Tikkun olam TV

24 May

It’s Thursday night, which has been a great TV-viewing night for me this season. First at 8 p.m. Eastern Time, Missing on ABC (channel 7 in NYC), with Ashley Judd as a middle-aged ex-CIA operative kicking butt all over Europe to find her kidnapped teenage son, without (implausibly) having lost any of her dexterity, quickness, or endurance. Then at 9 p.m., Touch, Fox’s (channel 5’s) new Kiefer Sutherland vehicle, in which he’s the rather morose and insecure (i.e., anti–Jack Bauer) father of an autistic 12-year-old, Jake. And finally, at 10 p.m. on NBC (channel 4), Awake, a superbly imaginative cop show starring Jason Isaacs.

Missing aired its season finale last week. It has neither New York nor dream content, so enough said here about that series. Awake takes place in L.A., but hey, the LAPD detectives put an ex–New York couple into witness protection in one episode, and anyway, Awake is all about dreams.

Awake, or not?

"Awake," on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

“Awake,” on NBC: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Dylan Minnette

His shrinks say not, he says always. Detective Britten has been in an accident that has killed either his wife or his teenage son. Carrying on with life, he wakes up with his wife, goes to sleep, wakes up having his son alive. Always alternating. The psychiatrist in his wife-survived reality tell him, “I assure you, this isn’t a dream,” and he replies, “That’s exactly what the other shrink says”—the psychiatrist in the son-survived reality. Both shrinks keep urging him to accept that his other “existence” is just a dream, a way of denying the loss. “I have no interest in getting better,” he tells them; as it is now, he still has his wife and he still has his son—just not at the same time

That’s all interesting enough in its own right, but what I really love about this show is the way he gets clues in each reality to solve cases in the other reality. In son-survived reality, he has a middle-aged black partner; in wife-survived reality, he has a young Hispanic partner just promoted to detective. (Actually, I might have that reversed, but no matter.) Because Britten hasn’t told either partner where the clues—what would normally be considered dream metaphors—are coming from, his “hunches” seem totally outlandish to them and the partners are constantly suspicious that Britten is losing it. What’s great is that, from a dreamer-as-viewer perspective, it’s all completely plausible: how the metaphors play out synchronistically in waking (or in this case, alternate) reality, and the basic metaphysical question of whether dream is no more than a different state of consciousness or an entry into an alternate piece of the “multiverse” every bit as real as what we consider to be the “waking” world.

Awake’s season finale was tonight, but, like the other shows, there are full episodes available to view online.

Touch’s synchronicities

David Mazouz and Kiefer Sutherland in Touch episode

David Mazouz and Kiefer Sutherland in Touch episode “1+1=3”

Season finale airs May 31, 2012 (two hours, check the time).

Touch is set in New York, and the whole thing revolves around synchronicity. (Gee, I haven’t said anything on that topic here on this blog, have I.) The episodes have titles like “Entanglement,” “Music of the Spheres,” and “Noosphere Rising.”

Jake is obsessed with numbers—a different number (several digits long) each episode—and his father, struggling to understand and communicate, chases down each number-lead and ends up helping/rescuing/saving someone. Separate plots during the hour take place in various locations around the globe, all involving that week’s set of numbers, until at the climax the plots all end up connected. (I call this phenomenon Parallel Story Lines, and it has its own category symbol in my system of graphical journaling.)

Bodhi Elfman as the officemate who quotes kabbalah ("Tessellations" episode) (IMDb.com photo)

Bodhi Elfman as the officemate who quotes kabbalah
(“Tessellations” episode)
(photo via IMDb.com)

Jake's language is numbers (

Jake’s language is numbers (“Music of the Spheres” episode)

Touch hasn’t done anything with dreams (so far), but a recent development has a big dream association for me: The officemate of one of the characters, upon meeting Jake, sees him as involved in tikkun (or tikun) olam and says he is one of the “36 righteous” described by Jewish kabbalah mysticism, the 36 men in each generation without whom the world would not survive. Tikkun olam has been a theme of a couple of presentations I’ve made at International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) conferences, because of this dream on August 6, 1998 (paraphrased here), in which an unfamiliar, foreign-sounding word is spoken:

Marjorie Attacks My Tiuken

I’m at a workshop to enhance psychic abilities, and I’m sitting with a man unknown to me in the dream, to partner with him in an exercise. A former friend named Marjorie comes by. In waking life, Marjorie and I have had a falling out. In the dream, she wants to join my partner and me in the exercise, which I think would be a terrible idea. When I rebuff her, she says to me caustically, “You don’t know how to use”—or possibly “you don’t trust—your tiuken.” Her criticism infuriates me, and I tell her she doesn’t know anything about my tiuken.

The word tiuken in the dream made me think, awake, of the Jewish progressive magazine Tikkun. Two days after the dream. I was out shopping and walked past a favorite table of books. The only one that caught my eye that day was Living Judaism, by Rabbi Wayne Dosick. The first entry I noticed in the table of contents was tikkun olam, a Hebrew term that sounds nearly the same as my dream word tiuken. I discovered that tikkun olam is the Jews’ sacred mission to repair, heal, balance, transform, and perfect the world. (In fact, it turns out, the tagline to Tikkun magazine’s title is “to heal, repair, and transform the world.”) Tikkun olam expresses a role as co-creators—or partners—with God, and much later I realized that that corresponds in another way with the same dream, in which I’ve partnered with someone for an exercise.

The very concept of tikkun olam has fascinated me ever since that dream.

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