Saturday, January 19, 2008

Retirement Planning and Déjà Vu

When I mention the word déjà vu at the beginning of Part Four: The Investment, I, like many people who have been surveyed about the event recall something pleasant, a sense of having already seen – which is what the French word translates into, a dream. Most people think nothing of it, but that wasn’t always so.

There was time in the not-so-distant past when such activity was associated with front lobe epilepsy and relegated to the world of the paranormal. Déjà vu was said to occur right before a patient would seize so you can imagine how it was easy is was for early researchers to make the association. Although we know much more about what goes on the brain than they did in the early 1800’s, the exact cause of why it happens has not been fully explained.

French scientist Emile Boirac, is credited with first coining the word déjà vu to describe the event even though literature has made numerous attempts. St. Augustine, even though he wrote about it in the early fifth century, named it "falsae memoriae" and further citing the Pythagoreans as observers a thousand years prior. They believed it was the transmigration of souls.

Sir Walter Scott, Proust and Tolstoy noted it with Dickens (in David Copperfield: “We have all some experience of a feeling, that comes over us occasionally, of what we are saying and doing having been said and done before, in a remote time – of our having been surrounded, dim ages ago, by the same faces, objects, and circumstances – of our knowing perfectly what will be said next, as if we suddenly remember it!") introducing a form of it called déjà vécu.

Theories, as they often do, seeking to explain why it happens run the gamut from revisited memories implanted on the brain at birth to the sufferers being most likely to be strongly political or even religious zealots.

Travel may have an influence on the memory, giving the brain too much information at once and randomly filing away those memories for some time in the future, often when you least expect it. The brain, wired much the way a computer’s hard drive is, stores everything, dreams, good or bad, pleasant or anxious, memories, short-term and long, and emotions, often transferred during sleep between two known physical areas: the hippocampus and amygdala.

Emile Boirac was a French psychological researcher and president of the University of Genoble and Dijon University. Not only was Boirac credited with the naming of déjà vu, he also helped define ESP. His long out-of-print book L’Avenir des Sciences Psychiques explains how it all works, in French and even makes a stab at explaining clairvoyance, magnetism and spiritualism. You can read it here

Arthur Funkhouser broke Déjà vu into three different variations, déjà vécu (through sight), déjà visté (via some precognitive dream), and déjà senti (scent, taste or a certain feeling).

In the book however, these memory triggers, whatever they may actually be can be used to help you with retirement planning.

Retirement planning actually requires you to look in many different directions at once. You need to take into consideration all that has happened, all that could occur in the near future and make some educated decision about how it will all turn out in the future. No easy task for most of us.

What this boils down to is all about location. With all of those forces at play, you need to know exactly where you stand. You cannot change what has happened. But the next step should take into account where you have been. And unlike all of those disclaimers that accompany investment opportunities – “past performance is no guarantee of future results”, everything you did will determine where you will end up.

We will always be haunted by the investment choices we make but our past performance should make us more confident –even if you haven’t even begun to save enough for retirement – that the future will be much better.

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