My Heroes – Music: Jon Lord

It might be expected from a compassionate drummer that his “musical hero” would be a drummer. Indeed, I have some idols, of course. Billy Cobham as an extraordinarily versatile and technically supreme drummer has always been an inspiration for me. I liked Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater until I found that he is not that special after all. Thomas Lang presented an extremely mind-blowing drum workshop at a music fair in Frankfurt that I have visited (in 2001, I think). Other big names in different genres are certainly Jack de Johnette, Virgil Donati, Gavin Harrison, or Marco Minnemann. However, the most “complete” and outstanding personality in music, in my opinion, is not a drummer but the British piano, organ and keyboard player John Douglas ‘Jon’ Lord (1941-2012).

jon_lord

He is best known as founding member of hardrock pioneers Deep Purple, but also as composer of orchestral works, almost purely “classical” music. Not only was he extraordinarily skilled and technically on a top level, but also was he described by most of his companions and collaborators as a decent, humble, kind and gentle person. He was dedicated to his sound and the musical value of what he produced, hard-working and “stubborn” (according to Deep Purple’s drummer Ian Paice), but never aggressively overambitious or uncomfortable. Perhaps the most significant reason for choosing him as “my music hero” is his unique level of originality. He didn’t want to sound like “anybody else”, he didn’t care about genre boarders or expectations. He wanted to merge classical approaches to playing key instruments (piano, organ) with the typical features of rock music. He famously combined Hammond Organs (B3, C3) with Lesley amplifiers to create a unique organ sound that harmonises with a rock band setup and that can compete with the dominant extraverted expression of a Ritchie Blackmore (the guitarist of Deep Purple). At the age of 27/28 he wrote the “Concerto for Group and Orchestra”, an unprecedented but highly successful and impressive attempt to combine a rock band with a full orchestra, a milestone in music history! Sadly, in 2012 he died from pancreatic cancer, leaving many scores and musical ideas unfinished and unrealised. As his friend Rick Wakeman (himself an outstanding rock organist) said: Sad to think what we have missed! But on the other side: How happy what we have got from him in over 40 years! To get an impression about him, watch this great documentary and tribute by Rick Wakeman:

I’d like to quote from an interview with Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich because I couldn’t have said it better:

We can all be guilty of lightly throwing adjectives like ‘unique,’ ‘one-of-a-kind’ and ‘pioneering’ around when we want to describe our heroes and the people who’ve moved us, but there are no more fitting words than those right now and there simply was no musician like Jon Lord in the history of hard rock. Nobody. Period. There was nobody that played like him. There was nobody that sounded like him. There was nobody that wrote like him. There was nobody that looked like him. There was nobody more articulate, gentlemanly, warm, or fucking cooler that ever played keyboards or got anywhere near a keyboard. What he did was all his own.”

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Real Music vs. Pop

Another story I remember vividly from my childhood is “The emperor’s nightingale” by Hans Christian Andersen. I had a nicely illustrated book in German, and now you have an even nicer Chinese version of it.

nightingale

Here is a short summary of the story: The Chinese emperor gets knowledge of a bird with the loveliest voice ever. It is a rather plain and ordinary nightingale – and the emperor and the citizen don’t hide their disappointment about this unspectacular appearance – but when it starts singing, however, everybody is amazed by its clear and beautiful melodies. One day, a gift from the Japanese emperor arrives: a mechanical nightingale with gold and gemstone applications that looks really precious and valuable. It’s melodies, however, are not as pleasant as the real nightingale ones. The people and the emperor, obviously more of the visual type, decide to give their admiration to the mechanical bird while the real nightingale is expelled from the palace. There is, of course, a dramatic twist in the story including death and regret, but no worries, it has a happy end! For now, however, this plot description shall be enough to explain a thought that I had after reading the story again.

It immediately reminds me of the contemporary situation of music. On the one side, we have great music, on the other we have good-looking puppets of pop industry. My definition of “great music” is related to its compositional sophistication, aesthetic value, or the creativity and technical skills that are put into it. Orchestral works, chamber music, blues and jazz, funk, reggae, rock, heavy metal, progressive music, even some of the electronic music like drum’n’bass, ambient or acid jazz – in these genres there is a good chance to find “great music” and admirable musicians. Music industry, in contrast, produces pop. The music is plain and boring, but the promoted stars look pretty, handsome, sexy or in any way “marketable”. The latter only exists because people are more competent with their eyes than with their ears and brains. Visual pleasures are easier to acquire than auditory ones. Moreover, music with high quality needs an understanding of music that many people don’t have or are too lazy to train. They are lured by the shallow but blinking and shiny pop business. Those who are really interested in music with aesthetic and qualitative value don’t need to bother, but there is one big problem with it: Acquiring musical skills and creatively producing outstanding music requires time and money. Also musicians need to make their living! However, the field of creative and valuable music is seared by music industry, because all the money is put into visually appealing puppets, because they are more promising for generating profit, because the masses (where the money is) are reached with prettiness rather than with musical quality. This shallowness (as a form of stupidity) will someday ruin mankind, I am quite sure! Music is just one example where it becomes very apparent. In more impacting spheres of society (technology, politics, economy, etc.) it will have devastating effects! Just saying.

