Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gray Re-Covers

Jamais vu is French. It describes any familiar situation which seems unfamiliar. It is a paramnesia, which etymologically means "near memory." It involves distorted or confused memory. We use a lot of French terms for instances of paramnesia. Most people are familiar with déjà vu. And even though you might not know the term, you're probably familiar with presque vu, which is used describe a time when something is on the tip of your tongue.

For me, this French term speaks to a lack of understanding of myself. Why am I where I am? Why do I enjoy what I enjoy? Do I enjoy what I enjoy? Existential questions and beyond.

Today I enjoyed without question, but not without some surprise. I enjoyed the cold wind blowing in my face. My icicle fingers. The loud roar of the waves which drowned out any nearby human noises. The familiar, but sublime look of the ocean under a thick, gray fog. No sun. No blue sky. No birds chirping. And the gray fog sucked the color out of everything, making the whole world various shades of gray. And in the mix, was gray me. Just gray me, with the gray wind running through my hair, filling my lungs, and caressing me.

Jamais vu, this French phrase, has been me responding in unfamiliar ways to familiar situations, me questioning why I am responding in this unfamiliar way and not the more familiar way. And so I suppose “jamais vu” might not be the right phrase to describe the situation, because it isn’t always a memory thing. But it sometimes is.

Reflection upon the grayness made some things make sense, made me recover from an amnesia and settled me in a nice aporia, a comfortable angst, a mastered malaise, and a je ne sais quoi that I know—a familiar unfamiliar and an unfamiliar familiar.

Jamais vu means “sad” in neither French nor English. Existential angst. Questions. Aporia. These words do not preclude good emotions. Joy. Love. Happiness. Pleasure. Peace. Well, sometimes peace, but not always that peace that passeth. Jamais vu does not mean unfortunate in French. It might conjure awkwardness, but it is not bad. For me it has produced reflection.

And the product of that reflection is still entirely unknown—unknown in its entirety—its entirety is unknown—

It is beginning to recover my prayers.

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