The Morality of Scent

Guerlain Fleur de Feu fragrance adSometimes I wonder if my interest in perfume is a waste of time, or even immoral, given the turmoil of the world these days. I wonder if I should take the money I plow into perfume and send it to Mercy Corps instead. Why do I spend more time thinking about a good story or the smell of wood smoke than about the fate of the Endangered Species Act? Why do I spend part of each morning reading my favorite perfume blogs instead of reading The Nation?

I used to be more serious. I had a job as a congressional investigator, a Master’s degree in Public Administration, and a subscription to the Economist. But when I interviewed government officials, I was more interested in the wedding pictures on their desks or their rumpled lunch bags than how well the Czech Republic monitored its air. While my colleagues speculated on senate races, I congratulated myself on the masterful blend of my egg salad that day. I started to suspect that my base nature was to be superficial and that I didn’t have the character to do important work.

Then, on a vacation in the south of France I was briefly lost in the Old Town neighborhood of Nice, back when it was a little less savory than it is now. I looked up at a decrepit apartment building with laundry hung on rope, and I saw a window box full of bright geraniums. They were startlingly beautiful against the yellowed stucco of the building. I started to understand that almost every one of us, rich, poor, hungry, sick, or wallowing in luxury can taste, touch, see, feel, and — yes — smell.

One of the things I love most about perfume is how it encourages me to pay attention. No matter how scattered the rest of my day, I can tune into scent and be in the moment for a little while. Not only is it a sort of meditation, as a beautiful scent unfurls, it’s a deep pleasure. It may not be the cure for polio, but the reward of tuning in to our senses is profound.

If you can appreciate the crazy beauty of a lopsided mutt wagging his tail, the chatter of crows on a telephone wire, or the weight of a gathering storm, then you are paying attention and have access to one of the richest sources of joy I know: your senses. You are engaged in the world. Then, when you take it a step further and act on a love for beauty, as did the person in Nice who planted her window box with flowers, you spread that good feeling to others who are paying attention.

I know that eradicating hunger, disease, and war are vitally important, but I have to leave the biggest part of that work to people who are more talented that way than I am. It’s my job to tell stories that make people look at their surroundings and really see them. I believe that the more you pay attention, the more life has to offer you. For me, perfume is part of that.

Note: image via Touten Parfum.

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74 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    lovely piece! I think it's very true that people have a much better understanding of the big picture/big issues when they take the time to pay attention to the everyday, little things.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So true! Paying attention to and appreciation of the quotodian is a great way to figure out what really matters. It's so easy to get stuck in your head otherwise.

  3. Anonymous says:

    A really interesting article on something that has probably haunted us all – the “luxury” nature of our hobby. I will need time to ponder this one, A, and maybe one day soon I'll have something half-way intelligent to say about it. In the meantime, just wanted to say “Thanks!”

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the post! I often think about how to reconcile my recent fragrance obsession with the rest of the world, and while I'm lurking on various perfume blogs in the morning, I often think of perfume as a retreat from difficulty and suffering — a needed moment of pleasure before I go on to read the news. Also, lately I've come to see perfume as interesting *for* its seeming superficiality and ephemerality. There's so much thought and care and history and craft going into a mere ornament, that it becomes, for me, a rewarding way to exercise my imagination. Is that it's purpose, ultimately? For me, I think it is, rather than just smelling good. And since I'm rambling on here, I'll say that perfume has opened up to me many new aspects of history, biology, chemistry, and even ecological issues and the market forces for natural resources. Great blog, thanks!

  5. Anonymous says:

    E, you're welcome! I'm really still mulling over this one, too. While I think I can justify a few bottles of perfume with this argument, can I really feel good about a closetful? Still, I know perfume adds real value to my life, and as Zippy said, above, paying attention to the little things is the best way to keep the “bigger” things in perspective.

  6. Anonymous says:

    A in A, you have some terrific points! I love the “perfume as a refuge” angle, so true for me. And there's also something strangely appealing about beauty, like perfume, that you have to grab before it disappears. Of course, creativity and knowledge are great, too. But for me it really does come down to clearing my mind, staying in the present, beauty, and paying attention.