Music for life

Now you are a bit more than 10 months old and can walk more or less freely around our apartment. You started to dance at the age of 5 months (pulling yourself into the standing position at a piece of furniture or in your hulan, luffing up and down by bending your knees) while listening to AC/DC (your favourite: Back in black), Snarky Puppy or other funky and rocking music. When you were three days (!) old you signaled to us that you liked the voice of Norah Jones but not that of Katie Melua. Your affinity to music, however, dates back even further: When we listened to Pink Floyd, Beethoven or some relaxing piano jazz, you jumped for joy inside your Mom’s belly! Music is part of my life, and so it is of yours! That’s why today’s letter is about music.

I got my first drumset in 1988. It was a very old (second hand) Ludwig drumset with a Pearl HiHat with Meinl HiHat Cymbals.

1988-12-best-christmas-present-ever

I had drum lessons from 1992 to 1997 at the “Musikschule (music school) Beckum-Warendorf” with british Jazz drummer James “Jimmie” Sargent. I told him that I want to play in my schools BigBand as soon as possible, so after a few very basic pattern practices I started to learn simple rock and jazz beats. After one year I joined the “Junior BigBand” of my school and the brass orchestra of the music school. Much later my teacher remembered that we left out to practice rudimentary patterns (triples, accents, paradiddles, etc.), so I went back to practice those basics. In addition I had a lesson series on odd time counting (5/4, 7/8, 3/4, 7/4, 9/8, 11/4 measures).

Jimmie was a great teacher, demanding but patient and very helpful! However, after 5 years I realized that every week was the same: I practiced the homework he gave me, presented it to him, he said “Yes, good! Until next time practice the following pages…”, and I did it. In the meantime I had my first own band and we played rock music, I developed my own style. I decided to have no more drum lessons but practice on my own, that is cheaper and doesn’t need a weekly appointment! But before I quit in 1997 I bought a new drumset from Jimmie: He was endorser of Premier, a quite expensive brand, so he recommended “WorldMax”, a daughter of Premier, with excellent ratio of cost and performance. In combination with a few good cymbals and high-quality Remo drumheads the sound was pretty good! I extended the set more and more, for example with a rack to hang all the tomtoms and cymbals on, and with a Tama Iron Cobra double bass drum pedal (the most expensive piece of my set)! My band “no more lund” got some local fame and played on several festivals around Münster. Here is a photo from “Kottenrock” 1999:

drum1999

“no more lund” recorded a CD in 2001! Being in the studio was a great new experience for me! Compared to soccer, if practicing is the training, and gigs are the “league matches”, then making a CD in a studio is like “Champions league”! It feels great to “have something in hand” that I can show to friends, family or future children (you)! We promoted our new album with several gigs. I often took my shirts off during gigs, because the music we played (a kind of progressive rock) required hard work and set free a huge amount of energy. Those are the moments that I love the most about playing music, but it also means that I sweat incredibly much…

I extended my drumset by a set of 8 “octobans”, 6 inch metal tubes with different length, a drum head on one side, the other side open. Now my drumset occupied half of the stages that we played on, and sound technicians desperately scolded me because it was impossible for them to equip my set properly with microphones (or they didn’t have enough microphones). I liked to put all drums and cymbals close together, so that I don’t need to spend so much energy to move around a lot. That was the hell for the soundmen! NML had its biggest gig on the “Krach am Bach” Festival in Beelen in 2005 after recording our second album. In the meantime we developed our style to more sophisticated progressive rock. When we started in 1995 as “The Nameless” we sounded like “Nirvana”. Later as “no more lund” we were heavily inspired by “Rage against the machine”. In the years 2000-2003 our songs reminded people of “The Deftones”. Finally – and that was my favourite – we ended up making music like “Tool” or “Oceansize”. The songs were quite long and had several parts, very dynamic! It was difficult for the audience to dance, because the songs were quite complicated and “odd”, but it was so much fun to play! Especially on a big stage with huge PA system and nice lighting!

