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Eternity, Brains & Deja Vu
So I received a question about “deja vu” — again.
This topic fascinates me. When I was pre-adolescent, I would have many long, cascading bouts of this phenomenon. It prickled my vanity to be stuck in a recurrent eternity so I struggled valiantly against the monstrosity of recurrent time. Walking from the living room to the kitchen, suddenly seeing this has happened exactly like this many times before, I would stop, drop & roll. I literally would drop to the carpet. Just hoping to do something differently. I was a good Buddhist. I wanted to break the cycle.
Later it got more complicated.
I would get nauseous having deja vu about having had deja vu, etc. I remember remembering this before now endlessly!
Then I was foolish enough to read Nietzsche and get his notion of the Eternal Recurrence stuck in my software. He agreed with certain ancient philosophers that time was infinite — that it could not begin or end because beginning & ending were events that presupposed the existence of time. But he was not making a claim in physics. He was laying down the gauntlet of an existential-spiritual challenge.
Given infinite time, everything that can happen WILL happen an endless number of times. That’s an infinity of everything. Of this moment. Of your life with all its highs and lows and doldrums. Have you got enough gumption to authentically, emotionally affirm the endless of the same life you are already living?
Now I had to try NOT to escape from the cycle!
In my early 20s I had a lot of experiences that seemed to “transcend time.” Have you ever fallen between the pulsation of moments into a virtual space where everything happens forever? Neat, majestic & terrifying. I believed in time transcendence (at the time) but not I have multiple skeptical interpretations.
Human brains have different time scales. We are infested with interior clocks (oscillators) that have evolved to work with the world. Circadian rhythms help us wake and sleep. We sleep in 90 minute cycles. We think in terms of seasons. We have “ages” and “lives” and “a while” and “moments.” A very natural hierarchy of time-scales that our electro-chemical neurobiology enacts in tandem with physics, society and the biosphere.
What’s most interesting is the smallest scale that our brain can produce.
It takes a little time to make time.
Your brain cannot instantly perform the work of turning its incoming perceptions into a sequence of events. It takes a few nanoseconds to arrange the data into a before-and-after pattern. “Right now” is the result of some basic time-processing activity that takes a little time to perform.
It would almost be weird if there were not moments and individuals who periodically accessed the pre-sequence perceptions of the human brain -- i.e. broke through into eternity.
Take a look around. This moment, this situation, this place takes place in time. Yet the very same perceptions must be entering your brain in a pre-sequenced fashion. What do THESE same perceptions look like before they have been arranged into a before-and-after?
Well, they look like an eternity — that happens to looks just like this.
Your brain is always perceiving the same patterns as both “temporalized” and “pre-temporalized.” That doesn’t mean you are necessarily seeing beyond objective ontological Time but it does mean that you are always experiencing two versions of the same data — a subjective eternity & a subjective time-sequence.
So now imagine a signal passing between these two parts of yourself.
THIS very pattern is both occurring in time & also occurring endlessly. We just don’t notice unless these two regions speak to each other…