Monday, November 15, 2010

Zell Kravinsky, A Secular Saint

MescalitoZell Kravinsky is a saint. The New Yorker’s article “The Gift” portrays the classic story of sainthood. When looking at the story of famous saints such as Peter or Paul, the saint-to-be tends to be initially high in societal ranking. Achieving worldly greatness, the individual turns inwards in order to fulfill a driving need for moral satisfaction. Christendom is only a template for which an individual can look inward. Kravinsky’s story is a much more modern model of one’s path to sainthood without Christianity being the back drop on which his path to sainthood is painted on. A common theme across various saints’ lives is how shocking their defiance against societal norms derides a culture’s priorities and values. While some may view saints’ decisions to give away their financial as shortsighted, this action encompasses Kravinsky’s last comment in the article: “It’s not enlightenment. It’s the start of a moral life.” I think it’s crucial to look at who is judging Kravinsky’s decisions. The world is full of greed. And those within Kravinsky’s life’s story are blindly taken by the hand and dragged through life. Kravinsky’s actions are so shocking to a world based on wealth because he disregards its importance to himself as he donates millions of dollars as well as body parts. I think he is not short-sighted in refraining from using modern means to achieve his journey to sainthood. He takes full advantage of being able to use his body as a part of his wealth he wishes to give away. Again, looking at a saint’s life, such as Ignatius of Loyola’s, we can find how a saint’s alms-giving defines sainthood. A common story tells how Ignatius gives half of his cloak to a man on the battlefield, shortly before he is wounded and confined to his bed. I think modern technology is allowing for people to extend what they can give away. And quite frankly, the act of giving away a highly needed organ is not so bizarre if one can envision the body as part of our given, worldly wealth. Kravinsky understands that his body is a shell that surrounds his soul, and his kidney donation is not anything more than Ignatius of Loyola’s cloak that was given to a man on the battlefield.
               A quote that best displays Kravinsk’s thought process is: “But it’s a fact that our actions, in some sense our thoughts, let some people live and some people die.” He has achieved moksha; not blind to his surroundings, Kravinsky’s take on the world is wholesome and realistic. In a world that boasts how fast individuals can connect through the internet across the world, Kravisnky’s baffling quote shows how blind people are to see the needs of people directly in front of them. Instead of making broad, drawn out decisions, Kravinsky believes action is the right answer to any dilemma. Not acting is the equivalent of killing someone; passivity is unacceptable in the age of technology.
               Kravinsky’s defilement of his family’s concerns also shows a rare example of one’s devotion to morality above all else. While his family’s worries are natural and necessary, they are also selfish and fearful. To immediately question a husband’s sanity when he decides to do something moral and now outrageous depicts how limited society’s faith in piety. A biblical parallel of this essay is God’s call for Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. While in modern Christian and Jewish tradition, God’s test for Abraham seems like a cruel and unusual demand, in historical context, human sacrifice was common. However, this did not keep Abraham from keeping the idea of sacrificing his son’s sacrifice on the “down low.” The father and son journey is not one of secrecy, but reading the story, one can find that both Sarah and Isaac are unaware of Abraham’s intentions. Isaac even asks his father where the sacrificial animal is at one point in their prophetic journey up Mount Moriah. Kravinsky also keeps his family in the dark about his intentions. Though well intended, both Kravinsky and Abraham know that they are driven by something much more than familial attachments to carry out seemingly obscure actions for the sake of morality and/or God. Both men are tested, and both men succeed in passing an examination of conscience. Abraham’s faithfulness is rewarded by God delivering a ram before Isaac is sacrificed, so too is Kravisnky’s selflessness rewarded with moksha, the realization of his inner being, atman. Kravinsky fully understands what he is made of, and it is not of material wealth, nor is it just layers of skin and organs; he realizes there is a soul inside of his body that is guided by morals. In both Hindu and Christian terms, this defines Zell Kravinsky as a saint.       

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