[This post is part of a series introducing kirism, a contemporary philosophy of life. You can learn more about kirism in Lighting the Way: How Kirism Answers Life’s Toughest Questions.]

Why the name ‘kirism’? Because ‘kirism’ has many charming associations. The Slavic and Romany word for ‘inn’ is ‘kir ‘c ‘ima.’ You might think of kirism as an inn for existential travelers, a waystation where we cross paths for an evening.

In Sumerian ‘kara’ means ‘to shine’ and ‘kar’ means ‘to illuminate.’ ‘Szikra’ means ‘spark’ in Hungarian, ‘gira’ means ‘fire’ in the African dialect of East Cushitic, and ‘iskra’ means ‘sparkle’ in Serbo-Croatian. Aren’t those lovely associations?

But, really, what’s in a name? What matters is what kirism stands for. It stands for radical goodness, radical self-obligation and radical individualism. It stands for self-awareness, powerful self-determination, intentional living and absurd rebellion.

Kirists take personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is our north star. Radical goodness is its twin, shining equally brightly. If we live that way, acting ethically and living a life of purpose, we’ll likely also be gifted with experiences of meaning.

Kirism is an aspirational philosophy. We aspire to do a better job than average of manifesting our values, minding our thoughts, and living our life purposes. We do this not to pass some universal test but to live as we know we ought to live.

Inside our cocoon of psychological subjectivity, a cocoon that makes it hard to see clearly, we aspire to self-awareness. That is another absurdity that we accept as a given. How can such a subjective creature possibly see objectively? But we try!

We try. We can’t escape our psychological subjectivity, as we are embedded inside of it. But we can wonder about our motives, make guesses about our intentions, and speculate about where we may be fooling ourselves. We can reflect.

Kirism asserts that, like it or not, we have been forced into the role of steward and arbiter of our life. Surely no one asked for that. Who wouldn’t prefer an orgasm, a tidy income, a little selfishness, and another round of golf? Wouldn’t you?

Kirists can’t live that way because we know that we ought not to live that way. There is not an ounce of goodness in that picture. There is only comfort, pleasure, and privilege. It is quite the charming picture but it doesn’t work for an ethical being.

Kirists can’t take that easy route. We say, “I expect no occult payoffs from acting ethically, no nirvana, no heaven, no enlightenment, no Nobel Prizes of the soul. There is only my life as project, with some self-respect as the main payoff.”


Eric Maisel is the author of 50+ books. Read Lighting the Way and join the meaning revolution!