Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Déjà Vu, or Here We Go Again

Déjà Vu: If It All Seems Familiar, There May Be a Reason
NY Times, September 14, 2004

New & interesting research being done on the experience of déjà vu, some of it just down the road at SMU. I spent a large chunk of my youth dealing with what I considered extreme & frequent cases of feeling like I had already experienced something before. And this evening while teaching, I had a mild episode of familiarity: the person, the conversation, the seating arrangement, my position in the classroom. It took me back to remembering how I felt when these episodes were so much more frequent & intense. I used to document them, noting location, duration, and situation. Some common characteristics of people who experience déjà vu include the following:
  • lively & frequently stimulated imagination
  • frequent travel
  • advanced education

Disappointing to find after all these years & strange experiences that I'm a textbook example for something that I used to consider made me unique. I've even had déjà vu partners or companions: people & friends that would experience déjà vu simultaneously with me, or people that would (as if) trigger déjà vu for me. Of course, like most things, these experiences have faded in intensity and frequency over the years. I sometimes wonder if déjà vu is connected to the linguistic part of the brain because conversations often trigger it. And conversations in other languages have made for some freaky encounters abroad, particularly with people with whom I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I could have never spoken before, especially in whatever particular language I was speaking to them in at the time. Perhaps sleep deprivation & insomnia somehow activate déjà vu as well. When the brain is tired and already tricky, you better watch out! he writes shortly after 2:00 AM after a long day of teaching, just one day after working nonstop for eleven hours. Too bad I can't just force myself into thinking that I'm still asleep and sweetly dreaming this entry, but then there would be nothing for you to read when you wake up in the morning sweetly refreshed from a restful slumber.

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