So I began thinking of this concept after I'd met a good friend that I hadn't seen in a few years. We'd picked it up as if we'd seen each other the day before, and even though plenty had changed, the seamless familiarity is what made it feel like there hadn't been a gap between the years. However, we'd met at a bar that I often visit that always strikes me in how dingy and divey it is (which of course is perfect with some friends). Even though I go to this bar often and know that each time it is going to be dingy and divey, there still seems to be a gap of familiarity between each visit.

But it strikes me that there is a common element between these two experiences. In each instance, there is a gap in time (of varying degrees), as well as a gap in familiarity (also in varying degrees). The thing I'm most interested in is when there is a gap in familiarity even when the object itself or the details of that relationship to the object haven't changed.

Take for instance a scenery that strikes you as beautiful even though you see it every day. It seems like this concept is a key element in defining what beauty actually is (whether it is a person, a painting, a scenery, etc.). There's that element of each time seeing something, even if nothing has changed, it sort of feels like seeing it again for the first time.

On the reverse: the opposite of the gap of familiarity can also be a good thing. As with the experience of seeing my friend. Or being able to pick up an instrument after a while and remember it "like riding a bike". It isn't necessarily a positive or negative concept, but more of a concept to use in conjunction to specify how we identify and relate to specific things over time.

This word or term I'm looking for would in context of some sort of reunion. It would be quantifiable by how large of a gap of familiarity it feels between the last interaction and the current, and possibly how long it takes to get back to the old level of familiarity. It would be contrastable to whether or not the specifics of the object or the relation to the object have actually changed. And it would be specifiable to the details of what makes the object familiar or unfamiliar to us.

I hope I could get across this concept somewhat comprehensibly. I understand it is an abstraction on other abstractions which are always hard to pin down. I would welcome any incite on a way to more directly specify this concept though.

  • 1
    There is jamais vu (the experience of being unfamiliar with a person or situation that is actually very familiar) but it happens momentarily. You are asking for something that develops over a time. It might be a kind of derealization.
    – ermanen
    Feb 6, 2015 at 17:26
  • 1
    Feels like the first time
    – ermanen
    Feb 6, 2015 at 17:53
  • In renewed friendships, "they" talk about "picking up where we left off"; that is, it's as if there weren't a separation between us for X amount of time, so we just continued the conversation we started X time ago. I've heard (and it's been dramatized in the film "Grand Canyon") that people who have just recovered from being near death (whether from a bad heart attack, or car accident, or a critical surgery) look at life with different-colored glasses--usually of the pink variety! "Oh, that sunrise was so beautiful and life affirming," the might say. BTW, you've expressed yourself just fine! Feb 6, 2015 at 19:27
  • @ermanen Jamais vu is probably the biggest part of what what I was looking for. It's at least as the main component I couldn't put a definitive phrase to. All of the other parts mentioned are definitely very helpful in creating a comparison to it as well. Thank you very much.
    – cchapman
    Feb 6, 2015 at 20:06
  • @cchapman900: I can post an answer including both words with details if you think it qualifies as an answer. Did you have another term in your mind?
    – ermanen
    Feb 13, 2015 at 23:35

2 Answers 2


That's a lot to ask of a single word. How about "Proustian"? This word need not be confined to its narrow sense (referring to an involuntary memory), but can properly be applied more broadly to Proust's consuming interest in how, in our absence, things change through time. A classic example is his account of a party at the house of the Prince de Guermantes in Finding Time Again (the final volume of his great work).


Contrasting proverbs are

Out of sight, out of mind


Absence [/Distance] makes the heart grow fonder.

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