Déjà vu All Over Again

Last week a friend and I were in the ultimate man cave--Bass Pro Shop--gawking at the many things we didn’t need and couldn’t afford, when he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. Of course, I slammed into him because I was shelf-gazing, not watching where he was going.

I had a colorful comment frothing at the tip of my tongue, something about where he got his walking license, when I saw a look in his eyes that scared me, a little. He was gazing around in mild confusion, sort of dazed, and then he said, “This has all happened to me before.”

I started to dial 9-1-1, thinking maybe the extreme volume of guy-stuff in the store had overloaded his neural network and pushed his blood pressure through the roof, but then he said, “It’s like you and I have been here doing exactly the same things,” which we had on several occasions, but then I realized he was experiencing déjà vu.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been hit with that “been here before” feeling; in fact, I honestly do not recall the last time it happened to me, but I know that it has. I can remember the eerie feeling as I suddenly sensed that everything happening at a certain moment in my life had occurred before. 

It was almost like going into a slow motion part of a movie, where I could see things frame by frame, for just an instant, and then it was gone. As quickly as it came, before I had a chance to really tie it to an actual previous experience, the frames sped up to normal speed. The “memory” faded before I could explain it to anybody as more than just a “feeling.”

There are many explanations--some scientific--some science fiction, for the phenomenon called déjà vu, which in French means “already seen.”

In 1929, a psychologist named Edward Titchener explained it as a person getting a brief glimpse of an object or situation before the brain has constructed a full conscious perception. This partial perception later manifests as a sense of the familiar.

Detractors of this theory say that the brain could not record something that didn’t happen.  Others who are not traditional scientists--let’s call them paranormal-ientists--will call it pre-cognition, prophecy or sixth sense. In this case, the ability is God-given or a natural aberration that gives some people the “Shining.”

Apparently déjà vu is fairly widespread, occurring in from one-third to 96 percent of the population, depending on what survey you believe. But even if it is one-third, that’s about 115-million people in the U.S. alone.

Regardless how it actually happens, there’s apparently a lot of it going on.

So I am wondering why I have lost the ability. It seems to me the last time I can even vaguely remember it happening to me was when I was just a young man, not yet even 20. I remember it happening and I remember the frustration of not being able to remember when I’d seen it before; but I cannot remember what the circumstances were.

Maybe it is more prevalent among younger people who have more time and less mental worry.  Maybe these younger people whose brains have fewer encumbrances are more prone to seeing things at a subliminal level and being able to retrieve them later.

So I’m thinking that the truth lies somewhere between the science and Sci-fi. There are probably some physical or neurological reasons that some people are more prone to having these anomalous events occur than others; I apparently am in the “other” category.

But I’ll bet there are Week-Enders who have experienced déjà vu; and I envy you. I miss the intriguing feeling of trying to remember what might have happened in another lifetime, or in an alternate universe. Although I envy you, I still have this ‘feeling” that I would be eager to hear your story.

Randy Gaddo, a retired Marine who also served for 15 years in municipal parks and recreation, is now a full-time photojournalist who lives in Beaufort, S.C.; he can be reached at (678) 350-8642 or email cwo4usmc@comcast.net.