DCF 1.0

DCF 1.0

In 2006 NML split, because all members went to different places to study or work. What a pity! The best band I ever played with! After returning from Asia I played with NML’s bass player’s new band “Exit Illusion”. We recorded an EP and had several gigs in and around Münster. Here are photos and a scheme of my full set:

mydrumsr

mydrumsl

mydrums2

I did not always bring my full set to every gig. Sometimes it was also fun to get much out of a little set. The “wild years” in which I tried to drum as strong and “massive” as possible were over in the later 2010s. I tried to focus on “economic” playing, sticking to the groove, with every hit placed thoroughly and with sense. By the way, my idols were Jon Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) and Ian Paice (Deep Purple) in the early years, and later Billy Cobham (Jazz/Fusion drummer), Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater) and Jack de Johnette (Jazz drummer). When I started my music activities in Taiwan in 2014, I didn’t have my own drumset. After years of Prog Rock in Germany, I played in a “normal” rock band, first, and then in a funk and jazz band with excellent fellow musicians, which pushed my skills to a different level.

Besides drumming, I had piano lessons for half a year in 1998 (enough to play simple songs at home), and I was singing in my school’s choir and as “Alfred” in the “Dance of the Vampires” musical that my school performed. However, drums has always been my favourite.

Why so much music? Why not football or videogaming or collecting stamps? I think, one crucial influence is that of my father who had a huge LP and CD collection, mostly 1970s rock music like Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc. We were not a “TV family” (the TV was even locked away behond doors in the living room shelf), but the radio was always on, or we sat in the living room listening to loud music (no neighbours in the countryside! big advantage!). Even though my taste of music as a child was terrible (I liked David Hasselhoff and sailor’s chants…), it changed significantly in my early teenages: Triggered by my increasing drumming abilities, I was more and more interested in music that I could play drums to. I took my father’s LPs and CDs and tried to drum to those songs. I was very impressed by the energy of Meat Loaf’s 1993 album “Bat out of hell 2”. In early 1994 I got my first Hifi Stereo system with a CD player. The first CDs I had were gifts from my parents, but in autumn 1995 I bought a CD for the first time. In the record store, I found one with a very artful cover and a red blinking LED: “P.u.l.s.e.” by Pink Floyd.

pulse

I never listened to any song of this band before and the CD was very expensive, 55 DM. But a mysterious driving force made me buy it. My father was very surprised but also interested in it, so we listened to it on his high quality sound system in the living room, and this music blew me away! This music was so intense, so creative, so deep and “floating”! I listened to it around the clock until I could sing all lyrics and notes, even the guitar and piano solos. I also started accompanying it with my drums. Pink Floyd’s “Pulse” is definitely a milestone in the development of my “music career”! From then on I listened to music very consciously. When music was handmade, unusual, creative, covered a large spectrum of sounds (like orchestral works) or had very long songs, then it was interesting for me. Sometimes later I bought CDs of bands that I never heard before, just because there were songs longer than 10 minutes (and actually they were all very good!). Here is my favourite music from 1997:

favouritemusic1997

Today it looks a bit different, maybe like this:

  1. Tool – No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover)
  2. Guilt Machine – Season of denial
  3. Katatonia – Forsaker
  4. Snarky Puppy – What about me?
  5. Jethro Tull – Locomotive Breath (from live album “Bursting out”, 1978)
  6. Antonin Dvorak – Symphony No.9, “From the New World”
  7. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb (live 1994)
  8. Dream Theater – Panic Attack
  9. Haken – Cockroach King
  10. Verbal Delirium – Close to you
  11. Leprous – The Price
  12. Thank you Scientist – Mr. Invisible
  13. Mastodon – The Last Baron
  14. Deep Purple – Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1999 version)
  15. Rainbow – Still I’m sad (from live album “On Stage”, 1997)
  16. Oceansize – No tomorrow
  17. Porcupine Tree – Fear of a blank planet
  18. Katatonia – In the white
  19. Opeth – Baying of the hounds
  20. Herbie Hancock – Cantaloupe Island (from “Parallel Realities, live 1991)
  21. In the Silence – Ever closer
  22. Stanley Clarke & Friends – Stratus (“Live at the Greek”, 1994)
  23. Snarky Puppy – Lingus
  24. Lars Danielsson – Orange market
  25. Phil Collins BigBand – Pick up the pieces
  26. Siena Root – Time will tell
  27. Dredg – Bug eyes
  28. Muse – Feeling good
  29. Evership – Silver Light
  30. Guilt Machine – Twisted Coil

