"The creation of an integral self is the work of a lifetime, and although that work can never be completed, it is nonetheless an ethical responsibility."
(Gary Saul Morson & Caryl Emerson, Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics)
Bakhtin locates this project, the project of self, in language. Asking us to fully experience the words we use and how we use them. He asks us to not simply swallow the prose of life but to chew, spit and sometimes throw it up.
What narratives do we accept in the way we frame and express our thoughts?
What stories do we invoke?
He asks us to question the way we breathe—the thoughts that inspire us, giving our lungs their ability to transport the substance necessary for life. Thought and spirit have an oxygen of their own. Anyone sucking thoughtlessly on the pipe of life refuses to accept their responsibility as maker. Life is a creative project requiring a morality and ethics of answering back (to what has already been spoken). Life requires voice—a voice of one's own.
Bakhtin insists on this project, allowing no alibi in being. He declares each individual's ethical responsibility to do more than claim existence, saying we must engage in the intimacy of giving our lives shape—shape in the process of taking on the authoritative discourse, and working at the substance of our own internally persuasive discourse.