“This moment has happened before, exactly like this, the angle, the look, the words, the actions.” It’s like the spontaneous flash of recollection makes you stop in your tracks. You notice a pronounced feeling of strange familiarity. A paradox is in the works. The past is present or is it the future?
You may tell yourself there’s no point trying to figure out when or where the “remembered” situation ever happened because you “know” it didn’t. Still, you’d like to understand. After all, as common as deja-vu experiences are, it’s rare when one surfaces. (Yes, common and rare.)
Is a deja-vu memory an illusion, a peculiar misfiring in the brain? Perhaps it’s the recalling of something you dreamt one night in childhood? Does it have, or even need to have, an explanation? So many questions arise. (Hmm, I am reminded of the movie The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey. Have you seen it? “The film chronicles the life of a man who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show…”)
Whatever a deja-vu is, I believe it’s safe to say it’s a nebulous experience that reminds us that there is more to life than meets the eye, or any of the other sensing organs. A deja-vu is an invitation to reflect on the mystery of which you and I and everyone else is a part. A deja-vu can take us out of the dimension of time and into a space of no time.
Re-Living an Unknown Time
Have you ever experienced re-living, not just “remembering,” an unknown time? Early this year I did. It was the most amazing deja-vu of my life. Actually, the experience was an octave or two higher and certainly rarer than what might be called a regular deja vu. I’ve since learned it was a deja–vecu. I’d never heard of that before! From the French, déjà-vu means “already seen”; déjà vécu means “already lived or lived through.”
The date was January 21st, 2o16, and it was my first time in Africa. The country was Tanzania. I, along with others, had arrived at the Mount Kilimanjaro International Airport late the previous night.
In what seemed no time, I noticed a curious feeling welling up from deep inside. I couldn’t resist it, even if I’d wanted to, and started to cry. What was happening to me? Feelings of intense love and loss all surged together. It felt like I was being wrenched away from “this place I loved.” I also noticed myself thinking of a friend I’d met in China about eleven years previously, who had returned home from working in Africa a few months prior to my arrival. Even though Haiwu wasn’t there with me, it felt like he was part of this experience.
It was all so strange and immediate, this experience of “re-living” a memory of intense grief in a place I had never before been. As intense as it was, it would only be a faint echo of “the original,” if such a thing ever existed. And how could it, unless I contemplated the idea of reincarnation? Mystified, I surrendered to my imagination. What if this deja-vecu was based on a real past-life event? If so, who might I have been? A black person captured for the slave trade? Or a white person born in Africa, to missionary parents perhaps, so this part of Africa would have been the only home I’d known? I imagined bloody conflict and being wrenched away, knowing I’d never see this place again.
The experiential “memory” did fade, but it didn’t disappear. For several days all I had to do was think of it and I’d be on the verge of tears. It’s been several weeks now since I returned from Africa, and to be honest, some of that Arusha experience remains.
It’s not easy for me to share publicly what I’m about to share. (Making myself vulnerable.) Here goes: Right in the process of writing this blog, I made a connection that got tears prickling and my heart pounding. In this lifetime, I experienced a traumatic event similar to the “remembered” African life. It was a little over 11 years ago and involved leaving China, where I’d been living for four months. There, in China, I was in a serious car accident. Until I had a clearer sense of the severity of my injuries, there was no way I was willing to leave my Chinese friends and a place I’d grown to love.
But, after three days, I did leave. Miraculously, I survived two flights back to Canada with multiple fractures, including seven broken ribs. (Within a month, by the way, I’ll be releasing the revised 2nd edition of my book, Dancing in the Heart of the Dragon, a Memoir of China, in which I tell my story.)
So why did I have that deja-vecu in Tanzania? Why did I re-live emotional trauma similar to the agony I experienced after that China car accident? Dr. Judith Orloff, in “The Meaning of Deja-Vu,” writes that deja-vu is “an offering, an opportunity for additional knowledge about ourselves and others”; also it’s “a signal to pay special attention to what is taking place, perhaps to receive a specific lesson in a certain area or complete what is not yet finished.”
What can I take from my Tanzanian experience? At this time I do not know. I shall trust that if there is something, it will reveal itself in good time and I will have the eyes to recognize it. (I’ll be ready.)
What About You?
Have you had a deja-vu or deja-vecu experience you’d be interested in sharing? Have you had one that you’d call over-the-top? If you did, how would you seek meaning? Might you too consider the possibility of its stemming from a past life?
What are your feelings about deja-vus and deja-vecus? Please do share in the comment section below. This may prove an interesting conversation!
This has been an exercise in sharing my inner world, though not to the extent that I’d planned when I started writing. Who knows? As regards my mysterious African experience, perhaps the act of publishing this post will open the door to some “answers.” We’ll see.