Not only has a lot of great music been produced in the past 20 years. Also, of course, I got in touch with much more interesting music. And, most important, my choice of music became more “conscious” and more “picky”. There are two sides of “music”: consumption of music and playing a musical instrument. I believe that the two evolve in mutual enrichment: Playing a musical instrument is motivated by knowing and appreciating good music, but playing music by oneself also enlarges the “listening capacity”, musical understanding and personal preference impact (I mean, how important it is for you to find your preferences expressed in the music you choose). When you try to master your instrument you almost necessarily have idols and favourite songs that you will like to play. Almost inevitably you select more sophisticated and qualitatively more advanced music. But you can only choose from music you know. The biggest source of musical knowledge is your home (your parents’ choices and radio/TV presence of music) and later your friends. At the same time, you grow up in an environment that provides musical instruments (an e-piano, a Guzheng, a cajon, even a small drumset, your nephew playing Ukulele) and confronts you with people having fun playing those instruments. You listen to Jazz, Rock, Funk, Reggae, classical music, heavy metal, and other handmade music every day since your ears started to send signals to your brain! I am quite sure, sooner or later you will consciously choose to make music a part of your personal daily life. I sometimes joked around, telling my friends that you will be given up for adoption if you decide to listen to HipHop. It won’t be that bad! More important than the actual choice of music is your motivation to choose music that somehow represents your personal preference instead of rather choosing what friends tell you counts as “cool”. Maybe you will like to play music with your old daddy. I will always be ready for that, even if it is HipHop!

Is it “important” for me that you turn towards “music” both as consumer and as player? I would say ‘yes’. I am convinced that playing music is a great support for the development of cognitive skills and creativity. I feel confirmed by many studies and experts’ findings. Insightful books are Daniel Levitin’s “This is your brain on music – The science of a human obsession” (Plume, 2006) and “Music, Neurology, and Neuroscience – Evolution, the musical brain, medical conditions and therapies”, edited by Altenmüller, Boller and Finger (Elsevier, 2015). Youtube has countless videos that explain what happens in the neuronal networks of your brain while playing music: motor activities, memory, the coordination between your senses (listening to what you play, seeing the notesheet or remembering the right notes, comparing the output to your expectation), triggering of emotional states, and all that as parallel continuous processes! Not only is playing music just “fun” in the moment you are doing it, it can also increase your self-confidence, your identification in your teenages, and your feeling of self-fulfillment. In this respect, playing an instrument is much more than just about the music. It is about the quality of life. And since I wish you the highest possible quality of life, I believe that choosing “music” increases the chance to reach that! You have my full support!

About your father

Autobiographical notes are not easy to write! Too big is the danger of falsifying facts, romanticising the past, whitewashing incidents and exaggerating the one or the other thing. However, you might feel like it is important to know my “background story” that makes it easier to understand why I think like this or that. I will try to be as precise as possible without going too deep into detail. And, of course, I won’t publish some delicate private stories on the internet…

I entered this world on October 9th in 1981. After two years in a small town my family moved to the countryside. We had no agriculture, just a few animals (cats, dog, chicken, horses, sometimes ducks, geese and for a short time even goats, sheep and three pigs). So much space for me! And so many things to explore! I grew up with the nature. I learned a lot about trees, flowers and animals. And I loved them! I was playing outside everyday, I never cared about the weather. I love sunshine same as snow or thunderstorm (oh, thunderstorm even is my favourite weather!). From 1985 to 1988 I went to the kindergarten and in 1988 I entered the primary school. I didn’t have many friends there. I was invited by other classmates for their birthday partys, I invited them for mine, sometimes we met and played together… But I was never the “dominant” part in class. Maybe living in the countryside was the reason why I was often playing on my own. But there was an advantage to live in the countryside: There was so much space, so many things to do.

My youth was just very usual. I entered Gymnasium, the German secondary school type that permits to study at University afterwards. From time to time I fell in love with a girl, but I was too shy to ask her. I found out that I like to play drums and entered the school’s BigBand. I took part in a scientific competition for young pupil and was member of the pupil’s council. I learned three foreign languages: English (nine years), Latin (five years) and French (two years). French I learned voluntarily, I think this was the only mistake I made in school. A little bit later I found out that I prefer the natural sciences. The last three years are called “Oberstufe” (upper grade), this was the best time of all! I could select my subjects, and I mainly chose natural sciences like chemistry, biology and mathematics. I also had “Music education”, which was very important! I got really good marks in music, because I learned to play musical instruments (drums and piano). So my average mark at the end of school was quite good. The language subjects were not so good, but music and chemistry gave me a good final grade!

