Déjà Vu

If you think you've lived a particular moment sometime in the past, it's likely that the value of your experience in the present bears greater consideration.

If you think you've lived a particular moment sometime in the past, it's likely that the value of your experience in the present bears greater consideration.

Movies. Cheesy pop songs. Countless books. No matter: on the subject of déjà vu, there’s still something important to consider when it comes to living a creative life. 

“Déjà vu” derives from French, meaning “already seen”. Literature and writing professors will say that the heart of good communications comes from an ability to tap into a commonality of human experience. Almost everybody has experienced the strange, sometimes discomfiting sensation that he or she has lived a particular moment once before. That's the essence of déjà vu. What people don't often give enough credence however is the fact that they probably have experienced that moment before. It’s ordinary and it’s exquisitely human, and for anyone who considers him or herself a creative soul, it’s a sensation worthy of attention.

Hang on, I’m not even close to waxing supernatural here! The reason we experience a sensation of having lived certain moments previously is that many things that happen in our lives our analogs of other moments. The mistaken presumption is that an experience of déjà vu is somehow an echo of a moment that’s been actually—and quite literally— experienced before. Supernatural, less-than-rigorous explanations are easier to explain, so lots of people naturally accept them. But it's probably more accurate to say that similar experiences have had enough influence on our lives to make us feel a few things deeply. Sensations are visceral; we “feel” them more than “think” them. Our senses tend to be most receptive when we experience events that have meaning to us, that connect us to clarified values and moments of unexpected opportunity and experience. 

Rather than merely a curio of psychology, it's my instinctive sense that déjà vu is therefore a wellspring for creativity. If there are recollection that feel as if they've been lived before and express themselves on our pulses so acutely as to feel familiar, one has to expect that those are feelings and ideas worthy of deeper consideration. Déjà vu is an example of a shared human sensation. We may not know the specific recollected moments that the person next to you felt like he or she relived in those few, eerie seconds, but we know the equivalent feeling, namely what it feels like to recall a moment that hasn’t actually happened. 

I take this as a charge. If a thought matters enough to provoke a physical sensation that you’ve experienced a moment precisely as if it had happened before, the creative soul should ask either, “How can we bring that fabricated, resonant moment into being?”  or “What is it about that made-up memory that informs us about something about which we clearly care?” 

The answers do not have to be literal to be meaningful. The fact that everyone privately understands the strange feeling of déjà vu indicates the gravity of the phenomenon. What becomes useful is the willingness to stop for just a brief moment and ponder what just happened so that it might inform you of what you might actually do next in your real and physical life. 

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