A Little Lesson From 24

Synopsis: A Little Lesson From 24 — life is not as it appears, even when it’s filmed!

One of the things we do when travelling is take along DVDs for those times when we might want mindless entertainment, and don’t have Internet. This trip, we brought a bunch of TV shows, including a couple of seasons of our perennial favourite, 24.

Life Lessons from Jack Bauer???
Life Lessons from Jack Bauer???
© 24, 20th Century Fox

I was talking with a friend the other day, about life and how he was seeing it

Because of how much 24 we’ve seen lately, I mentioned the show, in the context of how we look at reality. Then I thought I might mention it here, and explain. And I was also pointed in this direction by a Facebook post from a friend.

not everyone
Ought to be no one… otherwise, perfect!

The key to where I am going with this is contained in the first line. “Not everyone…”
The rest of the text is perfect “the way it is.” The first line needs to be, “No one…”

That’s a “hard to swallow” idea… one that seems counter-intuitive. How could it be that none of us see things the same? Surely, we agree about most things…

Well, there is a kernel of truth to that, but only because of the power of social convention. We are socialized as children to “see things” a certain way. It’s why communities seem to be homogeneous. It’s a convenience.

Let’s start with “stuff” as an example. When I say “milk,” most of you think, “White stuff that comes in a bag (Canadian) and is pasteurized, and originally came from a cow.”

However… you might also see that milk can refer to what new moms produce, or, if we’re considering the beverage, it might be “raw,” or might come from a goat. Or a yak. Now, that, to a Westerner, is additional information. But if you are Tibetan, your primary definition is most likely “from a yak.”

And interestingly, the milk simply remains milk, no matter how it is defined.

Who cares, right?

Well, you ought to. Because this means that all people, who come from different contexts, have different definitions of… everything. Because of this, in general, we pretend to agree, so the whole world doesn’t screech to a halt. And that works fine, until there’s a conflict

Scenario: mom and dad, in the living room. 16-year-old daughter enters.
Mom: Cute outfit!
Dad: You’re not going out dressed like a hooker.

OK, so first of all, what’s neutral? The outfit. The daughter.

The conflict is about how each parent defines the neutral input that just walked into the room.

On to 24!

For those of you who have been living in a cave, 24 was / is (sorta) an ongoing “police drama” involving Jack Bauer (Keefer Sutherland) and the CTU (Counter Terrorist Unit.) And bad guys. And really stupid behaviour, often from his daughter Kim Bauer.

kim bauer
How many time do I have to tell you not to play with my gun???
© 24, 20th Century Fox

The conceit of 24 is that (except for the last season) it was broadcast in “real time.” 24 one hour episodes. During the hour, all that changed was the focus — i.e. from Jack, to CTU, to bad guy, to Kim being dumb.

I latched onto 24 as a good “therapy story.” As you watch an episode, it would seem to be covering everything that happened during an hour (minus commercials, of course!) But of course that’s not the case.

If we leave the world of fantasy, (which includes the idea that what you tell yourself is true,) and we enter the 24 studio while they are filming, you’ll see perfect reality — all of it — surrounding you.

First of all, there is not 60 minutes of film per episode. There are hours and hours of film. Different angles, different dialogues, different action. I think I read somewhere that each episode had 24 hours of film, which was distilled down to an hour.

OK, so what’s up here?

Even though there is “one story per episode,” and the director is working off of a script, how to tell the story is up for grabs. So, the story is filmed repeatedly, with twists, turns, and different angles. Out of all of that “raw data” (film) a 60 minute story is created. To repeat, the director films as the script “directs,” and also adds in a ton of other stuff, to cover all bases.

Not done yet! The film(all of it) is then carted off to editing, and the director and editor snip it down to 60 minutes, and into their vision for the episode. It may or may not be what the writer imagined.

The rest of the film that was shot never sees the light of day. AND! This is key! The rest of the film could be clipped together into many, many different episodes!

What we see is not what happened, but what the director wants us to see.

On to what I mean!

Creating a 24 episode is a pretty good model for how we create and view our reality. Even at our best, (say, meditating) we are picking and choosing what we notice and comment on. Out of all possible scenarios, we pick one theme, and describe that one thing to ourselves. In meditation, it’s the commentator voice, “This hurts, this is boring, what’s that bug doing crawling up the wall?”

If we have past experience and charge around something (say, the 16-year-old above) the script is already written by… wait for it… past script writing, and that provides the framework for what happens next. Just like the director picks film clips that fit the script.

In the example above, Dad sees exactly the same thing as mom (reality — neutral data) yet his story is coloured toward his daughter turning into a hooker. And mom thinks she look great, but that’s based on her stories. Perhaps, “Dad is a critical jerk, and he’s always judging, so I’ll show him, and “like” her dress.”

And then, like idiots, (or like Kim Bauer) they’ll have a fight over whose invented story is “right.”


Sure! Glad you asked!

Mom: “So, we have two different opinions about what we are seeing. and I’m curious about your story. As to mine, I have judgements that you are harsh regarding her, and I said what I said out of defensiveness.”

Dad: “Wow. You’re right. I flashed on being a teen aged boy, and how horny I always was, and I scared myself. I’d like to talk about it with both of you.”

Because — and you need to get this — the fight is not about the daughter!! It’s about conflicting, invented stories about the daughter, or better, about disagreements about how to parent.

The solution is called curiosity, as opposed to ever thinking anyone, any time, is seeing the world the way you are. Conflict begins to resolve when we admit to writing stories based upon past scripts and incomplete data. Once we see and believe this, there is actual hope for dialogue and consensus.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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