Here are some “lessons learned” from my teenage years:

  • People are evil.
    I was bullied a lot at the age of 13,14,15… My classmates made fun of me living in the countryside, making bad jokes about being a farmer. I can’t blame my friends because they probably never realised they were bullying me, but I started to hate everyone! My intraverted and rather anxious personality and my lack of self-confidence made me escape even more into my own world, playing on my own, even starting my own country (“Pannonia”) in which I was the King, in which I made the rules. But ever since I can’t get along easily with “dominant” outgoing and extraverted people. Still today I often feel shy, insecure and want to hide when facing people that are “too strong” and dominant. These incidents back in the days mark the first step in developing serious misanthropy.
  • Mankind as a failure
    Inspired by a book called “Trial and error: Mankind – a failure of Nature” written by German Anthropologist Theo Löbsack I felt confirmed in my anti-human viewpoint at the delicate age of 16. The book states that the human race is condemned to die out because of its “excessive organ”, the brain. We developed technology, ethics, medicine, social systems, etc., which in the long run lead to a weakening of mankind. I hope mankind disappears as soon as possible, before destroying earth more! It would be the best for the planet! Mankind is like a plague, like a virus for this planet! Finally the planet will get rid of it. And it will be painful for mankind!
    I often asked myself: How can I think so terrible about mankind and at the same time just lead an ordinary human life? I talked about mankind as if I was not part of it. Finally I came to the conclusion that it is OK to see things from two points of view: Regarding “mankind” as the sum of all humans, without any individuals, and regarding myself as an individual that has to make its own way among all the others. For a while I felt very guilty and unhappy, but I think it is just part of evolution. Mankind had to develop into that, and we will leave that planet as soon as we have gone too far! And no one will ever cry any tear about us! Sad but true!
  • Emotional intelligence
    My first girlfriend was a very emotional person who often lost temper and freaked out even because of little things. She claimed it “human” to live out anger whenever it came up, and that I am weird because I obviously suppress my anger and other emotions. I tried to control my negative emotions, because I realised that they always have only bad effects: anger made other people also angry or sad, sadness made me feel powerless, greed or envy made me do evil deeds. Also in my family I learned: be considerate! Do not make everything with too much emotion, but think about it first. In my opinion “emotional” is not the opposite of “rational”. Emotion and ratio always work together. But emotion is faster, so people do “emotional” deeds and it seems they did not think (ratio) about consequences or the effect of their action. Having “emotional intelligence” means to have a high self-awareness, the ability of self-management, but also empathy and social awareness. I think all these things can be trained – and should be trained. They are essential for good physical and mental health, for having good relationships and for leading a good life with a peaceful soul.

Since Chemistry was my favourite subject at school I decided to study Chemistry at University. I entered Münster University, because it was close to my hometown and I can continue my bands that I had for many years. I lived in a “community” with my old school friend Jonas (we know each other since 1992), that means we lived together in an apartment, one room for each of us, sharing kitchen and bathroom. I really enjoyed having my own space, experiencing all aspects of a students life (Party, drinking, hanging out with friends, playing music… oh, and sometimes study…), and learning more about chemistry. I got the Diploma degree after successfully finishing several lab courses, exams, a semester in Korea and a really great time with new “lessons learned”!

  • Emotional Intelligence revisited
    My second girlfriend was the opposite of the first one in this respect: She seemed to be completely emotionless, like a stone or a block of ice. It was much easier with her, she never got angry. When we quarreled we simply discussed about what happened or what is wrong. And we came to a conclusion very fast. We always used our brains when quarreling, finding arguments, listening to the other, trying to understand the other and finally find an agreement (= solve the problem). This is the advantage of being emotionless. But on the other hand she also never showed joy or happiness. She seemed to be callous or even apathetical. It was very difficult to make her smile or even laugh. Or people might say, she was not so natural… Always controlling herself, never “letting herself go”. As I said: with negative emotions this is very useful, but not with positive ones. This was my first time experiencing that the best way is usually the middle way between two extremes.
  • To have or to be, that is the question
    Erich Fromm taught me a lot about these two different life approaches. Having lifestyle, which is found in industrialised countries, is based on possession or ownership, Being lifestyle – as an example the Asian countries are mentioned – is based on self-development, finding the own abilities and strong points and lead a life in agreement with the environment. Three examples:

    • Loving someone in the Having-style takes love as a “thing” that you can “have”, but that you can also lose. “Love” is there, but it can vanish, so that the partnership is always at danger. Lovers might stick to “love” as a concept. “Being-style love” doesn’t waste time on such aspects, it is enjoyed in the moment, the two lovers “are” (or become) the love.
    • In Western medicine a disease is often regarded as a disturbing factor that came in from outside and must be taken and removed. Eastern medicine regards the disease as a momentary part of the patient and must be transformed instead of removed.
    • Studying in the having-lifestyle mainly means memorizing (having knowledge), whereas studying in being-style means growing by making the learned a part of oneself.
  • No life without Music
    When I was 12 years old I was a nobody. I was shy and weak. People in school treated me like a fool and I never raised my voice against that. But then I learned to play the drums and I was really good! Someday I noticed that there is something I can do better than everyone else at this school! I had no reason to hide or to act shy. Drumming made me strong, I got a lot of self-confidence. Still I identify myself with music! It is my most passionate hobby. Next to playing drums I also learned to play Piano a little, and if there is no instrument I just sing. I will make music all my life! I hope I can motivate you and your future siblings to play musical instruments! I would play together with you as a family band!
  • The peaceful warrior
    A book by Dan Millman changed my life! The key message is: whatever you do, do it HERE and NOW, with all your concentration and an aware mind. Don’t let anything distract you, especially eliminate all your attachments that give you the illusion of controlling the uncontrollable. Inspired by his “peaceful warrior” I started to think a lot about my life. I identified so many attachments and unhealthy patterns in my life! First I started to take more care of my body and lost 20 kg of weight by changing my eating habits and going swimming regularly. Then I tried to transform my mind by practicing a positive attitude towards life: Don’t talk negatively, don’t see negative aspects in something, but appreciate beauty and harmony. It was very obvious to me that this book explains the ideas of Buddhism applied to daily life aspects, even though it doesn’t use the term “Buddhism” a single time! It was my first time to get in touch with that philosophy and since then I learned a lot more about Buddhism. I must say, my life is better since then! I think I found a way to LEAD my life (instead of only existing…).
  • Exit the Matrix
    I began to understand the deep meaning of the “Matrix” movie trilogy in which all people live in a “Matrix” generated by computer programs to create the illusion of a free world whereas in reality the people are exploited by machines that rule the world. There are so many hints to Buddhist philosophy in those movies: Our mind construes the world by interpreting perceptions according to previous experiences and shaped patterns. It should be our goal to free ourselves from this mental prison and see the reality. The “hero” in the movie, Neo, tries to do that by fighting against the agents (the Matrix elements that keep us trapped in it), which doesn’t bring him any further. Finally he succeeds by stopping fighting. When there is no fight, the concept of an “opponent” looses its meaning. The peaceful warrior is always the winner. This topic kept me thinking for many years. I will write more about it in a separate article.

My second girlfriend was a german-born Korean. Through her family I learned a little about that Asian country, but since she knew nearly nothing about her roots I decided to study one semester in Korea – a good chance to get to know that country. I successfully applied for a DAAD (German academic exchange service) scholar ship to do two practical courses in a material science lab and a biochemistry lab at Seoul National University. A few weeks before I left Germany that girlfriend broke up and revealed that she already had a new boyfriend. That was a shock, but after a while in Korea my heart was healed. It was simply too exciting to explore this beautiful culture with its friendly people, the delicious food, the unique traditions and stunning modernity, so that I forgot about my Ex quickly. I had wonderful six months there, made many good friends, travelled around the whole country, played music in clubs in Seoul, learned to work from 8am to long after midnight, and found a “second home”. Since then I was in Korea 5 times and will probably always come back once in a while!

The research I did for my Diploma thesis and during my PhD course, Microcontact Printing, can be explained in analogy to “potato printing” from the Kindergarten: Potatoes are cut into two halfs and on the inside a pattern is cut with a knife. Then, colour is put on it and printed onto paper. I did the same, but with a little difference. Instead of potatoes I took polymer stamps. The pattern on the stamps is in the nanometer scale, very very small. The eye can not see the pattern, I have to use special microscopes to make it visible. The “ink” is not paint, but a solution of molecules. And the “paper” is not real paper but glass with special other molecules on the surface. The molecules on the stamp and on the glass undergo a chemical reaction. With this method I can pattern a surface in a certain way. There are many applications in medicine, nanotechnology, industry (for example car coatings…) or life science. In my first project I investigated which molecules I can print and which are not so good. So first I have to synthesize these molecules. I prefer the printing and investigation work. I detect the patterns by fluorescence. The ink molecules glow red or blue in a fluorescence microscope. In another project I printed Carbon Nanotubes with special electronic properties in order to fabricate a field effect transistor.

My institute at Münster University had a collaboration with Nagoya University in Japan and I was participating in that. It included a 6-months-stay in Japan, working in the labs of Prof. Shinohara (the carbon nanotube project). I found that Japan is very different from Korea. People here are extremely polite, but a little superficial and not as heartful and friendly as Korean. The whole country is very superficial and totally money-oriented. The majority of people is not interested in anything (people have no hobbies, don’t talk about politics, never complain, just work, eat and sleep) and never talk about personal things, even not with close friends or family members. Of course there are many good sides, for example excellent food, very beautiful cultural items and historical spots, and high safety wherever you go. But the six months made it very clear to me: I will spend my future rather in Korea and definitely NOT in Japan!

