[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.]

Kirists believe in self-obligation and self-authorship. We decide what we deem is important, rooting each decision in an absurd obligation to do the right thing. We accept that we are burdened with freedom and the moral imperative to stand up.

This absurd obligation to do right and to live our life purposes presses us into action. If it is storming outside and we have no desire to go out but we are obliged to venture out, then we go, complaining a bit, under the weather a bit, but adamantly.

We do not say “What’s the point?” or “Who cares?” or “This is too hard!” or “I quit.” Or rather, we may say all that, but then we laugh, or at least chuckle a little, and get on with the business of raising our personal bar very high, to self- respect.

Our life is our project. We are tasked by no one but ourselves to live a life that makes us proud. Nature has built us to know that this is true and has also built us to be not quite equal to the task. This project management is hard, but there is no help for that.

Self-obligation is the motivation. Self-authorship is the way. This is different from duty. We may see it as our duty to show up for work. But it is our obligation to decide whether our work is righteous or not. If it isn’t, that matters.

Maybe we grew up in a culture that demands that we honor our ancestors and everyone who is older than us. But our parents happen to be toxic, dangerous tyrants. Our culture may say that it is our duty to submit to them but it is our obligation to rebel.

Maybe we see it as our duty to maintain a perfectly tidy house. But we have little children who can’t be tidy unless we drown them in rules and discipline them harshly. It is our obligation to change our mind about the supreme importance of neatness.

We may have acquired all sorts of ideas about what is correct behavior and right living. But we know better than to believe that those rules are written in stone. For we may have been mistaken, deluded, coerced, misguided or wrong- headed.

We are obliged to rethink ourselves and reinvent ourselves as we go. It is not some badge of honor to stick to our guns and refuse to change. How many costly mistakes will we repeat if we have no permission to examine our unconscious premises?

Who will write your story? You must.


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