An Alphabet of My Likes and Dislikes: “F”

This is a post belonging to a new blogging project — the title is pretty much self-explanatory, I think; the project’s introductory post can be found HERE.  Credit for the idea: BeetleyPete.

As always, the only thing linking the two items mentioned in this post in my mind is that they both start with the same letter of the alphabet.



The Four Seasons

Our garden in spring, fall and winter.
(All photos in this section of the post are mine.)

The change of the seasons, that is, and the fact that I am living in a part of the world where four seasons actually do exist to begin with.  When I was growing up, I preferred the warm, sunny climate of Southern Europe and other parts of the world that I knew from my vacations; and I wished that I was living there rather than in Germany with its often rainy falls and winters.  But after having returned to Germany from a several years’ stay in Southern California (where the only way to distinguish whether it was summer or winter was to look at whether I was wearing sleeveless or short-sleeve tops outdoors or tweeds that, in Germany, I’d only have put on in temperatures a good 15-20°C / 50-60°F lower), I’ve not only made my peace with the change of the seasons but now find that I actually like it — because it provides for a true variation in the weather, and because there is something about each of the seasons that I love in turn:

Spring in the Rhine Valley south of Bonn and in our garden.

In spring nature awakens; the days grow longer, the air grows milder and, loving flowers as I do — in fact, flowers were a hot contender for the “F” slot on the “likes” side — I could spend hours outside just wandering from one budding blossom to the next (and probably taking photographs of all of them, too).  There’s something incredibly delicate and hopeful about spring; or at least, a spring that follows the gloom of a “real” winter.

Verona (Italy) ~~ in the Serrania de Ronda (Andalucía, Spain) ~~ sunset in Rancho Palos Verdes (CA, USA) ~~ late afternoon at Grand Canyon (AZ, USA) ~~ Kitchener’s Island, Assuan (Egypt) ~~ Uluru / Ayers Rock (Northern Territory, Australia)

Summer is all about light and warmth: I no longer necessarily crave the heat and (near-)perpetual sunshine of Southern California or of a Southern European summer, but I’m still enormously attracted to sunlit landscapes, I love to feel the sun touching my face, and I love to watch the day slowly fading into night in the long hours of a summer evening. — In recent years, I’ve got distinctly more sun and heat even here in Germany than I ever thought would be possible (complete with lack of rain and other desert[ification] attributes; it almost felt like I had never moved back from SoCal at all) — but this “somewhat too much of a good thing” has only made me appreciate the change of the seasons all the more in turn.

November sunset near Bonn

In fall, while the days get shorter, the light of the sun at the same time also becomes warmer, not in temperature but in shine and tincture; and the leaves on many trees match it in their hues.  This may be a bit of an over-simplification (particularly in our area, where it rains quite a lot), but even a few “golden” days really will go a long way to make up for many a gray and rainy one, and in no other season are sunsets quite as dramatic as in fall.

My winter wonder world!  (Or some parts of it …)

In winter, finally, if we are very (very, very) lucky there is snow — I love snow, except if I have to drive in it; I’ve never lost my deep-seated childhood wonder at the way in which it turns the world into a fairyland in  the space of less than an hour — but even if the world outside is the dark, rainy and gloomy place that it is in winter most of the time hereabouts, there is no time like winter to cuddle up with a pet, a book, and a hot drink.  Also, my mom began teaching me to ski before I’d even turned five, and for the next several decades we would spend a week or two at a skiing resort in the Alps (or the Black Forest) at least once, if not twice every winter, and I used to look forward to those vacations as much as to those in summer.  (I can’t do this anymore now — ski boots have a similar effect on my feet as Spanish boots, or at least it very much feels that way –, so these days I’m relegated to watching winter sports competitions on TV; but I will always have the memories of those vacations, and I still love the Alpine winter scenery.)  Finally, winter is the season of  Yuletide — Christmas and Advent –, to which we’ll be returning in another entry, and the cozy parts of which I also love a lot.