  7. Anonymous says:

    hi, A–

    lovely, lovely piece. it's something i've thought about, too. my boyfriend has a passion for wine; he works in a wine shop and has a wine storage unit in our apt. set at 58 degrees, no humidity… just the perfect home for my perfume collection. friends come over, see all the wine, smile/congratulate, then see my perfume and say, wow, you sure have a lot, why so much? how can you possibly wear it all? it's hard to make them understand without sounding like i'm justifying an expensive whim. but i'm with you: it's my art, my passion, something that brings me joy, little bottles of stories and history, personal and broad.

  8. Anonymous says:

    so true! It's all a form of art..wines, pictures, perfumes, etc. We can appreciate the notes and artistry in perfumes the way some appreciate colours in paintings and flavours in wines.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Angela, that was a lovely article you wrote. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hello from Czech Republic :) The air is heavy today, hot and full of fruity florals, not even my mom dares to commit a suicide with her Red Door.

    I think we shouldn't feel guilty because we can afford perfumes and other people cannot. Perfumes are my hobby and make me happy. In my next life, maybe I will be born to a poor mongolian herder and won't even know how does a perfume look like…

  11. Anonymous says:

    You know what struck me, Angela, as I was reading your beautiful post? What struck me was how you are contributing to the betterment of this world.

    There is so much ugliness and strife everywhere we look. But, as you have reminded us, taking time to appreciate the beauty of a pound puppy, or geraniums in a flower box, or snuggling your nose into the crook of your elbow to smell a heavenly fragrance makes you focus on what is right and good and beautiful in this world.

    Hugs!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully put, Angela :)

  13. Anonymous says:

    Angela…you're amazing and you offer all that times 10 for us! You've said what I have thought for years. Stop and smell the “Tihota” I say to myself! The problem is now I'm out $225 bucks!

    Thanks for the inspiration :-)

  14. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry but I find your comment somewhat patronizing. One doesn't have to have lots of money to be able to appreciate perfume. Angela's talking about taking pleasure in beauty everywhere. I'm quite sure one can be a poor Mongolian herdsman and delight in the scent of wild flowers or the sweet smell of a newborn animal.

    There is no need to *own* everything that's available. I can only afford one bottle of expensive perfume every few years, but I still call myself a perfume lover.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Your article ties in nicely to the never-ending debate over art, and whether it is necessary to existence. I'm sure the first cave dweller who slacked off on mammoth hunting in order to glorify said beast in representation on the wall of his cave took some slack from fellow tribe members as to how he was spending his resources. Can't you just imagine Papa Caveman taking his artist son aside and saying “Son, that's all very pretty, but does it put meat on the table?”

    As human beings, we all have higher-level sensory needs. And it is in fulfilling those needs that a human being becomes immortal. That is true for painters, for sculptors, for musicians, for tapestry weavers and, yes, for perfumers as well.

    I'd hate to contemplate life on this planet without our being willing to indulge our senses from time to time.

  16. Anonymous says:

    You are very welcome. Thank you, too, for your new perfume blog, which I've bookmarked!

  17. Anonymous says:

    N, what a great comment! It's interesting how some luxuries are easily accepted and others not so easily accepted. Wine and perfume can both be art. I love it that you keep your perfume climate controlled!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Z, so true! I think most people have worked on developing their sight and sound but can't smell their way out of a paper bag. Scent is so rewarding and appreciating what you smell, now, is a great way to be in the moment.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I can smell the air thanks to your evocative comment! Sounds like a good day for a spritz of Y or Ormonde Jayne Frangipani. And you're right, we're lucky to have perfume to enjoy, but we're even luckier to have our noses, which will let us enjoy every scent (including my lunch, which is heating up in the kitchen next door…)

  20. Anonymous says:

    B, you are really sweet to clarify my point! I'd love to smell a newborn animal, too (I wonder what one smells like? Babies sure smell great.) I bet Selina agrees with us, too.

    So, what was your last bottle of expensive perfume? Mine was a quarter ounce of Vol de Nuit parfum.

