July 10, 2007

Notions of Beauty

Some prefer beauty that is an expression of the harmonious while others prefer it with a touch of the strange or unusual. So many reviews of certain fragrances are at variance with my own experience of them, and I am always bemused when I find that there is such a huge difference between the review of someone whose opinion I respect and my own direct experience. At the same time while completely understanding that each must of course have their own taste and perception of beauty. The old saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder can be transfered to perfume, where beauty might be held to be in the sense memories of the perceiver, and in our own attention to its specific elements and their enhancement in a skillful blend. Beauty or taste for a particular type of fragrance beauty is so vastly different from person to person, and people have strong opinions in all things where the sense of smell is concerned, so that even within the same culture one person's attraction will be another's repulsion. Some dislike the sweet, or incense makes them feel unpleasantly faint, or they avoid certain florals such as tuberose, or lily, or dislike certain popular classic scents, such as Tresor, while others cannot get enough of them. Additionally there is the well known phenomenon of the range and variation in a scent resulting from its reaction to particular body chemistry. There are certain basic truths on which we all agree, such as that perfumes may be divided into general categories, that we agree as to what a chypre scent is supposed to be like, or what an incense or oriental perfume is like, but great disagreement as to preference or interest in each or any of these types of fragrance.
Perceived beauty in scent seems to call to our individual sense of vitality, inner aliveness and energy that answers back from within our bodies to the substances presented, and that reflect our own material and emotional reality at that moment. That being said, our own instinctual preferences can be, as in the other arts, expanded by education, understanding and exposure to exotic materials. It was very interesting when ChristopherLaudamiel said at an event last year relating to the film Perfume that the commercial perfume industry uses only a small fraction of the scents at their disposal. This will inevitably change and the beauty we know in fragrance will expand its parameters in the future. For example, often I have read or seen something I would expect to be able to be interpreted as a scent, and we are beginning to see fragrances created that reflect experiences other than romantic ones, such as going sailing, or skiing, the first day of school, walking down an autumn southern city street, or perhaps soon there will be something inspired by reading a good novel, or meditating, or meeting someone new in the summer. There will be new standards of beauty, and our exposure to them widens our ability to appreciate and experience life fully.
Above, a dancer from the 1920s at the Folies Bergere, typifying a different standard of beauty than our modern one, but obviously very beautiful nonetheless.

3 comments:

Abraham Lincoln said...

Is it then that beautiful is in the eye of the beholder?

My wife, Patty, and I have been married for 52 years today. Imagine that.
52 married years

chayaruchama said...

Lucy, my love-
What a great gal she is !
As we always say- if it's truly beautiful, then it will remain so, in perpetuity.
And Mr. Lincoln- Congrats to you and your beloved !
[You ARE a gorgeous man... too bad, you're a tad too young for my tastes]

Lucy said...

I aspire to develop the beauty and calm that you both, C and AL, seem to have created for yourselves in your full and rich lives...