Image Source: Edu Blogs.
I once found myself in library, working against the clock, with a body of archival material that had to be returned. The material was a set of microfilmed diaries. One man's whole life was on these films. He had been a compulsive diarist, and there were some 32 films in all. I had about forty-five minutes to find the core of his private writings. That is not an ideal archival research situation; but it sometimes happens.
Aside from what I read that was relevant to my research, I found that he had, from age five up to his death in his early eighties, repeated certain patterns in how he addressed himself. For instance, he made lists of people, events and possessions throughout his life. He also played tic-tac-toe, or noughts and crosses, in the margins of his diaries, apparently absent-mindedly when he was thinking, from about age eight onward. While I immediately recognized these patterns because I had a brief time to understand this person, it seemed clear that he had engaged in these habits unconsciously or semi-consciously.
This is a reverse phenomenon from déjà vu, the false sense that you have seen or done something before. (Incidentally, Czech scientists have recently found that déjà vu is caused by a malfunction in the cerebral cortex.) This is something that one actually does repeatedly throughout life, but one rarely recognizes it.
The Canadian novelist Timothy Findley described the day that he suddenly realized that his writing betrayed his unconscious fixation on certain experiences:
I remember coming into a salon once, and running into a girl I knew who had changed her hair with the season from blonde to brunette. "Blonde, brown, blonde, brown, it's the story of my life," she sighed. "I think it's the story of a lot of people's lives," I told her. Even when we see the thing for what it is, it is difficult to stop. The brain cannot let go of some sensations and patterns. Little repetitions are the ghosts which haunt us, and shape our worlds whether we know it or not.It came as something of a shock ... to discover that for over 30 years of writing my attention has turned again and again to the same unvarying gamut of sounds and images. ... The sound of screen doors banging; evening lamplight; music held at a distance - always being played on a gramophone; letters written on blue-tinted note paper; robins making forays onto summer lawns to murder worms; photographs in cardboard boxes; Colt revolvers hidden in bureau drawers and a chair that is always falling over.
NOTES FOR READERS OF MY POSTS.
If you're not reading this post on Histories of Things to Come, the content may have been scraped and republished without attribution or the original author's permission. Please let me know by following this link and leaving me a comment. Thank you.