Posted by: silverback | 2010/03/19

déjà vu

i was helping my friend Karl work on the Toyota 4Runner my wife has tentatively traded her Ducati for last night. the damn thing blew a head gasket (or two, it turns out) right before the titles were to be signed & notarized. i don’t know if that’s some sort of a sign or not. the 3.0L V6 in these trucks is known for blowing head gaskets, a result of the questionable engineering of the head bolts.

as we were in the last stages of removing the intake manifold, a Blackstar tune came on the stereo. i was dropping a 12mm socket down into a blind hole with a nut at the bottom of it, and Karl was holding an extension that was going to go into the socket, because i mistakenly thought the socket & extension together wouldn’t fit in the little bit of space we had. Karl had a little different aspect from where he was standing, and he said,

“i think it’s a straight shot.”

at that moment, i had one of those crazy déjà vu experiences. i’ve had them all my life, and since the term “déjà vu” is widely known and understood (in different languages even!), i am sure that i’m not the only person to have undergone moments such as this. i’m convinced that at some point in the past, i dreamed the moment, which later came to pass. it has happened to me in enough different types of situations, in many different places, and with many different people. this time it was Karl – 12mm socket with extension – Toyota head job – Blackstar – “straight shot.”

it makes me wonder about the metaphysical nature of the universe, about alternate realities, but most naggingly about the question of free will versus predestination (or fate).

i like to think i have some amount of control over my future. when i make a decision, it has either a positive or a negative consequence. each consequence inevitably leads to another choice or set of choices, et cetera. i currently live each day under the assumption that the choices i make and their resultant outcomes ultimately shape my destiny. hence i have free will, and with it some amount of self-determination.

seemingly contrary to that philosophy, my faith in the God of my understanding elevates that Power to the ultimate decider. good stuff and bad stuff happens, regardless of the follies that i undertake. i may be able to effect my immediate reality, but life and time has existed exclusive of me since the universe came into being, and no doubt will continue in such a matter until the universe collapses. atoms will keep tracing their precise paths around each other, Avogadro’s number and Fibonacci’s sequence existed before those guys found them, and the number Pi is an infinite nonrepeating decimal sequence. there’s just too much order in our universe for me to believe that some energy form or intelligence didn’t have a hand in its creation, or at least in its development. it is nothing more than hubris to imagine that my life ultimately means anything to anybody aside from myself, those who love me, and the Source of my energy. even there, i may have gone too far.

somewhere in between self-determination and insignificance lies the ramifications of déjà vu. if i can see what is going to happen to me before it happens, without knowing that it’s going to happen until the moment it happens (disallowing any alteration of the sequence), then nothing i do really matters at all, does it? the very minutiae of my life would appear to be preordained, almost as if all my “brain activity” is a computer program. a very sophisticated and complex program, but code nonetheless. garbage in, garbage out.

phsychologists remain unconvinced that anything so mystical is happening. millions of dollars of grant money have been spent funding studies on mice, rats, and people to prove that the sensation of deja vu is a synaptic hiccup, or a neurological mechanism. most of the theory seems to orbit around the idea that the feeling of similarity is from the introduction of a chemical or neuron-level molecule that stimulates “familiarity centers” in the brain.

it has to be explicable, right? otherwise we’re faced with the possibility that our machinations as autonomous beings are, well, nothing more than that.

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