I was just a kid when I first read Frank Herbert's Dune. It was a relatively difficult read even though I was reading the Russian translation at first (later read all 6 main books in English). Herbert put quite a lot of effort in describing not only the story but lots of minute intricacies of the world: religion, politics, biology, chemistry, physics... The series has a lot of really interesting concepts, that may change how you look at more day-to-day things even, especially "God Emperor of Dune". But one of the concepts stood out for me even then, because it felt all too familiar: adab.
What is adab?
In Dune this word is used to describe as a "demanding memory" or "memory requiring attention", that seemingly comes out of nowhere. And this is, actually, an extremely important concept in the story (at least until the end of "God Emperor of Dune", later on it is far less prevalent). In adaptations you mainly see focus on the visions of the future, but they could be absolutely pointless without adab.
A quite vivid moment that I remember in the original book is Paul's fight with Jamis. The fremen is not convinced by Jessica's Bene Gesserit "witchcraft" and as such he enforces a sort of trial by combat against Paul. Paul, even though he is technically a prince, is not that bad of a fighter, since he had good teachers in that regard, as well as bodily control from Bene Gesserit, but most time of the fight it feels like he is on the losing end or at least on the defensive (based on the book). Which does make sense, since Jamis had a lifetime of experience of survival.
What helps Paul to win the fight is an adab. He sees the moment of his death, which should come in mere seconds if not fractions of a second. And it is not one of those prophetic dreams, that have been plaguing his nights. Those were still quite muddy and often metaphorical. This "vision" was extremely clear to him and it felt as if it has already happened before, and for some reason he is given a chance to change it. I believe Herbert had some words describing the moment, that would translate to a slow-motion effect in a movie adaptation. And not just a slow-motion, but also some ghosting effect as well. Because Paul was seeing 2 things at once.
He was seeing both the "memory" of his death and Jamis' movements in current events. They were like 2 video streams pushed into his brain with the "real" one having a very small delay. During the adab Paul knew, that if he moves in a certain way he will avoid the dagger and save his life. And of course, he did that. He then experienced a moment, when the visions "split", they got desynchronized and the feeling was completely gone, once Jamis was on the floor dead.
What made this phenomenon interesting to me is that I already knew that feeling.
And no, it's not like déjà vu. It may sound similar, but it's not. Déjà vu normally implies overall familiarity of the moment, "it has happened before". Or rather "something similar has happened before". It lasts for a moment and passes without the feeling of need to change the moment. Adab is a bit different and it can have variations. At least based on my own experience.
I do not remember when I first got this feeling and what it was about, but it it did feel similar to déjà vu, but with the nagging tingling in my brain, that I need to do something to change it. Like how spider-sense is described for Spider-Man, I felt like if I do not do something right now, it will result in some bad consequences in the future. The catch is, nothing said what exactly I need to do.
I was young back then and definitely less mentally stable as I am now, so at some point, when these adab moments started happening too often (several times a week) I did not find anything better than just to hit myself. In the jaw. With a fist. Not something I would recommend right now, but nothing else seemed to work. When I hit myself the feeling dissipated quickly. After a few times it went away completely. Until it came back with vengeance.
An adab happened, which had me hitting myself embedded into it. Like a memory of a memory. Fractions of a fraction of a second before my fist touched my jaw 2 visions became 3. One of them dissipated after the hit, but the other 2 continued. It was like feeling 2 adabs at the same time. That was the moment I realized, that hitting is not a solution. I found out that just a sudden motion or a rather a motion in a different direction could stop these episodes.
Over the years after that I had multilayered adabs with the at most 5 levels. Those could feel very trippy. I also had 1 case, when it was 1 very long (around 40 minutes) adab, and nothing I tried to do could stop it. I was in a public place, though, so my options were limited. It did not stop there, though.
Changing the future
Much later something has changed. I do not know what exactly. But I started experiencing adabs, which felt as if something has changed in reality, but there was no indication of what has changed. And the "visions" were matching real life perfectly. It was as if something has changed, yes, but it was something outside of my momentarily environment, something that I could not see or hear. But "evolution" of this phenomenon did not end there, either.
The reason I bothered to write this is what happened yesterday. I am currently participating in game design courses, and I am in a group working on a retheming of "Fire Jump" game (source code here). I was sharing some ideas about UI for the game in Discord chat with the group, and one in response to one of them, one of my partners said: "Hmm, that's not a bad idea".
Simple thing, right? Nothing special. But the exact moment when I read it, I had the adab. Like the interface of Discord, the wording, the avatars... It felt like this moment happened before... But something has changed from the "last time". And this was the first time, that I knew what has changed. In my mind's eye I saw that "last time" I was still working with timelines in Game Maker's sequence editor. But "this time" I have already finished that work. And it did not stop there.
In roughly 2 hours after that I was watching Buddy Daddies anime's latest episode. At the end of the episode there was a moment, where the camera showed Mirri sleeping on the couch in a birthday hat. And that's when another adab hit me and again something has changed and I knew what: "last time" during this exact moment of the anime I got a Discord notification about the game we are making. But "this time" there was none, because we have concluded the conversation for today.
Insanity VS science
I know this all sounds like note from an insane person. I thought so, too for a very long time. Especially since one of those adab granted me a "premonition", that I would die during my 24th year by getting hit by a car. During year 2013 I always felt, that something has changed and it may not happen (and it did not, obviously). That could be because of the change in my mental state.
But then... Why do these adabs keep happening even though now I find myself to be as stable as ever, most likely thanks to the medication, that I am taking for bipolar disorder? Am I insane in the membrane after all? Well, science may want to argue here a bit, although it does not have definitive answers.
Déjà vu, which is clearly a relative to adabs, even though they are different, has been studied for a long time. Due to how fleeting déjà vu is, there is not much of quality data, but one of the leading theories is that it's caused by epilepsy. Our perception of the "now" is result of the work of our brain, more specifically how it decodes the signals from all the sensors in our body (eyes, ears, nose, skin). If something causes a neuron to misfire, that is to react too soon or too late, it can mess up our perception of the the time. Think of it as those codec corruptions in MPEG video files.
If I consider the above with previous electroencephalography tests finding "bilateral-synchronous spikes of theta-delta waves up to 110mkV" it kind of makes sense, since these spikes may indicate low-scale epilepsy. But...
Would it not be cool, if our brain was actually constantly predicting the future, and such mental phenomenon were the examples of cases, when those predictions match with what really happen to a certain percentage? I mean, our brains are really powerful. I would not be surprised if they did that. And if they do - wonder how can you make it more "consciously", so that you can utilize those predictions freely?