When I was an atheist I had a very utilitarian view of things. For example I thought that all government buildings and interiors should be just purpose driven with no view to design. That the interiors should be focused on maintainability and not beauty or even government office idea of beauty. Living on multiple Aircraft Carriers I felt the practical aesthetic of gray bulkheads with visible wiring was how everything should be. It annoyed me that so much effort was wasted on waxing floors and such to make a pretty warship.
This was one of those things I think I believed without believing. I felt it was a natural outgrowth of my worldview and thus took precedence over my own thoughts. I thought I had to choose practicality over beauty with no intersection of the two.
It was only later did I realize that not only did I not believe this, but that in actuality I reviled this viewpoint. It’s amazing what you can teach yourself to believe without believing.
I was thinking about all of this as I was decorating my house for Christmas. I have spent a good amount of time decorating despite the fact that I am now the only recipient of the fruits of that work. When my wife was alive, I certainly took pleasure in decorating and seeing her reaction. Now I just luxuriate in the beauty of the decorations and any design put into them.
This is something more than just nostalgia regarding previous Christmases. As a kid I also loved to decorate and to be creative in making my own decorations. I loved to make custom ribbons and ornaments. I had not philosophical underpinnings regarding how these creative acts were part of something more. I just knew that there was some transcendental aspect to this even I would not have described it that way.
I still don’t have the words really to describe this. The pleasure I receive in decorating and then living among the fruits of it. This has only been amplified for me as the theological underpinnings regarding most of the decorations brings these symbols to life. As I dwell on the incarnation and the facts of our redemption. The Hallmark view of Christmas and family were just the fumes of Christmas I lived on for years. Now I know something deeper, but still find it easy to get lost in the sentimental. So I try to develop gratitude regarding the great mystery of the incarnation. To let the symbolic take me far as it can go and to enter into something deeper.