(Screenshot from the Apple website this morning)
I first learnt about this remarkable man when, after becoming increasingly frustrated with my failing (Windows) computer, I decided it was time to start dreaming about replacing it. I came across ‘an apple event’ online, which was a video stream of Jobs unveiling the new iMac G5 (with built in ‘isight’) in 2005 – I was hooked. Of course that was the point, Jobs was a brilliant salesman, but his task was an easy one because Apple products then and now both looked and worked like a dream. There was a small problem however, the iMac cost just over €1,000, money I did not have. It took another three years before I had enough to buy an Apple computer and of course with all that waiting and anticipation one would naturally assume that the reality would be a let down, but it wasn’t. Even though I could have bought two cheap computers running Windows or Linux for the price of the IMac I am convinced to this day that the purchase was worth it because I have now had nearly four years of trouble free computing!
Few people actually knew Steve Jobs very well, which is why his official biography (to be released later this month) will sell in vast numbers. A popular video of Steve on the internet is where he is addressing the graduates at Stanford University in California (link). In this speech he reveals a little of his philosophy about life, about living each day as if it were your last and lots of other inspiring thoughts, challenges and ideas.
In speaking about the effect of being diagnosed with Cancer he said:
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
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.
These are not the words of a stereotypical CEO of one of the largest Corporations in the world, they are the words of someone who has stared death in the face and lived a little longer to tell the tale. Many many people around the world, including myself, are saddened at this mans death, but we are grateful for his life and for what he was able to do and to achieve. I think I am right in saying that Steve was a Buddhist, though the words quoted above remind me of so much that Jesus said during his earthly ministry, about living for each day (Matthew 6:25, 34) and not storing up things in this life (Matthew 6:19,20) and the words of comfort Jesus spoke to his disciples in John 14.
In being reminded by Steve Jobs of my own mortality, I am grateful to him for this far more than for the numerous Apple products that I enjoy using each day. All of us will have to face death one day and few of us will manage to do so with the clarity, dignity and composure of Steve Jobs. Therefore I also have a renewed gratitude that I am and we are not on my /our own in all of this; I am grateful beyond words that in Jesus all of us have someone to look up to who has stared death in the face – and won.
Steve Jobs 1955-2011, may he rest in peace.