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Life choices and our identity: What Barbie and Socrates have in common

Every other Christmas or birthday my dad would ask me for his all time favourite perfume ‘Habit Rouge’ from Guerlain. He always used different ones, but this one in particular, I believe was his favourite. Sometimes we will wander around a shopping centre and he would ask in the shops for that perfume. It is not a common one, probably quite old, so it wasn’t always in stock.

When I close my eyes and try my best to remember his face, his presence, this is the smell that comes to mind. This is the smell I identify him with.

This smell was almost always present…and the flashbacks begin. The flashbacks of me hugging him hello whenever he will pick me up or even towards the end when I helped him dress after his shower, he always asked for a bit of his perfume (yea, he was still very much taking care of how he looked almost up until the end, what a guy!).

Now I wonder… how did he discover this perfume? what made him identify with it? Maybe his dad used to wear it? Maybe someone special gifted it to him many, many years ago?

I will never know, it is too late…

Why do we, majority of times think about these things in retrospective? Should it always be like this?

As humans, we are wired to survive and now, more than ever with all the technology and distractions that surround us, we are also even more prone to evade things. Avoid the hard truths of our existence, of what it means to be human. That being alive also means dying. We tend to postpone it only until it is ‘relevant’, when in reality, it becomes relevant from the very first moment we appear in this world.

Living, dying and the meaning of life from Barbie and Socrates’s experiences

I went to watch Barbie the movie in the cinemas and what I found fascinating (apart from the great aesthetics) was that Barbie was living in this perfect world called ‘Barbieland’, always having fun until she started experiencing ‘human-like’ thoughts amongst other things. SPOILER ALERT.

Barbie starting to have death thoughts and shared it with her other ‘Barbies’. They all found it shocking and did not know what to say (aka death and dying is a taboo!). She got so curious about the reasoning behind her death thoughts that a whole new adventure started. It turns our that those thoughts didn’t come from her, but from her ‘human’ (the one who played with her) - this does not really matter. What matters is that Barbie decided to stop being ‘just a doll’ and leave the perfect world she learnt to live in to become a real human (yes, even though she knew she will die!).

Some of you may have heard of Socrates before, the father of Western philosophy. One of his greatest thoughts (in my opinion) is this one:

An unexamined life is not worth living


Interestingly enough, this thought came after Socrates was accused for various things (atheism, studying things in the sky and below earth, etc) in Ancient Greece and was declared guilty. He was allowed to choose his preferred punishment (imprisonment, banishment for life, a fine, etc). He rejected them all as he admitted that if he was allowed to live, he could never stay quiet and desist from asking questions. In the end he died by self-poisoning.

In summary…

Barbie chose a world where she could explore and experience things like food, water, smell, love, fear, death over a perfect, forever world. Socrates refused to live in a world where he could no longer explore and continue to ask questions.

Being in this world makes us part of the cycle of life, it involves living and dying. As you can see, in the scenarios above, both characters showed the appreciation of life regardless of the fear, sadness and challenges life brings. We have the opportunity to form our identity, understand our loved ones identity and think and talk about the things that scare us or make us happy, the things that makes every single one of us unique. Once we are gone, once our loved ones are gone, we will cherish these conversations.

What would you choose?

P.S. You will be pleased to know that I have listened to my own learnings / advice and I have now asked my mum the story behind her favourite perfume, which btw, she’s been using the same one for 40+ years.

In case you wonder, I have been using the same perfume since I was 14-15 😉.

See you next week!


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