Philosophy has always been one of my interests, especially its “application” to daily life aspects. My daily work raised many philosophical, especially ethical questions. Next to some fundamental issues about the theory of science (What does it mean to “observe”, to “do experiments”, to assume certain theories of matter and how to interpret results?) I was highly interested in ethical and social implications of Nanotechnology, because I saw many problems arising from it. Before I followed the debate on genetic engineering, which was very emotional and caused the wide public to refuse it. But Nanotechnology had very similar characteristics: It has a high uncertainty because many nanosized particles can’t be seen and can’t be found after releasing them (for example in medical, cosmetic or food products). For sure it has benefits, but there are also risks. How can benefits and risks be balanced? How can they be predicted and controlled? Which role does the researcher play, what is his responsibility, if he has any at all? Together with an Amercian Professor I started a side project on this topic, developing and carrying out a “Seminar on ethical and social implications of scientific research”.

Exactly at that time I found an offer from the Philosophy department of my university: a Master course in Applied Ethics! That was perfect for me to switch the direction of my career a little: away from “pure science” to “talking about science” and governing science. I saw a gap between science and Philosophy and wanted to become a bridge between the two. In that course I learned a lot about medical ethics, bioethics, media ethics, political ethics, science ethics and concepts of justice, autonomy, freedom, dignity, responsibility, etc. I learned to use the ideas of Aristoteles, Sokrates, Plato, Kant, Mill, Hobbes, Rawls or Singer to evaluate special phenomena, incidents or dilemmas ethically. And most important: I learned how to read and write! Philosophical texts are very different from other texts. Every single word needs to be read or written carefully, high precision in the details is very important! After two years I finished the course with a Master thesis on “Ethical implications of artificially intelligent machines with decision-making ability”.

My third girlfriend was Korean (student in Germany). I found she was perfect for me because she was the middle way between the first two: controlled emotional, but healthily rational. We had a lot of harmony! Just one thing made us disagree over and over again: she was deeply religious, a “fundamental Christian”, as she called herself. She was “married to Jesus” and took the Bible as the ultimate truth, word by word. She believed the Earth is 6000 years old and created by God in 7 days, as described in the Bible. No room for interpretation. For me as a Scientist and Philosopher it was unacceptable to use “religion” and “truth” in one sentence! I spent a lot of efforts on eliminating all dogmas (I mean, beliefs that can’t be further reasoned) from my worldview. As a teenager I called myself “atheist”, but in the meantime I found that I am rather an agnostic: I just don’t know if there is a “God”, but it also doesn’t really matter. My most plausible explanation: God stands for the principle of basic harmony, the driving force of the universe. Buddhists call it “love”, Daoists “Dao”, Muslim “Allah” and Christians “God”. Believing can be a strong source of inner peace, hope, inspiration and balance! But I define “religion” as “belief plus politics”. Church exploited mankind over centuries in order to have power and wealth. What people need is faith and knowledge! But religion makes people blind and keeps them small and stupid. Without religion peoples’ faith would be more pure and peaceful!

The combination of a PhD in Chemistry (with research in a Nanotechnology field) and a Master in Applied Ethics gave me a job at the “European Academy for Research on Implications of Scientific and Technological Developments”, a technology assessment institution in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany. I was involved in a large research project of the European Union with 15 partners (universities, hospitals, companies) researching on “Nanoparticles for early diagnosis of Arthritis”. My task was to do “accompanying research” on the ethical and social aspects of Nanomedicine (using Nanosized materials for medical applications). Our work was quite political: the final report was taken by the EU as help and orientation for making useful regulations for this new field of technology. That is what this job is good for: Help shaping the future in a way that risks are minimized and peoples’ benefits are maximized. First, it needs to be defined what is “good” for people, values have to be pointed out. Then, the current and near-future development have to be analysed in order to identify aspects that violate or endanger those values. Controversial debates are unavoidable, of course, because every stakeholder has different interests and viewpoints! The main task of an ethicist is to “moderate” the discussion, to sort and classify arguments, to point out errors and unlogic statements in argumentations, and to bring different opinions to one conclusion.