  21. Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful comment! Your second paragraph is a precis of the whole article.

    I think I'm going to give a few pats to my own pound puppy right now.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much!

  23. Anonymous says:

    I don't believe that we need place, too harsh a judgement on the passions of our lives, even the one that loves perfume. To have open and judgeless hearts and minds, is much more vital to the well being of our planet and fellow earthlings. When we want to get involved in promoting positive action, we usually find a way to do it, as well as do it in a way that incorporates our passions. For thirty years I was painter. Knowing that with most of my work being in private collections. It would have a very limited audience. And that there is an elitist aspect to art as commerce. But it never stopped me from painting. That, I was compelled to do. Just as I am compelled to craft fragrances. We place art in museums, and attach an importance to it, that makes it bigger than life. In many ways it is. And at the same time it is the soul of who we are. When I see, up close and personal, pottery that is thousands of years old, I feel very human, very connected to the line of humanity. I also feel very human when I see people in need. Making connections, and when possible, making a difference, and contributing where and when I can. Nobody, alone can save the world. But everyone working together can.

    ZZ

  24. Anonymous says:

    “Tihota”, huh? I better put that on my “to smell” list and hide my wallet!

  25. Anonymous says:

    SoMuch, beautifully put. (I see Papa Caveman as looking kind of like Fred Flinstone.) What makes perfume more difficult to accept for some is that it's so seldom recognized as art. A painting? Sure. A symphony? O.K. But even people who recognize the value of art look right past scent.

  26. Anonymous says:

    ZZ, wonderful point. Plus, as you painted, even if your work mostly ended up hidden away in private collections, you made art and expression more valid and comprehensible to everyone who knew you.

    I love the last three sentences of your comment. They'd make a great manifesto. (“Manifesto” is one of my favorite concepts these days.)

  27. Anonymous says:

    Perfume IS the Rodney Dangerfield of the arts, isn't it? Ladies and gentlemen, I think we've found our mission. Perfume is as much as a legitmate artisan craft as are fine textiles. We're all believers here. So spread the word. ;)

  28. Anonymous says:

    Angela, thank you so much for these comments. I have been a perfume addict for years and could never put into words “Why?”. Your comments have eloquently stated why. Life is really about paying attention, and perfume is a guilty pleasure that forces you to do so.

  29. Anonymous says:

    With the art connection being made. I will add that when we came out with the first collection last year. Several of the first buyers requested signed and dated boxes to put away for a later date..Just in case we made it big, I suppose.. Particularly of the first batch five scents. It isn't uncommon to get a request of this nature. In our boutique paintings and perfume sit side by side. Personally I have never considered there to be a difference. Aside from the fact that it is much less expensive to collect signed and dated perfumes than it is to collect art.

    ZZ

  30. Anonymous says:

    Attention readers: this is possibly the first time that Rodney Dangerfield has been mentioned in response to a perfume article. (And very much appreciated, thank you, I adore him!)

    You can count on me doing my part to spread the word!

  31. Anonymous says:

    A, thank you. I agree that anything that helps us focus on the here and now is valuable, and if it makes the here and now beautiful, it's sustenance. Maybe someday we'll be able to say just plain “pleasure” instead of “guilty pleasure” when we talk about perfume.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Z, it's interesting that people wanted signed boxes, and it shows how much they value your work. But does it mean that they didn't use the perfume? Because it would be a shame not to get that part of the art out into the world.

  33. Anonymous says:

    God is in the details, as they say.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Succinctly and well put.

  35. Anonymous says:

    It's fantastic that Angela has broached this subject, but I'm rather disappointed by how a number of people here have reponded to her challenge. I believe that once we have identified a genuine ethical dilemma, it becomes our reponsibility to confront it head on, rather than simply to find a way to excuse ourselves neatly from the implications.

    Perfume may be an art form, but it is also a luxury consumer product that is manufactured on an industrial scale. When we purchase it, we situate ourselves within a system of production and consumption that has real consequences for real people, not to mention for the planet as a whole. The onus is upon each of us to consider everything – from the agricultural labour, to the water resources, to the industrial wastes, to the marketing practices, to individual monetary costs – that our “hobby” entails. Once we have done that, we must decide for ourselves how we will make our personal beliefs and social values coherent with our actions.

