Socrates: tell me, Mr. Heron, you who are wise and patient, is perseverance a quality?
Baruch: ah, Mr. Stick, always your strange questions! What do you think I do all day perched on both legs if not persevering? The fish is there, somewhere; I know it will eventually reach me, I do not know which one it will be or if it will be the one I prefer, but I have to eat and it’s an idea that never leaves me. Without it, I would fly from here and there without ever landing long enough to catch something, and I would eventually exhaust myself. I must therefore be constant and determined in my choices, is not this what is also called perseverance? And don’t you believe that it serves me well?
Socrates: Yes, indeed. But how do you know if your perseverance is justified? You could stand foolishly where the fish will never go.
Baruch: I made a choice based on my experience; my perseverance is therefore enlightened by my reflection. If it turns out I was wrong, I go elsewhere when I am tired of being where I am. However, I know that by persevering, I realize my essence of heron, so it reinforces my decisions.
Socrates: So you live your destiny without being sure you are on the right path!
Baruch: In that, I’m not alone, don’t you think so? The passing fish that I will catch will be my justification, but beyond this punctual event, when I am perched motionless on my two legs, I know that I am what I must be. My perseverance has its source in a certainty that tells me that I must eat and another that makes me think that the fish is there. It is my response to a desire and an observation. It does not assure me alone that I will reach what I want, and it is even a source of questioning when it seems that nothing that I expect happens, but it defines me.
Socrates: it seems very complicated and you understand why I ask questions. It looks like perseverance is an art of dealing with the world; some make masterpieces, others disasters.
Baruch: I hope I make masterpieces! I have to trust what I have learned to achieve what I am aiming for, and that’s the difficulty; perseverance is only a constantly renewed decision to follow my intuition. It is also a sign of my freedom since I always have to decide if I stay in one place or not. Except of course when I’m disturbed and leaving is the only answer possible!
Socrates: I see. Perseverance does not seem to me a virtue because the goal could be immoral and malicious. It is rather a necessary tool to build good or bad things. In your case, to keep you in your being, otherwise you would be a crazy heron! I do not know if this will help me in my research but I thank you for your enlightened opinions!
Baruch: I’m just sharing what goes through my head when I stay still. If that suits you, that’s fine, but you should move away as quickly as you can now because I think you are driving the fish away.
Want to think a little more? See Ethics: with The Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect and Selected Letters by Spinoza. He explains the purpose of perseverance.
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Want to know more about the tastes of Baruch and Socrates? Their preferred books are at the library of the domain.