The Fingerprint of a Moment

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In order to make this post a bit most comprehensible, I’d like to make mention of the lovely little novel written in 1884 called Flatland. Most of you know of it, I would suppose, but for those who don’t, it is the tale of a world of two dimensions in which various creatures (each of them a different shape) experiences life and goes about their business. Their perception within the confines of their two-dimensional world is one-dimension, since they can only “see” the edge of any other given inhabitant of their domain. Social status is governed by the number of sides one has, with the highest priestly caste living as a circle. Assessing the relative status of another citizen is accomplished by the two shapes rolling against one another, carefully gauging just how many sides the other fellow possesses so you know how to behave.

The big twist in Flatland is when a visitor from Space approaches. The visitor from Space is floating above Flatland and can see everything, including the innards of the creatures who live there. If the space visitor wanted to do so, he could even perform surgery on one of the two-dimensional citizens there without having to break their skin. He has no such surgical ambitions, however, and simply says hello.

One of the creatures in Flatland is alarmed, because not only does he suddenly hear a voice unexpectedly, but it seems to be coming from the inside of his body. The creature from the third dimension is able to do things and see things that seem absolutely miraculous to the flatlander, and when the 2-d critter is plucked from his flat world by the visitor from Space and allowed to see his domicile from above, he is astonished and bewildered at the perspective he is afforded, since even the concept of going “up” or “down” had been alien to him his entire life. It is a transformative experience, but the life he has known was terribly limited by his ability to perceive a world that was as flat as a shadow.

Now that we’ve got that as a bit of a background, I can move on to what prompted me to write this post in the first place. It is a subject I’ve touched upon from time to time, because it has been present in my life for many years. Specifically, the experience which, while I hate to use such a hackneyed expression, is best described as deja vu.

The main reason I dislike that expression is that it seems to trivialize what I am experiencing. The experience of deja vu is written off as a “brain glitch” of sorts, and one in which one erroneously perceives what they are experiencing as having been experienced or foreshadowed at a prior time. It is, to the incurious, just an error in one’s thinking, and surely it would be best to shrug it off as a biological flaw instead of something worth pondering.

You know me well enough to know that this isn’t the path I take. When I am re-living a few moments that I have experienced before, I know exactly what it feels like. The correct people are there. The right words are being said. We’re in the proper setting where it all should be taking place. For me, it’s like every line of a fingerprint has appeared in front of me, and it represents an exact match of a fingerprint I’ve seen before. For that very short phase of time, I am taken out of my body and am experiencing the wholeness of the event as a spectator.

The feeling only lasts for five to ten seconds, but it is vivid, and as I watching life go on around me, exactly as I had foreseen, I am struck every time by the fact that when I heard and saw these things before, they made no sense to me, but now, in the context of my current life, it all makes sense. The references are logical, the people being mentioned exist, and the circumstances of our collective lives match with the words being used.

In my original experiencing, let’s suppose in a dream, it’s as if a page from the middle of a movie script was handed to me, and I had never seen the movie, so the dialog on the page has no context and no meaning. Even so, I can still remember what I’ve read. If I actually had been given a movie page, and I actually saw the movie from beginning to end a month later, I would remember what I had read on that page in the first place, but now it would all make sense.

In that respect, from time to time in my life, a torn sheet of dialog is handed to me, and I have no idea what it’s about. It has happened far too often for me to ignore.

If what I’m describing is actually true and real, then the universe has some serious explaining to do.

How could it be that on a planet of eight billion people, most of which are utterly free to choose their actions, could I possibly know something that is going to happen even three seconds in advance, let along three weeks or three months? It seems impossible to me. One possible and horrible explanation, of course, could be that every moment of our lives is predestined, and all I am doing is experiencing tiny snatches of what-will-be so that I can see the future (but only 1/100,000th of it).

I’ve actually been pondering this quite a bit, and although I’m sure I won’t know the truth until after I ‘ve left this life (and Slope along with it), I can submit one possibility: perhaps the future isn’t predestined, but the near-future has some relatively finite and probable possibilities. Perhaps it is impossible to know what will take place far down the road, but there are shadows of what might be coming in the near future, and for some mysterious reason, I get glimpses of those shadows so that, when they match, the pieces of the puzzle come together.

That is to say, I was handed a page of that movie script which actually became reality.

Thinking of it another way, perhaps I’m like that polygon in Flatland who, on very rare occasions, gets plucked from the imprisonment of the boundaries of the life I know and am permitted to see the landscape from above, viewing just a few moments of a reality that I am unable to experience in everyday life. Tumbling back toward my own Flatland, I retain only the memory of what I briefly saw, and I have an opportunity to connect the dots later, puzzling over the irreconcilable duality of being a (very limited) prophet and, simultaneously, a human in a life comprised of free will, tethered to the unbreakable chains of a chaotic universe of utterly unpredictable moments.

I’ll eventually know the truth, but it’s fun to take hard guesses at it while I’m still here.