Manteiga, Robert [faculty advisor, Department of Languages]
philosophy, spanish, death, immortality
Life is a tragedy in the sense that it amounts to one single contradiction: man will die, and knows this, yet he still does not want to die. He thus spends his entire life fighting the battle to survive, though he knows that victory is impossible. That is, victory in the sense of corporeal immortality is impossible – but what happens to the soul? That human soul, which we have come to distinguish from the body by placing it above the temporal world, and equating it with eternity. Belief in immortality, in this case, spiritual immortality, is, according to Miguel de Unamuno, simply hope. Hope that the death of the human body does not also call for the mere annihilation of the soul. Unamuno identifies fame and love, the latter being the focus of this paper, as the two primary means of achieving immortality. The idea is to eternalize one’s name or reputation in the memories of the living. Love between two human beings, according to Unamuno, arises from each one’s thirst for immortality. He calls love a “mutual egoism” in which each lover seeks to perpetuate him/herself. Through spiritual love, of eternal nature, man is able to elevate himself above this world; and when he dies, he will have attained immortality in that he will continue to live in the memory of his lover. The questions posed in this paper are in regards to the love relationship between two human beings, and how that relationship is transformed upon the death of one of the lovers. We seem to be willing, even eager, to believe that when a loved one dies, s/he lives on in our memories. However, if one has sought to attain spiritual immortality through this love relationship, and the loved one is dead, has a part of the surviving lover’s soul died as well? The ultimate purpose here, however, is not to investigate this phenomenon from the point of view of one in the relationship, but rather from the perspective of a third party – namely, the physician. For when a patient dies, it is not the physician’s own personal response to death that is of concern, but it is his ability to sympathize with the surviving lover (or, those who had enjoyed a spiritual love-relationship with the deceased). The physician may often find himself in the position of having to comfort a grieving lover, perhaps by reinforcing the human hope that, upon physical death, the soul still lives on in its own way – in other words, providing assurances of which he himself, like all other human beings, does not know. His occupation, therefore, is itself a paradox, a contradiction: to go on affirming that which no one is sure of. I hope to one day practice medicine, but I wonder, am I ready to take on this role?