For my new job I moved to Bonn. I found a nice apartment with a kitchen, a bathroom, two rooms (living room and bedroom) and a balcony. Here I could live out my third hobby (after playing music and cooking/baking): constructing furniture and decorating my home, making it a nice and homy place. I built a multifunctional bed with many features, a decorative shelf structuring the living room, chose the wall pictures and other decorations carefully by colour (mainly red, combining well with white walls and black furniture), installed comfortable lighting and put many plants and flowers everywhere. Especially a well-equipped and well-organized clean kitchen is important to me! In this respect I might be typically German: The “home” is the center of my life, here I can be myself, be creative and let my mind fly around freely (another hint that I am intraverted). That apartment in Bonn was so far my most comfortable living place…

My girlfriend (the religious one) was psychology student. I often helped her to write homeworks or her Bachelor and Master thesis, and we talked about psychological topics often. I was more and more interested in understanding the mechanisms of “mind”. In Biochemistry I learned the molecular basis of how the human body works, the “chemistry” of perceptions and of thinking. Psychology added a new “flavour” to it by trying to answer the question “why?”. Before my reflections on “emotional intelligence” or “Matrix” had psychological elements, but they were very amateurish. I learned a lot from my girlfriend and got many new insights into the “inner structure” of people, the effect and usefulness of emotions, the connections between environment and mental health, etc. By discussing with her (a strong dualist) I was more convinced of a monistic worldview. I am by far not professional psychologist, but I am sure that on my list of “majors I would have studied if not chemistry” psychology is on top! Followed by anthropology (the american understanding of it) and architecture…

After the failed third relationship I threw myself more than ever into studying Buddhism and its healing effect on body and mind. I blamed Christianity for “destroying” my partnership and wanted to prove to myself that Buddha’s philosophy is much more efficient in leading to happiness and inner peace than the Bible! After months of studying theoretically I found that I can only make progress when I apply the findings and practice actively. I decided to spend all my annual vacation for a trip to Korea to do a “templestay”: Four weeks in a Buddhist temple, living like a monk, meditating, chanting, bowing, having vegan meals, cleaning the body, purifying the soul, clearing the mind. The temple I chose for it (Golgulsa) had a specialty: it is headquarter of Sunmudo, a traditional Korean form of martial arts, that I had to practice three hours per day. This time was really intense, very helpful, a great source of inspirations and one of the best things I ever did in my life. But I also learned this: I am not a Buddhist! In the western world we often underestimate that Buddhism is mainly this: a religion! The templestay didn’t make me more religious but intensified my interest in the philosophical and psychological aspects of Buddha’s teachings.

The templestay experience changed my mind about many things. I identified so many “unhealthy” things in my life! But most of all I started to question my way of life. First I felt very happy with my change from the lab to the office desk, but I began to doubt that this job is the right thing for me. After all this institute was a kind of “company” with interests that I had to follow. But I wanted to do research! I wanted to publish my findings and write articles with my own arguments and viewpoints, convincing other people. I wanted to be free and indipendent! I can reach that goal only with an academic career at universities. After thinking thoroughly about it, I decided to quit my job and look for a postdoc job in Korea! I had the plan to find such a job first, but then a Korean friend came up with an unusual idea: Her friend is headmonk in a small new temple that is still under construction, I could stay there and help building it as long as I don’t have a job yet. With high confidence I quit my job, sold all my stuff (except a few personal things and my musical instruments), quit all contracts, left my apartment and Germany towards Korea…

This second templestay in the middle of nowhere deepened my insights into Buddha’s teaching, but more from the perspective of religious practice which – as you know – is not so much my interest. My attempts to find an academic scholar as collaborator for my postdoctoral project failed, mostly because South Korea wasn’t open for reflections on science ethics and social implications. After three months my visitor visa expired and I had to leave the country for a trip. Therefore, I visited my friend in Taiwan in September 2013. I didn’t know much about Taiwan at that time and assumed it must be like China (the mainland). During that visit I noticed that it is very different: more developed, more “civilized”, with everything available that is necessary to maintain a good lifestyle (e.g. doctors, well equiped supermarkets, public transport, a certain degree of freedom). I also felt welcome after meeting a Professor at a University in Taichung who didn’t hesitate to host me as a postdoc in his institute. A few months later I moved entirely from Korea to Taiwan.

The above-mentioned friend is now my wife, and you are the offspring of our love. Therefore, my connection to Taiwan is very strong and, somehow, even sealed by a contract! I call Taiwan “home” for now because it is the place where I reside and live my life, not just visit. Therefore, I try to keep a certain distance that allows me to “observe” and reflect. I don’t “love” Taiwan unconditionally and I don’t hate it totally. Compared to Germany and Korea, my former two “homes”, Taiwan is far less “socially developed”, it has much bigger environmental problems, the education level is low and the historical and political situation is very different. In many respects it would be unfair to compare Taiwan to Germany or Korea, but since Taiwanese regard their Island as a “modern” country it should be possible to face the truth: There is a huge gap! I often find myself cursing at the stupidity of people and wish a volcano would wash this damn island  with all its dirt and scooters and stupid idiots back into the sea. But then I realise that my “problem” lies within myself. I guess, this is the real “Buddhist practice”: the challenge to lead daily life with a mindset of forgiveness, loving-kindness and compassion.