Have you ever had a moment of déjà vu?
I’m sure you have at some point in your life. A déjà vu moment is a moment that you feel you have experienced before.
Perhaps you’ve been in the middle of a conversation and the content, from the participants to the exact wording, seems eerily familiar. Or perhaps something happens to you or a family member and you are absolutely positive you have either dreamed or lived that moment before. Déjà vu actually means “already seen.”
In the 1999 mega hit movie “The Matrix,” déjà vu moments play a pivotal role. “The Matrix” is set in a postapocalyptic world in which machines have taken over the world and are using humanity as living batteries. In order to manage the population, everyone is plugged into the Matrix and lives life in a digital world.
Humanity, of course, is fighting for their freedom both in the real world as well as in “The Matrix.” As a band of rebels is attempting to rescue the soon-to-be hero from the Matrix, he sees the same black cat walk in front of an open door. He casually notes the experience of déjà vu and everyone freaks out. In “The Matrix,” déjà vu indicates a change has been made in the digital world.
The irony of this part of the movie was completely lost on me and I would guess a great many viewers. When we experience déjà vu, it is a moment when everything is exactly the same as we had seen or experienced it before.
In an act of incredible creativity, the makers of this movie used a phrase that was meant to point out the unchanged nature of an experience and used it to indicate a dramatic and oftentimes dangerous change had been made.
As I consider the state of our world today, I find myself experiencing more and more déjà vu moments. Many of these moments are both dramatic and dangerous. Bu rather than pointing to systemic changes in our world, they point to the fact that not as much has changed as we would like to believe. In our world, perhaps our déjà vu experiences are reminders that change is needed.
The author of the book of Ecclesiastes writes, “All things are wearisome, more than one can describe; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
While I might argue the author is simultaneously overstating his frustration while oversimplifying the diversity and complexity of the human experience in the world, he does make a valid point. It does at times seem as if history continues to repeat itself. Many times, the repetitiveness of our experiences is of our own making. We will continue to see what we’ve already seen so long as we keep doing what we’ve already done.
I know many are weary of the conversations that currently dominate our world today. We have been talking about how we should treat our brothers and sisters of color since before we declared our independence as a nation. We’ve been arguing about how we should treat the immigrant and the alien since before the ink dried on the Bill of Rights.
Concern about how we should care for the marginalized and oppressed of our world has swirled, again, from the outset. We’ve made some improvements and advancements, but still it seems we continue to see the same injustices occur time and time again.
As these conversations come to the fore, we must honestly and humbly assess what we are doing to actually move the needle to bring about change. We cannot content ourselves with simply having the conversation.
The writer of Ecclesiastes was justified in his frustration as are we. The feelings of déjà vu are often disheartening and discouraging. And they are also misleading.
Jesus provided us with a pathway out of our broken patterns. He modeled selfless, sacrificial compassion and grace that changed the world. It will only be through our modeling the same patterns of humility and love that our world will change in meaningful and lasting ways. Jesus provided new patterns for living and loving that the world could afford to see again and again.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected].