Travelers Fugue

I don’t discount the idea that the universe speaks to people when they;

a)   need it, and

b)    listen.

Here is an interesting example;

I have had this adage in my mind for a few weeks; ‘don’t discount the serendipitous’.

Then today, while reading an article on a completely unrelated topic I came upon a great new piece of information —that is— travelers fugue. From the word you can infer an homage to music (the most common application of the term ‘fugue’), or wandering at will as a result of some uncontrollable outside influence or force —the lesser known meaning and an allusion to the coupling of both ideas.

“There is a little known illness from the history of psychology called travelers fugue, an affliction that struck thousands of Europeans—typically working-class people—in the late 19th century. Often, the sufferer would be a male factory worker. The man in question would wake up, say goodbye to his family, and leave for his job. Somewhere on the road he’d suddenly be gripped by a dissociative state and possessed by the overwhelming urge to walk, to travel by foot in one continuous direction. The disease was so common in France that it spawned pop culture terminology – les fugueurs, or those who fugue.

 Take the case of Albert Dadas, as described by the French clinician Phillip Tissié:

 One morning last July we noticed a young man of twenty-six crying in his bed in Dr. Pitres’s ward. He wept because he could not prevent himself from departing on a trip when the need took him; he deserted family, work, and daily life to walk as fast as he could, straight ahead, sometimes seventy kilometers a day on foot, until in the end he would be arrested for vagrancy and thrown in prison.

 Leading psychiatrists presented papers on the disease; the newspapers were full of panicked editorials wondering what to do. Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, travelers fugue disappeared. It became a footnote in the history of psychology. In the twentieth century, there were exactly seven diagnoses of the disorder.”

Beautiful. Travelers fugue. A case of losing oneself so deeply that the brain turns off, forgets everything, and just walks away. A condition peculiar to a decade or two in the late 1800’s, which for all intents and purposes then simply disappeared.