David Lodge on Joyce’s Choices

I'm reading David Lodge's "The Practice of Writing". One chapter is called "Joyce's Choices"…

These are some of key choices that Joyce made and stuck to with extraodinary steadfastness: to renounce the Catholic faith in which he was brought up; to become an artist rather than a priest, or a doctor or a lawyer; to live for most of his life in exile from Ireland…turn his back on the Irish Literary Movement; and to form a permanent monogamous relationship with a woman of humble background, limited education and such scant interest in literature that she never read Ulysses.

It is interesting to compare and contrast Joyce in this respect with Soren Kierkegaard, the great philosopher of existential choice…. Kierkegaard himself however had the greatest difficulty in exercising choice in his personal life. When he was twenty-one he met and fell in love with Regine. In due course the couple became engaged, but almost at once Kierkegaard began to doubt the wisdom of his decision, and convinced himself that because of his character and temparement he could never make Regine happy. After about a year he broke off the engagement… He tried to convince himself he had acted rightly, but secretly hoped that somehow, through no will of his own, the broken engagement would be mended and Regine restored to him.

Why do I mention all this?

Because I am trying to understand if the resolute and committed life given over to one great purpose, which is recommended by all kinds of people, is all that it's cracked up to be. What are the qualities of a life lived in the context of a few big commitments, compared to a life in flow in the moment?

The examples of Joyce and Kierkegaard are interesting. The theoriser about the necessity of choosing, and someone actually making choices and sticking to them.

A key difference seems to be the inner certainty and confidence that Joyce felt in himself and in his choices.

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