By now, unless you’re totally out of touch with world news, you know that Steve Jobs recently passed away. I have been keeping his picture on the desktop of my work PC for some time now, just to remind me that I had something to go home to, after a day of working with Windows, and it was really hard to look at today. Still, I have a tendency to write too many knee-jerk things on the Internet, so I decided to wait on other people’s reviews in order to attempt to be a little more knee and a little less jerk.
There are three Apple-savvy writers whose work I greatly admire: Guy Kawasaki, Andy Ihnatko, and David Pogue. All of them wrote wonderful things about Steve that both captured my feelings about his passing and helped me put things in perspective. I really appreciated their work today. By the same token, there were a number of other people who got into the act, delivering written eulogies that praised him as one of the great innovators of the past century and comparing him to Edison and DaVinci. There were good things said by friends and competitors alike, with even companies who had worked together to make Apple the most sued company in history taking time out of their courtroom battles to salute him as a great and noble competitor.
Of course, as Guy would say, “causes polarize,” and in our modern world where the pundit-driven media is working overtime to make us hate each other and vilify people without restraint, there were no end of “responders” to his Internet eulogies who have been so driven to hate his life’s work as to spew their venom all over them. I can’t deny that people have a right to feel what they are going to feel, however they were persuaded to come to that extreme position, but I’ve already written a Faithlab rant about how improper it is to demonize the recently deceased and I stand by that.
So what can I say about Steve’s passing, as I type away on my MacBook Pro while waiting for my iPhone to ring? Mostly, I find myself wondering what people are saying about it in church this weekend. Is his passing just something to ignore? As much as he has changed the world’s technology landscape a lot of people may not know who he is or how he has affected their lives. Such people might not know why anyone should dwell on the passing of the man who brought us Macintosh, iPods, iPhones, Pixar, and other things.
My first thought was probably a bit negative. I was reminded of Luke 12:15-25, which includes the parable of the man who worked all his life to achieve wealth and comfort, only to die as the work was completed. After all, the company he helped start and later saved from bankruptcy just became the largest, most successful company in the world. I couldn’t help but see a parallel. The “Wall Street Occupier” in me looks at a rich corporate giant and wants to rail about the evils of people who are so obscenely wealthy that they make much more every day than I will make in my life – partly out of jealousy and partly out of my sense of the desperation of our times. Of course, from all I have read and experienced of the way Steve lived his life, I don’t think that money was what he was about, so much as an intense (let’s be fair – borderline “psychotic”) focus on changing people’s lives for the better and various other aspects of his personal vision. As he once said: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” Yes, we can all rail about the “better” ways Steve could have done things, and a lot of his detractors are doing that right now, but I think we’re better served letting his life speak for itself.
So that leaves me with a more common sentiment that I have shared with a number of friends over the years, which is that God occasionally sends us extraordinary people, like Elvis, John Lennon, Larry Normon, Gene Eugene, or Kathryn Chapman. These people may change the world for millions or just for you, and their life’s work means something for those millions or just for you. There are special things for which you hold them dear, even though you may never have met them, and the world is just not the same place without them. in fact, it can be hard to even fully understand that they are gone, since they or their work have held some sort of key place in your life. Steve did that for many people, either through his products or for the way his activities changed the way we think of beauty, products, technology, leadership, or other things – for good or ill. People will scorn him or praise him, but they’re not likely to forget him.
His most often-repeated quote, at least for today, came from his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005:
“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Surely, there’s something theological in there somewhere. I can’t speak for you, but I am really going to miss Steve Jobs.