Life on a Barstool


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I finished my studies in 1978 after successfully passing the state exam for teaching credentials in biology, English, and philosophy at the University of Hannover. If I had purely followed my interests, I would have studied to become a biologist. But suffering as I do from amyasthenia (a muscle weakness) didn't allow for activities--like bench work--that require standing for long periods of time. Over the course of my studies, I used my physical strength as economically as possible--trying to reach maximum output with as little (physical) effort as possible.

After passing the state exam, I decided to get my PhD in botany. Supported by a lab assistant and a barstool, I was at least able to work half-time in my lab. But during these 5 years at the Institute of Botany at Hannover, I realised that the narrow scientific mindset was not my nature at all. I felt that I was missing a philosophical discourse on the notion that all of biochemistry's theoretical models are not necessarily the whole truth and that academics tend stick to common knowledge in their strive for security.

Due to this and also derived from the realisation that chemicals and radioactive hazards in the lab can be a health hazard, I decided to concentrate on research topics in ecology. In 1990, I ended up at the Zukunftsinstitut in Barsinghausen, where I worked on eco-farming topics and projects. This work really kept me occupied and gave me many ideas for future projects. But most important, this work lead to my first exposure to the theories of Rudolf Steiner and Wilhelm Reich. At the time, both were considered to be "outsiders" by the academic community, but I developed a keen interest in their theories. The Zukunftsinstitut at that time tried to combine such alternative theories with the scientific world view to a so-called "postmaterialistic science." Such theoretical models were aimed at trying to better understand the effects of acupuncture and homeopathy and also to achieve improvements in eco-farming. All of these issues were, according to Reich, connected to a life energy called orgon energy.

Suddenly, I was keen to find out more about my own life energy. I asked myself whether I might be suffering from a number of internal fears and beliefs that made it more difficult for me to perceive life in nature and in myself. In the following years I went through several psychotherapies and ended up in an orgon therapy session that was based on Reich's ideas. Slowly, I started to watch people around me more intently, and realised that many of my disabled friends were fighting a number of personal barriers that didn't allow them to succeed. Often, they blamed society in general for their social exclusion. Many times, this seemed just, but it was not always true. I observed often enough that it was especially them who were stuck in certain behaviour patterns, only hesitantly applying changes to their own behaviour. From my own experience, many disabled people rather like to change everything around them than to apply changes to themselves. I did this once, too, by actively participating in a work group for "mobility-disabled" citizens in Hannover. One of the actions that resulted from our activities was that all subway stations in Hannover were made accessible for wheel chairs. While the outcome itself was positive, this example illustrates that many disabled people try to change everything around them and in some situations forget to take a long, hard look at themselves.

At the same time, the symptoms of my muscle weakness were worsening. My cane wasn't enough, and I had to rely on my wheel chair more frequently. I also had to carefully balance between phases of strain and relaxation. I left the Zukunftsinstitut because my work lacked a practical component and in 1997 I joined a research centre for eco-farming in the Eifel area where traditional grain species were developed in a breeding programme. I have produced a number of papers and documented many experiments on methods of plant regeneration, mostly working from home.

Due to the effects that gene technology have on the species diversity of crops, I had an interest in working in this field. In 2000, I was given the opportunity to realise such a project at Werkhof Dortmund, a social institution with an affiliated nursery. Since early childhood, I was interested in seeds. At that time, it was the abundance of grains in the storehouses of my father's farm. Later on, parallel to my scientific career, I administered a small farm which deepened my interest in eco-farming. Today, gene technology is my challenge in two ways: I try to educate people about it and I also try to develop alternatives to technical mutations of plants.

Looking at my career as a disabled scientist retrospectively, I notice that again and again I've withdrawn into niches--maybe to avoid confrontation with the tough guys in science, but maybe also because I was able to accomplish a career path aside from all trends. The avoidance of natural science (such as pure biochemistry) and the orientation towards a holistic science of the living is the red line in my biography. But exactly this avoidance of the prevailing science provided a chance for me to work on alternative ways of seed nursing and treatments in agriculture--and maybe today's methods will be those of yesterday soon.

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