Jamais vu

A friend once mentioned that some words begin to look strange when they are uttered in repetition. I too, have experienced that phenomenon not through utterance alone but also through contemplation. For instance, I hear a word and it echoes in my head, repeatedly, until it loses all vestiges of meaning. Recently, I learned the term for such phenomenon is jamais vu.

According to Wikipedia, a word has three characteristics: it has a form or a shape, which is a composite of sounds or characters (when written); it has a function, which is how the word operates in a meaningful sentence (i.e. as a noun); and it has a meaning, which is the concept the word represents.

When one repeats a word continuously, one is merely repeating its form. Initially, one is aware of the word’s function and meaning but without a sentence, the word loses its function. Without a sentence, there is also no context, and thus, the word loses its meaning.

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In psychology, jamais vu is said to be the opposite of déjà vu. While déjà vu is the perception that a present event has already occurred in the past, jamais vu is the perception that a past event is happening for the first time. A common experience would be someone not recognizing a place or a person that is already known.

Jamais vu literally means “never seen” in French while déjà vu means “already seen”. A related term, presque vu, the “it’s -at-the-tip-of-my-tongue” phenomenon, translates as “almost seen”.

On dreams

I have accumulated a lot of text files in my laptop. Some text files contain notes regarding a variety of things, some contain fragments of poetry and prose, and some contain blog entries that, in the end, I have decided not to post. So I was browsing each file trying to find out which ones to delete when I came across one titled “dream”. It was an attempt at keeping a dream journal, the idea I got from Ghost Hound. It was an unsuccessful attempt though as I only got to write two entries:

10/29/2007

We were standing outside holding hands, trying to brace the coming catastrophe. Meteors fell from the sky and we ran, dodging each celestial rock. And then it rained. We searched for shelter but the rain was ceaseless. The flood levels increased and we fled to the highest floor of a building. After the rain stopped, almost everything was submerged in water. We realized that we had to find food.

10/30/2007

I had an epiphany as to why Kei of Ghost Hound is wearing perfume. She said she isn’t wearing one, perhaps it’s her shampoo. But she was definitely wearing one. She was hiding something behind the scent. I cannot remember what.

I guess what makes documenting dreams difficult is that they are easily forgotten. We wake up from a dream remembering most, if not all, of the details but as time passes, the dream becomes more and more vague. There are dreams though that leave an impression. I can even remember a dream from childhood although I no longer remember everything that transpired in that dream.

There is a theory that posits a relationship between dreams and memory, that dreams are the mind’s way of processing memories. I have always likened dreaming to Windows’ disk defragmenter. In the one that’s bundled with Windows 98, there is an animation that is played when the drive is being defragmented: a block of computer memory explodes and the bits are gathered to form a new block only to explode again. This goes on and on until defragmentation is completed. Perhaps when we dream there is something like that happening in our mind.

The mechanism of dreams are not yet fully understood and there have been different speculations regarding them. Famous of which is Freud’s which hypothesizes that dreams are a manifestation of one’s subconscious desires. Then there are some who believe that dreams occur for no purpose at all.

Mars, can you hear me?

“Mars, can you hear me?”

So goes my friend as we gazed at the Red Planet last night. It looked really beautiful set against a partly cloudy sky doomed to rain with only a few stars to compete for attention. It was brighter and bigger than usual, glowing with a reddish-orange tinge. Yet, what made it more beautiful was the fact that Mars won’t be seen like that for the next 284 years.

It was around 9:00 to 11:30 when we peered into the heavens to witness Mars in its rare glory. As the hours progressed, the sky got devoured by greedy clouds and soon enough it rained. We weren’t able to see Mars at its peak which happened between 12:00 to 3:00 in the wee hours of the morning but at least we got very very close.

Come to think of it, Mars can often be seen in the night sky. It’s just that people don’t bother to gaze and marvel at the beauty of it, too preoccupied with Earth-ly concerns. To some, if not, most, there is no big deal about the Mars opposition. But think about it, the last time Mars got closest to our planet happened in 57,538 BC and last night, we were given the rarest of opportunities to witness it again! It makes you wonder at the ephemeral nature of our existence. We are mere mayflies or even lesser when set against the backdrop of cosmic time. So, were where you last night?

I wonder, if to Martians, granting they exist, there is such a thing as an Earth opposition? Would they also gaze at out planet in awe when it appears brighter and bigger than usual, glowing with a bluish tinge?

Earth, can you hear us?

Apparently, not.

Anatomy of the cookie, cracker and biscuit

My friend and I happened to ponder on one of the universe’s mysteries: the difference between a biscuit and a cracker. Weeks ago, we were eating biscuits and he asked about the difference between the two. We’d usually just eat them right away without giving a thought on their distinction.

I scanned the recesses of my memory. I might recover old home economics stuff stacked in my mental archives. But I didn’t. I told him maybe it’s with the way they are made although I don’t exactly know how. Then again, I guess you’d know the difference when you eat or see one.

So I checked the dictionary. It might be able shed some light on the matter. Unfortunately, it wasn’t of any help. A biscuit is defined as a “small soft raised bread”. ‘Biscuit’ is also what the British call cookies or crackers. The definition for cracker added more to our confusion — a cracker is “a thin flat crisp biscuit”. Will Webster make up his mind?

I asked another friend of mine. Perhaps she’d know the distinction. According to her, a cracker is a biscuit that “craaaaacks” while a biscuit is one that doesn’t. The evolution from crackers into biscuits (or maybe it’s the other way around) makes for a “confusing genealogy”.

Arthur C. Clarke would have been mystified as well. My friend and I finally came to a conclusion: crackers crack, biscuits break and cookies crumble. They’re not specific definitions but it still makes sense.

But I guess it doesn’t matter as long as you can eat them, right?