I guess by way of an illustration, I just need to point to recent events:

(And I swear I had already put together my A-Z list weeks before that event.)  So, yeah — zealots of all creeds and colors; racists, nationalists, xenophobes and proponents of outright genocide, religious extremists, fascists, Stalinists, and adherents of other totalitarian, populist or otherwise radical and undemocratic ideologies: Fanaticism is “bandwagon” writ large, and it is the most harmful thing to have haunted the annals of world history practically from their inception.

And although the term “fan” has a much more positive and apparently harmless connotation in such areas as sports and the entertainment industry, I’m going to include those areas here, too — because they are, not merely in theory but often very much in practice, subject to the same sort of mass hysteria, even above and beyond crowds of teenagers having fainting fits outside their favorite singers’ or actors’ hotel rooms.  Hooliganism has long been a scourge in professional sports, none more so than football (soccer), there are known links between certain groups of “ultras” (hooligans) and Neonazi organizations, and even outside such political overtones, anybody who has watched the May 1985 Heysel Stadium tragedy unfold (I did, via German TV’s live broadcast, which quickly changed from the broadcast of a sports match into a “live from the battlefield” kind of thing) knows to what extremes fanaticism in sports can go.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t attend any sports events or, for that matter, rock concerts (and enthusiastically sing along with my favorite songs), or that I underestimate the importance of “fan” support in profesional sports — team and individual sports alike.  And it’s quite probable that my dislike of crowds makes me more suspicious than other people of large gatherings in areas such as sports and the entertainment industry anyway.  Even so, there’s a slippery slope from genuine, beneficial support (alone or in groups) to mass hysteria and violence; and the greater the popular appeal of the team, band, or person being supported, and, by the same token, the bigger and more unrestrained the group of supporters, the greater, too, the risk that, given the right kind of kindling, the whole mixture is going to blow up in everybody’s faces in a giant ball of fire.

And of course, since the middle of the 20th century we all know where fanaticism — particularly racist and religious fanaticism — will lead in its most extreme form:



8 thoughts on “An Alphabet of My Likes and Dislikes: “F”

  1. Living in a geographical part of the world where seasons didn’t impact on daily life to me would be like living under lockdown forever because of a pandemic — horrendous to imagine. So yay! for the changing seasons!

    Fanaticism implies absolute solidarity with cause, team, leader, or creed, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong (and it’s all too often the latter). It’s why I don’t espouse a particular party even though I may agree with many of its policies; why I’m not into sports or athletics at either a club or national level even if I may feel proud of particular achievements or bask in reflected glory; it’s partly why I’ve never felt comfortable with any religion and especially with any designated sect; and it’s why I’m extremely reluctant to endorse any one individual as an ideal — because each one of us, we’re all human, subject to the weakness and failures that flesh is heir to.

    I’m really enjoying your alphabet, as you can surmise!

    1. Thank you for your kind words!

      And … hah. Right now, what with so little natural daylight making it inside one’s home (and what with all the restrictions on going outside), I suppose I wouldn’t necessarily mind a less drastic change of the seasons. And I didn’t mind the “eternal summer” so drastically in spring and fall in California — but Christmas in the Southern Californian heat felt distinctly odd and out of place; and once I’d been back in Germany for a while, I really came to appreciate the diversity I had been missing.

      Fanatic loyalty is created when demagogues / populist leaders exploit their followers’ fears and the resulting cognitive dissonance (or create that cognitive dissonance to begin with). A fanatic will never acknowledge, most likely not even see any fault in their logic or belief system at all; let alone, that the whole belief system as such is fundamentally wrong. That is part of what makes them so dangerous, as well as the fact that (as — I think — Jared Diamond put it) the more extreme their agenda, the more willing they are to jettison common humanity and (literally) spill blood to achieve their aims. — In Germany, for the longest time nationalism was a complete no-go for obvious historical reasons: I’m still not sure we have a balanced attitude towards it now, 80+ years after the beginning of WWII, but anybody here who even after Jan.6, 2021 still points to the U.S. as an example that “it can be done” and there can’t possibly be any risks anymore today (as you used to hear frequently until quite recently) IMHO has either been living under a rock during the past 4 years or hasn’t grasped the full import of those events in DC.

