Throughout the semester, we have encountered different modes of anxiety about possibilities and death. However, few of our readings have offered many thoughts on the afterlife itself and the attainment of an afterlife if one does exist, which is why Unamuno's statement "act as if you were to die tomorrow, but only in order to survive and become eternal" (159) along with his notions on truth intrigue me. In order to flush some of these ideas out, let us examine the situation in which someone performs an action, and when asked why they acted as such, the person resonds "becuase I want to go to heaven."
This motive for action has bothered me since I was a child for reasons partially inexplicable, but after reading Kant I think at the core what bothers me about this motive, in particular, is that it forces the actor to become a tool toward a greater end, rather than a free person deserving of respect and possessing of absolute worth and dignity. Personally, I believe that there are two types of immortaliy; immortality in the sense in which people refer to it in general, i.e. heaven, and immortality gained by impacting the world in such a way that one live's on through the consequences of one's actions. Whereas we cannot hope to understand immortality in the non-physical sense, we can at least strive to live in such a way that when we look back at our life we know that we have set something good in motion that will outlast our physical existstence. If it then turns out that there is a heaven, at least one will have lived a good life. When it comes time for judgement, who knows what the requirements to get into heaven are anyway? It seems as if many religions claim different things, but a common theme amongst them may perhaps be to live in such a way that one leaves a positive impact on the world (think the gold rule- love thy neighbor as thyself), so at least one's chances are decent. Regardless, the point is that instead of living a life that limits ones will to simply be a tool to a greater end, why not live in a value creating way which confims one's own existence in the world as we experience?
Returning back to Unamuno, I wonder how he would respond to such a statement of motive as "becuase I want to go to heaven." While my first inclination was to say that he would not have a problem with this, upon further relfection I think that he would say that heaven is an attempt to claim objective truth about the afterlife, namely that there exists some state of eternal happiness called heaven with pearly gates, and so on. However, in fact truths in our own existence (those that matter, anyway) arise from experience and decisions in our own lives which make subjective truth by confirming or asserting notions about given things. In the context of eternal life, Unamuno wants to cling to the fact that one in fact might exist, but he does not offer any sort of description it; we cannot experience the state of being which we term eternal life until we experience it, which obviously we cannot do. However, what we can do is to fervently believe that the possibility of eternal life is a real one, and live in such a way that we deserve it if it proves to be an option.
So, I do not think Unamuno disagrees with using wanting to get into heaven as a motive for the same reasons that I do, but I think that he would be careful describing eternal life as anything but the continuing of existence past that state in which we now exist. Regardless, I enjoyed the fact that he did address the concept of eternal life, since although it is a metaphysically and epistemologically difficult subject to tackle, it is a real possibility in our lives, and as such deserves attention when speaking of existence in general.