By George Stahl

Have there been times in your days when you see someone, and you just know that you’ve seen that person before? Maybe you even mistake someone for someone you know, and when you approach them, you quickly see that they are not who you thought they were.

We have all probably had that sort of experience. It’s one thing when that happens to you when you are in a place you are familiar with, and there is an actual chance you will run into that person you were thinking you saw.

Let’s say, though, you are not in that familiar place. You are almost 600 miles away from that place. You are sitting at a table, outside, at a fundraising event in a community you are not yet familiar with. You are supposed to be there, so you are not lost, and you have not been kidnapped. As you sit there, eating your hot dog, you look around. At first all you see are the people walking around, or sitting at the other tables, or waiting in line for their own hot dog. You don’t really notice anything about them.

Then, a man near the concessions turns and you recognize him. No, that’s impossible. But he looks so much like Mike from where you used to live. Not somewhere in your distant past, but from only a few weeks ago. A closer look, revels, it’s not Mike. You don’t know who it is. So, back to your hot dog. Until some other man looks like Hurley. Then a woman you see looks an awful lot like Kathy. Now, it’s weird. Mind you, you haven’t spoken to any of these people, so only you know about your tricky eyesight.

Then, like some sort of revelation you realize that when you thought these were all people you had left behind, a sense of calmness went through you. If only for a minute, you felt like you were in a familiar place. That’s all it took to calm you down. The more people you looked at, the people you saw from back home. Some you haven’t seen for real in a very long time.

The word most people use in these cases is déjà vu. The feeling that you have either been somewhere before, heard the same thing being said before, or even acted in a way you remember doing, to the point of feeling yourself make the same moves. In this case though, it’s not exactly the same. It’s not the same type of déjà vu.

A doppelganger is a German word for ‘double walker, as in a shadow of yourself.’ Are they perfect replicas of the other person? Not necessarily. They can be close enough to make you feel like they are the other person. The phenomenon is important enough that it has been given its own day. In honor of the idea that there could be another you somewhere on the planet, April 20 has been set aside in their honor, or is it in your honor? Who looks like who?

This trait is not specific to people. Man does not have the monopoly on doppelgangers. Look at your dog. Ever see another dog that looks like yours? Sure, that one that lives down the block.

Scientists say that look-alikes in animals is not all that rare. They call it ‘cryptic biodiversity.’ They can’t tell them apart until they run the DNA of each. That’s when the differences appear. The fact that they look alike could have a calming effect on them when they are forced to move from an area. Maybe a fire comes through, maybe a flood, or maybe the food supply dries up and they need to search out more.

At that fundraiser, when you see all those people around you and so many of them look like other people you know, you might feel calmer. You might not feel so out of place, and it could be comforting. If nothing else, it makes you think of the people you left.

It helps you realize that the world isn’t such a big place after all, and that your friends are not that far away. The almost doppelgangers you saw aren’t going to make your friends appear, but what you feel now is less regret about leaving them. You are also feeling more at ease with your new surroundings. It’s like a built-in mechanism for change. Moving on is never the easiest thing to do, not for the mover or the ones they leave behind. No matter how right or good it feels, there is always a sense of second guessing. If you are into affirmations and confirmations, seeing these doubles could be a way of getting that confirmation. As if being told by nature, The Lord, or the universe, “…be at ease, you have done the right thing. It’s all good.”

The side effects of being with these people at the event is not so bad either. It makes you think of the ones you left behind. It makes you maybe even reach out to them. Phone, text, email, you talk to them. You’re first experience with cryptic biodiversity seems to have been a successful one.

The trouble with an experience like that that turns out positive is that you want another one. So, you go around looking, searching for those doppelgangers. Doppelganger hunting. Well, the minute you do that and stop leaving things to chance, that’s when stuff gets really tough. There are over 7 billion people on the planet, so you finding more doppelgangers is not very likely to happen.

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