    I'm not advocating asceticism – I wouldn't encourage any of you to go cold turkley on perfume. What I am advocating is substantive action. Don't just explain away your moral discomfort. Do something to rectify it.

    It could be as simple as setting aside your own “culpability tariff” everytime you make a frivolous purchase (i.e. tack on 10%, 25% to the cost of the item, set the funds aside, then devise some way to use that wealth to address those problems to which your consumer choices contribute). Or it could involve a much more radical change in lifestyle. It's your choice, but it's a choice that every honest person needs to make. That's the sort of responsibility that comes along with economic privelege.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the comment! Your comment applies to a lot more than perfume–it also applies to dinners out, new clothing, artwork, tickets to a rock show, pets, beer, ornamental flowers, haircuts, and novels. Basically, to anything we don't need to survive. (Some people might even say it applies to our extra kidney.)

    I think of Carlo Petrini's (founder of Slow Food) urging that we all “live well, but just well enough”. Our basic needs should be met, and once that's done, our love lives, friendships, and sense of purpose need satisfied. Beyond that, I'm with Blake, who wrote that pleasing (not gorging) the senses is the lost part of heaven.

    I love perfume and buy it and wear it and give decants away to friends. I also walk or ride my bike as often as I can (my last tank of gas lasted 8 weeks), grow my own vegetables (at least in the summer), volunteer, had my house insulated, and rely on thrift shops for much of my clothing and furniture. That bottle of Fleurs de Rocaille that shipped from France to New York to me? I don't feel guilty about it one bit.

  37. Anonymous says:

    obviously, your article struck a nerve. i see both sides, but i also see nothing wrong with wanting to breathe deeply, inhale something beautiful, be grateful for it, then move on to fight the good fight – whichever fight that is, and in whichever way we choose to fight. i believe one of those good fights is to remind others that there is beauty in the world – to not give up and get beaten down by the world's sorrows. i see so many people who are close to giving up hope – and faith. reminding them that it's not all bad and ugly is an important job. reminding ourselves is important, too. we don't have to be deadly serious about absolutely everything. there is a time to refresh our spirits – and if some find perfume to be their oasis, then so be it. the love of beauty, such as the art of perfume, does not preclude the ability to live a responsible life. you can do both. anyway, if you do one without the other you either drown or dry up. thanks for the article! – minette

  38. Anonymous says:

    I love “if you do one without the other you either drown or dry up”. So true! I've always been skeptical of the bumper stickers that say “Art Saves Lives”–after all, doesn't penicillin save more lives?–but in it is a nut of truth.

    Plus, experiencing more beauty leads to appreciating a wider swath of life. Maybe it even fosters tolerance. I'm not talking about rampant consumerism. I'm talking about paying attention to the here and now and really seeing, touching, tasting, hearing, smelling it.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I thought it was the Devil. ;-)

  40. Anonymous says:

    “Little bottles of stories and history” — how beautifully put! Thank you (and Angela) for these thoughtful articles. The last article I read before this was one in which poor children in the Bronx were disbelieving that dinner for 4 in NYC could cost $500. My skin crawled — I knew there were dinners for TWO in NYC that cost that much. I was feeling so conflicted, so superficial and selfish, thinking of my indulgences when others had so little. But the urge toward beauty is in all of us, flowers bloom in vacant lots. My love of history — okay, my obsession with history — it helps keep me sane and connected, it grounds me, and perfume is a part of it, like art, like music. It is a good thing.

  41. Anonymous says:

    There are certainly those who choose to live like threadbare monks rather than be implicated in the crime of a gluttonous and solipsistic existence. As for me, notions like the Slow Food movement have always been a bit more my speed. (In terms of fragrances, I've got more than a couple of bottle stashed away in my own closet, so I don't wish to point fingers.) My frustration is only with those who would dismiss these sorts of questions wholesale, or consider them only in a passing moment of distraction before resuming the harried pace of a life of dedicated consumption.

