We need to redefine luxury in our time. It's not about price. It's about quality.
In a world of mediocre stuff, made too often by people who really don't care, and of services that are offered, and barely, on automatic pilot, real quality produced by passionate people has become a rarity. I think it's become a luxury. The chairman of the philosophy department at Notre Dame, long ago, who went on to be the Dean of Arts and Letters at NYU, once told me about a friend of his who said, "I'll never be able to afford the best car in the world, but I can afford the best fountain pen." He wanted an experience of rare, top quality. And he got it.
I've had a couple of nice long rides in a new Rolls Royce. Ok, I get it. It was nice. But I like my Audi A8L just as much. It's eight years old and still surrounds me in luxury. It looks like, and performs like, it was made by people who care. Plus, my local Audi dealership, Audi Cape Fear, really cares. Their top notch service is a luxury. Thanks to AJ. Aliah, the owner, who shows everyone there how to care, and insists on the highest customer service, which is a true luxury in our time.
I've written here before, a couple of times, about Peter and Aletta Stas, founders of the Swiss watch maker Frederique Constant. Go look at their amazing creations. They've been a great example to me. Their motto is "accessible luxury." People often think of that as a paradox. Isn't luxury inherently inaccessible, because of price? When you define luxury in terms of exorbitant cost, of course it is. But that's an inappropriate definition. Our English word 'luxury' comes from Latin roots, and a word that long ago meant, in its time, excess, extravagance, profusion, or delicacy. In old French, it developed connotations of the sensual. But it never meant the unaffordable or inaccessible. A luxury item was one that went beyond the norm. It was somehow an extravagance, even a delicacy, involving an excess of attention and care and quality, beyond the norm. And that's still what it should mean, today. A luxury doesn't have to be available only to multi-millionaires, or billionaires.
We can extend to other people small luxuries all the time, if we really care, and want to go beyond the norm. Even larger luxuries can be provided, without a exorbitant cost.
In a season of gift giving, consider the ultimate luxury: A gift of your time and attention and care, delicately and extravagantly delivered with an exquisite consideration for the needs, wants, and concerns of the recipient. That, like a meticulously crafted and beautiful Frederique Constant watch, is an accessible luxury of great value.