Guest contributor: Thierry Kauffmann

Anxious Bode Returns: A Peaceful Panic

categories: Cocktail Hour


Thierry Kauffmann


The good thing about Parkinson’s, is nothing can get you upset anymore. It’s all drowned in a sea of peaceful panic. You learn to focus on the essential: get to the other side of that room. It develops memory too. Like trying to remember why you were trying to get to the other side. By the time you get there, it’s a brand new day.The sun rises every four hours in my day. My sense of time is quadrupled. One of the perks of Parkinson’s, or should I say Perkinson’s, is that you get to make up a lot of words just to describe what happens, or what you think happens, or what you find out later you thought was happening.

I love Marcel. Proust. His books. I have all his novels in one volume, one voluminous volume, 2400 pages. That’s 600 times four. I love numbers too. But the reason why I permit myself to speak of Proust, is that I have personally experienced what he writes about.

4 a.m., I wake up. Rewind. I wake up, have no idea what time it is, how long I slept, until I reach my computer. I can get up, thanks to relics of the last pill I took before going to sleep. Waking up is like extracting myself from a dream, to reverse it. And in that slowness, there is plenty of time for an agile mind to observe. Way too much time, I might add, especially if it makes you laugh, which I hope, since it does make me laugh. I rarely chuckle, it’s too discrete. I prefer laughing. Thunder style.

So before I find out it is only four, I have time to see that my first reaction was unusual panic, because I had some trouble moving my left leg. And I find myself submerged with not the panic of the day, but that of a past incident. And that panic, which my brain pulled out of my memory to see what I did last time to get out of bed, is compounded by the fact that I failed, to get out on my own, at that time.

That time. Not this time. My feeling was not a present feeling, but an old one, whose intensity was enough to erase my current state of mind and susbstitute to it a memory. Granted that one was so panicky it was irresistible. But it was not in my present. And I think about Aristotle and his question, what makes a man move, and his answer, anima, the soul, the one that animates. My soul, I am fortunate enough to see in action, as it was that which, against my memory, against my brain and its analytic behavior, is taking command. And I understand, I feel, what Aristotle was talking about, and more perhaps, why he asked that question. I am a peripatetician, a walking philosopher, a philosopher of walking. Not because I enjoy thinking, but because thinking, that highly particular kind, makes me walk.

I was never aware of the depth of human experience, nor of existence, before I had this disease. I don’t mean to say that if you don’t have Parkinson’s, you’re handicapped. It’s not that bad. But you might miss out on a lot of good stuff. Luckily, I write. So you can come here and catch up. Or simply say hi. I will offer you nuts, the specialty of my hometown, and some wine to go with it. We will talk and talk and before long we will be outside. Walking. And I will tell you that this, is what I call, an animated discussion, and we will laugh.


[Thierry Kauffman is a writer and composer living in Grenoble, France.  A note from his FB page: “So the miracle, by my standards, happened yesterday. Quietly, unannounced, so surprising I missed it at first. It’s a piano blessing: for the first time I was able to play legato again, like a river flowing. It was slow, but it will grow. This is the key that opens all doors. I am grateful. So many years of work, and finally.”]

  1. Debora writes:

    I agree Thierry, the soul…and just yesterday I was asking how people can be so complacent with all of life and wonder glistening around them…to not engage…to not be compelled to find some way to get across the room…to lack the curiosity even to poke one finger toward the unimaginable and know what it feels like and what it might be made of.

    Love your essay and cute pic!

  2. monica wood writes:

    I adore this “philosopher of walking.” Thank you.

  3. Lucinda Kempe writes:

    Lovely. Hard truth but thank you for reminding us of the gifts even in illness: you can write. I’m so glad you got to play legato again too “like a river flowing.”