Sad news that Apple founder and inspiration Steve Jobs has died. It will also be interesting to see how Apple adapts to a world without him.
The Guardian has published an address Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005. At one point he says this about the ‘mercy’ of being fired from the company he had founded:
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
Unfortunately, most people don’t have the luxury of doing what they would like to do in life and the need to do work, earn some money and keep the family together and the kids fed and clothed drives them from one day to the next. Those facing the uncertainty of job insecurity, financial embarrassment and relationship breakdown might envy Steve Jobs’ optimistic sense of adventure. I guess his departure from Apple didn’t leave him destitute.
It’s a bit like millionaire politicians claiming to know what it is like for ordinary people facing the threats of recession.
But, Steve Jobs went on to speak about death. And that’s where the earlier comments find a coherent context.
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.
Heidegger called us ‘beings towards death’ and he wasn’t being miserable either. The fundamental truth of human life is that we shall one day die. Mortality lies at the heart of who we are, how we are and why we are. Coming to terms with our mortality is the beginning of human freedom – the knowledge that we shall one day die sets us free to live. Which, of course, is why Jesus said that “the truth shall set you free”. And, of course, the truth he would go on to demonstrate is that death is not the ultimate threat – not the end of life.
There is a claim that Christian faith is a form of escapism for people who are emotionally incapable of living in the real world. In fact, the opposite is true. In his death Jesus looked the awful and glorious reality of life in the eye and hung on to and through dying and death. Being raised shone a new light on human experience and damned the claim that violence, destruction and death have the final word: God does… and that word is ‘resurrection’.
Steve Jobs clearly made the most of the creative gifts and opportunities he had. He brought beauty and style to the functional. He changed the world with products that have made computing and communication not only efficient, but pleasurable. He learned that life becomes worth living only when we have known loss and confronted the imminent reality of death. He hit on something powerful here – I’d love to know what he made of it spiritually.