Friday, 23 October 2009

Come again?

Have you ever had the peculiar sensation that you're re-living, moment by moment, something that had happened before?

Of course you have.
Most likely you even know what it's called: deja vu.
(More - much more - about deja vu in a future post.)

Typically, it involves a sensation of a situation being repeated, without any sensory evidence that a repetition of any sort is taking place; and the time of the supposed "original" event is usually perceived as unidentifiable. In other words, people don't usually get a feeling of a deja vu about an event that took place a minute ago. (Unless, of course, you are participating in a mind-numbing board meeting - but I digress...)

But since the advent of the internet people have become aware of another, apparently similar type of event, often - and perhaps incorrectly - also described as deja vu: the apparent exact repetition of an event, involving the same factors (people, circumstances, etc.), within a time frame that would normally make the repetition of said event physically impossible.

For example: you see a person come out of a house - a house that you know without a doubt has no back or lateral doors -, stop for a moment to look at his or her wrist watch and then walk down the street.
A minute later, you see the same person come out of the same house, through the same (and only) front door, stop for a moment to look at the wrist watch, repeating every gesture in minute detail, and walk down the street - again.

Interestingly enough, many people seem to have experienced this. And even if some of these experiences could undoubtedly be attributed to insufficient attentiveness (or worse), others baffle the mind.

This delightfully illustrative short account comes from Cynthia Sue Larson.

In fact, something seemingly similar happened to me, in early January 2008.

I was watching a live newscast.
I watched three segments in a row, then I stepped out of the room (I don't remember what the reason was, and it's not important). When I came back, I sat behind my desk to do some work. The TV was on all the time.

Not a minute had passed when I heard the anchorman announcing the first of the three segments that they had already shown. I remember thinking to myself "Oops...", but didn't bother to even turn the head. After all, even the best of journalists can make mistakes and reread an announcement or whatever.
But then the segment began - and it was the same one as before.
So were the following two.
To convince myself beyond reasonable doubt that it wasn't a "false memory" or anything like that I started repeating word for word the sentences that I had remembered from before. They were identical - even the anchorman's jokes were the same!

But still, no big deal. I was merely surprised to see the network switch to what I naturally thought to be the replay of the newscast for audiences overseas - before the live show was even through!
They had never done that before.
But, as I found out soon enough, they hadn't done it on that occasion, either... It had been a LIVE broadcast, just like on every other occasion I had watched it. And the anchor is a very reputable journalist who would have noticed if he were rereading the same segments that he had read a minute before - including the jokes he improvised.

Or would he?

Whatever it was (or was not),
in retrospect this occurrence seems all the more remarkable because around the same date - give or take a day - another odd thing happened:

I was standing in my living room doing a yoga exercise. It was shortly after dawn break, and I saw the line of street lights being turned off. A few (perhaps five) seconds later - I saw them go out for the second time.
Naturally, I was somewhat startled: after I had seen them go out for the first time they hadn't been turned on again (to be then turned off again), of course.

I suppose this must be very difficult to grasp; and I certainly know it isn't easy to describe.
It was as if someone had hit a "replay" button - with no visible interlude (no visibly different state) between the two apparently identical events.

I am observant. Not much escapes me, I must say. (Literally: I must say it, because only I know myself, and so I know this wasn't simply an "attention" issue.)
That's what makes it so puzzling.

I usually like to speculate on the possible causes or sources of various phenomena - and the "weirder" they are, the better.
But in cases like these I really don't know what to say. Jumping to conclusions - any conclusions - would be counterproductive and possibly deceptive, at best.

The wisest thing to do, in my opinion, would be to keep collecting accounts of such events - and keep an open mind - and see where the evidence takes us.

If you want to report a perceived dimensional anomaly, please do, but read this first.

No comments: