Some light reflections on the Christmas season

I hate Christmas lights.

I know you’re not supposed to say you hate things during this season, and Christmas lights are an odd choice to be sore at, but I do hate them – gaudy, useless, charmless things. Hung up everywhere, adorning everything, contributing nothing except their own space. Pah.

My aesthetic sensibilities aren’t everyone’s. It would be fair to say my appreciation of what’s attractive is quite different from most, really. To me, uniformity, simplicity and order are the soul of beauty; a building made of red brick I find gorgeous.

The fact that dangling icicle lights, poorly strewn multicolor monstrosities and overblown displays with more figures on the lawn than there are neighbors on the block draw my disdain shouldn’t be surprising.

But if I don’t like the “tree” atop the American State Bank building, I very much like the orange bulbs running along its corners and roof. It satisfies my aesthetics, though something deeper and more necessary is still lacking.

This will sound sexist, but I’m a young man; it’s where my mind goes. Anyway, it’s the best analogy I can think up.

Fashion models are generally considered very physically attractive people. It’s obvious why: their job demands that they be pretty. Yet, see a beautiful woman on a runway, and somehow she isn’t. She has no charm in her. It’s her profession to adorn a stage, and she either does it well or doesn’t. However physically attractive, there is no beauty there. That she has good proportions means as much as a bartender’s smile or a stripper’s wink.

Smiles and winks are valuable, to be sure, but it means more when it isn’t self-conscious, and it isn’t trying, and it just is. Lovely because it can’t be otherwise.

I tell you, one stretch of Eighth Street at midnight – any midnight – looks better than all of Emerald Forest will this season. I’d sooner donate to Flint Hills than Starbright Village, sooner look south of Interstate 20 than go to McKinney Park. The parks department spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to dress up the city. And for what? To slap some lights on that serve no other purpose and are humbled by the twilight view from this building’s rooftop in mid-June.

I see more beauty in my drive home each night than all the self-aware and extravagant displays the world over and combined.

See, for all I’ve said, I don’t hate Christmas lights for anything more or less than this: They restrict what should be a daily and universal occurrence to a single season and a few plots of land.

Christmas lights hoard attention selfishly and force scarcity on what is already priceless. Priceless, precisely because it isn’t scarce at all – or at least doesn’t have to be scarce if we don’t let it.

The brake lights on a row of cars at a stoplight in Crane are far more dazzling than the downtown itself, with all of its expensive decorations hanging. No single artist, planner or group can take credit for my delight looking down on El Paso after sunset. It’s the product of hundreds of thousands just living, giving no second thought to the gift of their result. And if a string of lights on the street is pretty during December, why not a string of street lights in May?

Like gift giving, charity and basic human decency, the celebration of the divine, sublime and mundane ought not be confined to mere season.

Merry Christmas, all. With any luck, you’ll find Christmas lights draped across the dust of your windshield and dancing before your eyes all year and your merriment won’t have to end with the holidays.

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