smallest millimeter and will to overturn the whole edifice in an instant. Suzuki Roshi said, “When I drink this tea, I drink the whole universe.”

How important are you? Won’t you come out and play? Do you just send or can you receive? In the world of objects, your funny bone objects. HA!

VERSE by Dairyu

Whether you matter or not
Throw yourself into the house of Buddha
The Old Man there is he serious?
You betcha
Does he have a sense of humor?
Nothing in front, nothing behind

Kyle GetschowComment