    As an aside – Guilt, in my opinion, is an underrated emotion. As with most things, it can be crippling if you overindulge. Without it, however, you would be hard-pressed to find anybody who could bear your company for more than a few minutes at a time – what with you nicking change from their wallet and telling them about how tremendously fat they are all in the same breath.

  42. Anonymous says:

    I liked the “little bottles” wording, too. And now you've added the “history” part of it.

    It is alarming to see how some people live, practically driving around in gold-plated Cadillacs and regularly eating mult-hundred dollars meals. I think, though, that if you are connected to the present and really experience what is happening, you will make better choices about how to live in the world. And it probably won't include the gold-plated Cadillac. Hopefully it will include sharing beauty with other people through your stories and insights about history.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Oh boy, I 've heard that one, too….

  44. Anonymous says:

    Carlo Petrini has a new book out, called, aptly enough, Slow Food Nation. Have you read it? I love his vision of life and wholeheartedly embrace his cause. And I bet you $100 he likes a little scent himself.

  45. Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela–

    A very touching, and very true, personal essay. I share your feeling–though I do still have a subscription to The Economist! I am going to be teaching a class on perfume this fall for our local senior college (age 50-plus), and I wonder if I might have your permission to share your essay with my students? Thanks very much!

  46. Anonymous says:

    Thank you! I'd be delighted for you to share this essay with your class, but you'll have to get Robin's permission–she's the site's editor and makes those sorts of decisions. You can find her email address by clicking on the “About” button at the top of the page. Good luck with the class!

  47. Anonymous says:

    Oh, mine was a bottle of Tubéreuse Criminelle (that's my price limit). The previous one (Fleurs d'Oranger), I bought in 2002.

    My other extravagance is the theatre – that's my real passion, actually.

  48. Anonymous says:

    I hope the next person I sit next to at the theatre has your perfume taste!

  49. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much for saying so, A. :-)

  50. Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela,

    LOVED your post. Of course any perfume expenditure, no matter how trivial, feels like an extravagance, because perfume isn't “necessary” for living.

    But isn't everyone, rich or poor, a sensualist at heart? Everyone (okay, almost everyone) has sex, regardless of income. Everyone loves good food, regardless of income. Everyone weeps at some music and dances at other music, regardless of income. Everyone becomes breathless at the sight of beauty. Money is a tool, that's all. If you have it and refuse to spend it in ways that enrich your life and the lives of those you love, you are a fool. (Even people with enough money to support charities are doing it for their own peace of mind.)

    Last comment: you are a class act. Loved the way you responded to certain critical comments. :-)

  51. Anonymous says:

    You are so nice, thank you!

    I think just about everyone enjoys a good meal, etc., but some people get distracted by the things they think they should want, whether it is a boutique Cabernet, a trip to Sardinia, or the Jimmy Choo Ramona bag. They are unsure of themselves and want others to think of them as smart and successful with good taste. In reality, if they truly respected their senses and truly paid attention, they might find they really want sugar snap peas from the local market, a weekend at home watching trashy movies, and hate carrying a purse in the first place. That's when beauty really begins to matter: when people pay attention and trust themselves.

    I love “Everyone weeps at some music and dances at other music..”! I hope they challenge themselves with more music so that someday the sound of the refrigerator cycling off or a distant siren has beauty for them, too. I hope they know it's all right to pay attention right now and appreciate whatever their senses take in instead of worrying about something that happened long ago or trying to be something they think they should be.

    Sorry for such a long response! I think this post has churned something up in me. My day perfume has worn off, and it might be a good time for something lush and contemplative. Maybe it's a Mitsouko moment.

  52. Anonymous says:

    Clayton, put away that dictionary and tell us if your shoes are Gucci or Prada??!!

  53. Anonymous says:

    I haven't read it yet, but I do value Petrini's contribution to the Slow movement in general. Anything that allows us to enjoy life and engage our senses — while still accepting our responsibilities to the environment, our communities, and humanity as a whole — is okay in my books. (It sure beats sewing thorns into your underwear.)

