Religions and philosophies of life set themselves up to be timeless, as if current events didn’t matter and as if your life circumstances didn’t matter. Can you imagine anything more unrealistic or more like wishful thinking?
Of course, current events do matter and of course, your life circumstances do matter. Kirism advocates that you choose your life purposes based on your current understanding of life and on your current experience of life. Kirism asserts that you are here right now and not blessed with some timeless reality.
It’s implausible to suppose that what’s important to you will never change or what’s real for you will never change. How could that be? Even if you maintain the ethical outlook promoted by the kirist phrase “do the next right thing,” that “next right thing” is bound to be contextual.
Maybe last month what was important to you was working on your novel; and maybe this month it is political activism. Maybe last month it was something very personal and solitary; and maybe this month it is something very relational. Maybe last month it was working hard at your job and maybe this month it is dealing with the reality that you have no job. Reality is real; it is not timeless.
As it happens, human beings do not like life to shift that much. We would prefer our life purposes to be settled for all time so that we could feel on solid ground. But a life authentically lived isn’t like that. To take one example, huge numbers of Americans deny that the pandemic has changed their circumstances. They gather together, get infected, and some number of them die unnecessarily. It is odd but true that they would rather risk dying and rather risk killing their neighbors than forthrightly admit that their circumstances have changed.
Our circumstances matter. We will be in one set of circumstances if the upcoming election turns out one way and we will be in another set of circumstances if the election turns out the other way. We will be in one set of circumstances if the pandemic rages on for years and we will be in another set of circumstances if the pandemic recedes or if an effective vaccine comes along. We will be in one set of circumstances if our planet is livable and another set of circumstances if it isn’t. Seriously.
Our circumstances matter. Kirism asks you to take a step to the side of life-as-you-are-living-it and factor your circumstances in. How you act and even what you decide to think ought to connect to your considered reflections about this moment in time. We virtually never take that step to the side, because we are too busy living and because careful reflection provokes anxiety. But awareness is one of our right actions; and one that actually reduces our experience of despair.
People are despairing in part because they had hoped that changed circumstances wouldn’t actually change their circumstances. When you wish for something and don’t get it, you despair. Here the wish is that nothing has changed.
But things have changed. When you admit that, surrender to that, and deal with that, you despair less. You can be upset when you put on your mask to go outside, because you are wishing that you didn’t have to; or you can simply put it on. The first way is a needless fight with reality. The second way is being real.
Just as there are no gods, no nirvana, no reincarnation, no music of the spheres, no Way, and nothing else falsely created out of whole cloth to provide us with a sense of eternity and immortality, there is no timeless reality. There is only reality embedded in its own times. Yes, we can certainly strive to do good no matter what our circumstances. Yes, we can strive to live proudly no matter what our circumstances. But we mustn’t make believe that there are no circumstances.
We are contingent, contextual, and embedded creatures who live in these times and in no other. This is your time. These are your circumstances. Dealing with these circumstances may prove profoundly difficult. But dealing with them forthrightly is the right thing to do.
Let us change what we change, improve what we can improve, love where we can love, and live in these exact times.
There is no other.
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