The former, the heart, is vulnerable, mortal, destined one day to stop functioning. I know. Mine nearly did. And really did, when the surgeon stopped it during my triple bypass. The latter – the soul, “a contrario”, like the brook – is supposed to go on forever. We were taught that our soul is immortal. Dogs’ aren’t, if they ever had one. They die and that’s it. We die but our soul supposedly lives on. Good news if you have been a good guy or gal, bad news if you haven’t. Your soul – to which the resurrected, restored, recomposed body you once had, will one day be reunited – will enjoy Heaven or suffer Hell. Nothing you can do about it. You can commit suicide, ask for help to die with dignity, as proponents of euthanasia like myself say, but you can’t kill your soul. You’re stuck with it for eternity (and that’s an awful long time). I’ll be either a High Flyer, up there with the Seraphim (I was, after all, once a “Seraph” at the Franciscan Juniorate, the “Seraphic College”, at Robbo), or as an ex-Friar, renegade ex-priest and atheist, a Low Fryer in the depths of Hell.
It is extraordinary that so many people persist in believing that they will live forever. We know that we live and die, decompose and disappear, to make room for those we and others have begotten, who themselves (unless they are genuinely celibate clergy, or at least sexually unproductive bachelors or spinsters), will live and die to provide “lebensraum” for our and their descendants.
Where did we get the idea of an immortal soul ? Your guess is as good, or as bad, as mine. The fact is that we have no evidence whatever for such a belief. Animists attribute a soul to every living creature. We smile at their naïveté. But people who believe in the existence of immortal souls are just as naïve. It is true that we are impressed by our own ability to think, to reason, to communicate, in ways unknown to the animal kingdom. Some would like to believe that this unique capacity is immortal. For heaven’s sake, for God’s sake, for cryin’ out loud, WHY ?
Some wag, on the Net, invented a new word : “Frisbeetarianism”, defined as “the belief that after death the soul flies up on to the roof and gets stuck there”. Enough said.