    I think I'll pass on that bet. I suspect I'd be out $100 pretty quickly.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Sadly, neither make shoes in my size!

  55. Anonymous says:

    I haven't read the book yet, either, but I saw him speak for the second time a few weeks ago. You summarize his philosophy really well. He's a hilarious and dramatic speaker, too. If you ever get the chance to see Petrini, don't pass it up.

  56. Anonymous says:

    K, are you flirting with Clayton? I'll definitely have to try that scent you recommended. Sounds like it has beneficial side effects….

  57. Anonymous says:

    Thank you, Angela. Lovely post. I often ask myself if I'm wasting money on my obsession with perfume – could I be a better person if I'd put my money into some charity, etc?

    Scent is so important to me. It grounds me. It sounds odd to say, but I sense so much in people through their perfume mixing with their own scent. I can smell loneliness, despair, fear – I can also smell happiness, success, joy. I know it sounds so bizarre. I hug my friends, and through their scent, I can almost get a sense of their private lives. In one friend stale cigarette smoke mingles with Estee by Estee Lauder, I can smell her make-up, I can smell a bit of desperation and loneliness. Makes me love her more, makes me sure to call frequently, take her out for margaritas to get her out of the house. I know, I'm a bit weird, but scent has always been so important to me. Not just of perfume, but of everything in the world. I wholeheartedly agree with you- scent is part of me paying attention to the beauty and sadness around me.

  58. Anonymous says:

    Gina, perfume sounds so important to you–I can definitely understand that. It also kind of sounds like you have a gift and can absorb information through your nose! I've heard of people who are clairvoyant or clairaudient, but I don't even know what to call someone with your gift. Clairnasal?

    You describe your friend so well that I swear I can smell her, too. I hope she smells happier after an evening and a margarita with you.

  59. Anonymous says:

    An excellent thought. A long time ago I knew I was far too shallow to be entranced by politics or other world issues. I can get interested enough to form an opinion, but not follow a lengthy dissertation. I think a lot of that was kids. I just became more focused on what it took to raise a good human being.

    Wars, strife, poverty and all the sad things will always be a part of our existence. But appreciaing the beauty of our senses and the world is what makes it bearable.

  60. Anonymous says:

    Maybe it is the Tihota talking… don't say I didn't warn you!!

  61. Anonymous says:

    Oh, dear.

    I struggle my whole life long, between Narcissus and Goldmund.

    I'm both, and I know it.

    Whatever energy isn't spent trying to ease the suffering of others, enabling my sons to become decent men, and supporting my friends and loved ones, is spent keeping myself afloat…

    Perfume factors into that [it has, since I was a toddler].

    It's a way to be creative and express myself, without subjecting others to my singing , dancing, etc.

    That doesn't mean that I don't feel guilt for these superficial things…

    I do try to live my life for:

    Tikkun Olam [making the world whole]

    Shalom Bayit [Peace in the House]

    I flounder about, like a fish in a pail,

    JUST LIKE everyone else, alas.

    A brave and important topic to discuss and ponder.

    Thank you.

  62. Anonymous says:

    P, I know what you mean. Sometimes it feels overwhelming to delve into some of the major issues of the world, no matter how strongly you feel about them.

  63. Anonymous says:

    I'm writing down Tikkun Olam and Shalom Bayit right now. I definitely understand Peace in the House and firmly believe that a healthy family with good friends does a lot of good in the world. Making the World Whole, though, is something I haven't thought much about. In some ways, being in the moment and really experiencing it (including scent, of course!) is one way to draw people together. Instead of being separated by their ideas of who each other are, people can appreciate each other as individuals.

    Your comment is a regular poem! I bet you're a great singer, too, along the lines of Nina Simone, despite what you say. At least that's what I imagine.

  64. Anonymous says:

    An interesting story on the more serious side of scent:
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070523/wl_nm/g8_germany_scent_dc_1

  65. Anonymous says:

    Yikes! I hadn't heard about scent profiling before. Thanks for the link.

