Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Déjà Vu (...Déjà Vu...)

While sitting at the church lunch tables on Sunday, my father started telling Lydia a story about his college days, his major, his trombone and low brass courses, and receiving an A from his professor. As much as Lydia HAD to be amused by the extremely interesting tale, someone else at the table was much more keenly aware of what Piano Man was saying. That listener was Brother Alan.

Now, those of you who know Piano Man are well aware of the fact that he's known for telling a story and repeating it and and then repeating it again - ensuring that everyone in the surrounding area has been able to fully appreciate the humor or interesting point of the story (if there is one.) However, that tendency still can't explain why Brother Alan felt the oddest sense of déjà vu while listening to Dad reminisce about his classes. Dad has never spoken to Alan about his college days. And, believe it or not, I don't think even I have witnessed the telling of that particular college memory. But, Alan - after reporting to work on Monday evening - still had goose bumps when remembering the Sunday event and told me he could have asked Dad to stop and taken over telling the story because the details were that clear in his "memory."

Since then, déjà vu (a.k.a. paramnesia) has been on my mind (when not thinking about heteronyms, that is.) And, I wonder if the preoccupation with the subject has caused me to fool myself because last night, when entering my house to prepare for the trick-or-treaters, I experienced the same type of chills that Alan experienced two days prior. (I almost always enter my house in the same way...but it was the feeling that I was entering in the EXACT SAME WAY...with the same purpose, with the same thoughts, with the same items on my steps, with the same items in my hands.)

I've discovered that the term "déjà vu" was coined by French psychic researcher Émile Boirac in his book, The Future of Psychic Sciences. It's translated as 'already seen', and it's that strange and eerie feeling that you've seen the exact same picture or situation before. And, scientific studies show that a little over 70% of the population have experienced it. (What's more fascinating is that almost 30% have not...or that many have experienced it only once!!)

Little did I know that there are three specific types of déjà vu:

Déjà vécu (translated 'already lived through'): the experience of déjà vu with more senses than mere sight, sensing great amounts of matching details from a "previous experience" (This is what most of us describe as deja vu.)

Déjà senti (translated 'already felt'): the experience of déjà vu as primarily a mental happening with very little memory or recognition of it afterward, with a trigger that will bring a recollection of familiarity to an individual

Déjà visité (translated 'already visited'): the less common experience of knowing a new place while knowing that there should be no prior geographical or spatial knowledge (This might happen when you are on vacation and have the feeling that you'll surely find a small church down the road on the left hand side.)

Here are a few other related terms that I thought were fascinating:

Jamais vu (translated 'never seen'): the experience of being in a situation that one rationally knows she or he has been in before while eerily sensing being in the situation for the first time

Presque vu (translated 'almost seen'): the sensation of being on the brink of an epiphany, often feeling like something is "on the tip of one's tongue."

L'esprit de l'escalier or l'esprit des escaliers (translated 'staircase wit', as in what you think of while on the stairs leaving a party): remembering something when it's too late, such as a clever come-back to a rude remark. (It seems I experience this even more often than déjà vécu!) :)

Have you had any occurrences with these phenomena that are still memorable to this day?


Sandy-san said...

I had experienced MANY déjà vu experiences while I was growing up and even until I was well into my 20s. After that, it's been very rare to catch that eerie feeling. It happened again a couple of months ago, but I have already forgotten what the situation was. My memory isn't as stellar as it use to be. *sigh*

Elizabeth said...

Hmm. I have never heard of that final phrase about the stairs. I used to be a french student, but don't really experiance deja vu - even though I happen to know how it translates. What word were you refering to in my post? Hymn or Alleluia?

strem said...

Sorry I didn't clarify. Alleluia. I was just looking through a Christmas carol book last night, and it was spelled about 5 different ways.

strem said...

I forgot to post that most sources state individuals usually experience déjà vu in the middle teens to middle twenties years of their lives.

Maybe that explains things, Sandy-san. (Not the WHY...but that déjà vu dramatically decreases after the twenties.)

Siren said...

I experience deja vecu (thanks for the new word! I love learning that I was using the wrong term all these years!) on a regular basis, and it's always because I dream things ahead of time. No lottery numbers though - it's always for mundane things. One of the most memorable because it was so strong and so vivid was being in a grocery store in another town I'd never been in before but knowing where everything was in great detail. The most recent episode was while helping my mom move out of my dad's house a few weeks ago.

Re the first portion of the post - back home I didn't spend a ton of time with Piano Man ('cause really, how much do we hang out with our friends' dads?), but I enjoyed his company when school events ocassioned it. Your dad is a lot fun to be around and I've always admired him.

strem said...

Ohhhhh, that's so nice, Siren. Piano Man (and my ma) will be so happy to read that!

Dani said...

I have weird deja vecu senses sometimes, and on two occasions when going to a PB church deja visite but I'm not sure that there is any sure way to tell that I had never been.

Also as a side note, before Emile Boirac, the ancient Greeks had a concept of Deja Vecu.

Read plato's "Myth of ER" at

The idea was that we are all part of one perfect soul, various Christians liked this idea so much that some of them changed it to we are all part of God (early two-seedism I suppose). As part of the perfect soul we come back over and over again. Those who drink to much from the river of forgetfulness forget all past life and knowledge. Those who drink less lose less and those who only drink a tiny amount lose little. Therefore you remember past lives, ideas, etc. Deja vecu then is merely the times you remember exactly how this works or doing this exact thing. We've been doing early greek philosophers in my history of sci and tech class.

strem said...

Very interesting, Dani. I'll try to look that up. Thanks for sharing about your class topics!