      By the same token, until I saw the images of the Heysel Stadium riots, I would never have believed fanaticism could go to exactly that same length (spilling blood) in any area but politics, but that live broadcast taught me differently, and I’ve never forgotten it. That said, I do cheer, loudly, for any German sports star’s or team’s successful performance: if they win a medal or a tournament, well done them — it’s based on immensely hard work in training, and I am happy for them that the hard work has paid off — but even if they don’t win, I’ll cheer for anybody who does their best. And there are plenty of athletes from other countries that I greatly respect as well, and that am (um, almost 🙂 ) equally happy to cheer for.

      So in short, yes, I agree. I won’t ever be a member of any political party; my vote is never a shoe-in for any particular party on election day; and the only associations that I belong to are those pertaining to my day job (most of which I *have to* belong to in order to be able to practice in the first place). I’ve been lucky enough to have had my share of great mentors in my early days, but a huge part of what made them great mentors was obviously that they were human beings and not superhumans. The same is true for the odd fictional character one may take a particular liking for (and obviously, the greatest fictional characters are the ones who have flaws and overcome them … not those who don’t have any flaws to begin with). Unquestioningly idealizing *any* human being is always a mistake … and the more people are doing it in any individual case, the more obviously you’re looking at a cult and your inner warning bells should go off with a vengeance (and if they do, you should listen to them) — even if there are just as many or more people who violently oppose the cult. A cult isn’t defined by the size or vehemence of its opposition but by the behavior of its members and its leader(s).

      Cautionary true story (without wanting to draw any specific analogies to any specific other persons): Several decades ago, I came across the case of a man who had been locked up in a psychiatric hospital based on a display of violent tendencies, combined with a mental disorder. There couldn’t be any doubt about the fact that he wasn’t of sound mind: He believed himself the son of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun and was convinced that “they” (whoever “they” were) had put him under surveillance by way of microchips implanted into his teeth. NEVERTHELESS, before he had been locked up, he had succeeded in founding a political party, which in Germany at the time required a minimum total number of seven founding members — and that party had existed for a considerable time. In other words, he had been in routine contact, over an extended period of time, with (at least) six other people, who had listened to his ideas and subscribed to them without finding any material fault with any of his utterances. Obviously, compared to your average populist movement, six (or ten, or whatever such number) isn’t exactly a whole lot, but then, most leaders of populist movements also just about manage to stop short of the “microchips in my teeth” level of insanity on open display — and frankly, having listened to his ramblings on even a single occasion, I seriously wondered how even ONE person could come to give him enough credence to sign up for his party, let alone six (or more) of them. I never had the opportunity to speak to any of his followers, but I seriously wondered, at the time, what had made them sign up to an obvious lunatic like that. — I’ve often thought about the interview I had with this man in the past couple of years.

      1. Psychosis is particularly horrific when it infects other people and not just the deluded individual with whom it originated. All those horrendous beliefs that no truly thoughtful person would entertain seem to have reached pandemic levels, don’t they—paedophile rings run by Democrats, manufactured viruses, microchips in vaccines, vaccines ‘causing’ autism, faked moon landings, 5G masts causing Covid, the climate crisis a hoax, prosecuting criminal behaviour deemed a witch hunt—it’s endless, self-evidently contradictory and free of any material evidence.

        1. Not to mention holocaust deniers, yes. But then, psychosis is part and parcel of the mass hysteria that makes virtually *all* kinds of fanatic movement and bandwagons tick … regardless whether created by / attached to a sane or an insane focal person. The experience I mentioned was a case where a demonstrably insane person had apparently managed to make followers out of others who were presumably SANE: not many of them, certainly by far not enough to talk about mass hysteria, and he got caught up in the system before he could do any major damage. But something about his ramblings must nevertheless have triggered some sort of fear or other “button“ in his small band of followers that made them overlook his obviously deluded utterings … and I don‘t want to think about how far he would have got if his violent tendencies hadn‘t provided a stumbling block at some point or other. (Also, this was before the days of social media — these days, everybody involved in locking him up would probably have been in for a conspiracy theory-fueled sh*t storm on Twitter and / or Facebook before they‘d even known what had hit them!)

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