  66. Anonymous says:

    When I remember that all the objects and systems we create exist to satisfy our needs and desires, I have a difficult time validating the social heirarchy of roles that we create. How is creating and developing scent any less significant to humanity than developing cures for illnesses that rob of our ability to engage in–or experience–life? Both exist to perpetuate our ways of life and philisophical interpretation of human existence.

    Some roles exist to allow others to extend “life” as we know it; other roles ensure that there will be an environment in which life can live; others still, create and interpret environment, life and existence. While I take issue with methods that harm life for the sake of production, there is no industry or way of life that we have created, absent of violation or imperfection. Our “job” as pieces of the universe seems an avoidence of entropy. We desire to minimize destruction, or lack of organization. Angela touched the “point” of perfumery right on the nose: Perfumery and fragrance prompt us to connect with existence and “pay attention”. I can't imagine any profession/industry/way of life that isn't meant to be benefitted by such behavior. There is the matter of whether or not everyone appreciates fragrance in certain environments, but that's hardly reason enough to cease fragrance production and development.

    While I respect and admire the lives of those who isolate themselves from societies to engage in a life of spiritual “simplicity', it is difficult to define those lifestyles as any less self-indulgent and luxurious than that of one who appreciates the art of perfumery…in respectful moderation. All are about connection, sensual and spiritual understanding, as well as expression.

  67. Anonymous says:

    'How is creating and developing scent any less significant to humanity than developing cures for illnesses that rob of our ability to engage in–or experience–life?' I believe perfume has an important to play in our lives but I wouldn't dream of comparing Serge Lutens to Alexander Fleming or Louis Pasteur. That would be going too far.

  68. Anonymous says:

    I see just what you mean. We all have different talents that support the world in different ways–getting the balance right is probably the hardest part. It's also hard, sometimes, to take a good look at the world and ourselves, but art helps us do that.

  69. Anonymous says:

    We need both Louis Pasteur and Serge Lutens (or Christopher Sheldrake, as it were). They may be apples and oranges, but the world is best off with a variety of fruit. (Somehow I don't think my analogy is coming off as I intended it. Anyway, you get the drift.)

  70. Anonymous says:

    We may do, A, but if there was only space for one, I know which I would want to keep. I don't think Serge Lutens or Christopher Sheldrake themselves would have the arrogance to say that they are benefiting humanity as much as Louis Pasteur has.

  71. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for making sense of my mangled mess! You're picking up what I'm laying down: We create our own reality and reward the positive aspect of certain roles, but fixate on the negative aspects of others. Balance is ideal. It's always best to hear the critics alongside the supporters.

    I hate the idea of automobiles pumping fumes into the air; on the other hand, I can't say the invention hasn't been appreciated by the horses…

  72. Anonymous says:

    Lovely article; + hey, my husband also works in a wine store – but, sadly, we have no 58 degree wine storage unit at home. Oh well: enjoy it for me, + I'll enjoy yours vicariously!

  73. Anonymous says:

    I like to point out to people, when they mention the frivolity of something enjoyable, that none of us are ever going to win at the game of doing useful things/spending money only on needs etc. Why is it more frivolous for you to deeply enjoy and analyze a scent than it is for someone else to admire a painting? It's not. Nobody is going to send all their money to charities because, even if they aren't buying bottles of perfume, they are paying for cable or chocolate or shoes or any number of things that are not even remotely necessary except in the sense that we enjoy them, and they therefore make us better people. Nobody is going to spend all their time doing “deeply serious” things unless they are on the fast road to misery or are one of those rare people who happens to be lucky enough to *frivolously* enjoy “deeply serious” topics.
    I don't know why certain things (fashion, perfume) get pegged as more frivolous than others. I think, in particular, art that is wearable is viewed as frivolous because anything that draws attention to oneself can theoretically be classified as vain.

  74. Anonymous says:

    You, darling hyacinthine, sound like my kind of gal. We see eye to eye.

    Deeply appreciating what we do have, perfume included, rather than taking things for granted and consuming more of them, is moral, as far as I'm concerned. I don't have cable or a cell phone. I do have a car, but it is a 1986 model. I wear used (vintage) clothing and use the library religiously. And I also order the occasional bottle of French perfume and love every drop of it.

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