I'll leave it to others to summarize what has been a most remarkable life. My own son said it pretty well, however. My wife and I were having dinner last night in a restaurant when he texted me to say, "Guess what Dad? Steve Jobs died." We exchanged a text or two about it and then he wrote:
"You know Dad, Steve Jobs was to our generation what Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were to previous generations."
Summed up Job's life pretty accurately, if you ask me.
It was during his commencement address at Stanford in 2005 that we learned of Job's diagnosis with cancer. It was his "wake-up call," so to speak, to the reality of death. Among other things, Jobs said, "No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there." That was similar to a quip I heard Woody Allen once make. "I'd like to attain immortality by not dying."
"And yet," continued Jobs, "death is the destination we all share."
He's right. I've been thinking a great deal about death. I suppose it's just one of those things you do at fifty-six. In a recent Huff Post article, for example, Bill Maher wrote: "The thing about your fifties is...it is the first time in your life that you can see over the crest of the mountain and down into the Valley below--you know Death. Death is the monster we all fear..."
It is. Saint Paul called it, "the last enemy" (1 Cor. 15:26).
Humans share two realities with each other and all other living things--birth and death. I know it's been the church's traditional teaching for eons that both dying and death are the consequences of the first couple's rebellion. But there's an alternative perspective I've written about in The Enoch Factor. It is a perspective far more consistent with Judeo-Christian teachings and certainly more consistent with nature and biology.
Just as you are born, you will die. Death has been part of the Divine plan since the beginning, whenever that was. Death is the one and only thing you can count on. It's more certain than paying taxes. I know many Christian people, however, who use their belief in Jesus' imminent return to try and avoid death. They will vigorously defend their belief in his return, not because they know much about eschatology. They do not. They're just so terrified at death--and who of us isn't?--that the return of Jesus provides some relief at the problem of dying.
Isn't it interesting that no other animal but the human animal travails in birth, trembles at death, or finds life troublesome? Other animals embrace the pain associated with birth. They live and die without ever complaining about either. The human animal, however, repudiates pain, resists aging, feels life is an indecipherable riddle, and loathes death itself.
"And the reason for this?"
Ego. It has "Edged God Out," as someone once put it. As a consequence, humans have little or no sense of felt oneness with Transcendence--the very thing all spiritual traditions seek to restore.
Ego thrives on making life a pain, death a predicament, and aging a problem. It does so pretty successfully, too. Its aim is survival--immortality. Ego will cling tenaciously to positions, possessions, and people--even to your body. Which explains why aging is dreadful to most and death is fearful to everyone. Whenever you confuse the ego-self with who you really are--and who of us does not do this?--there is both resistance to aging and a revulsion of death.
Is there an answer to this human dilemma?
Muhammad suggested, "Die before you die or you'll die a thousand deaths." Jesus said, "Deny yourself." The self you are to deny--that must die--is not the self you really are. How could it be? It must be instead "the mind-made self"--the you, you think is you. It must be the you, you see in a mirror--what Albert Einstein called "the optical illusion in consciousness." It could not be the you, you really are. As long as you confuse the house wherein you live, however, with the person you really are, there will be resistance to aging or, more accurately, to dying and to death.
The Buddha said, "Death is your guru; let it teach you." What could death teach us?
That it isn't the enemy it's caricatured to be? That it's all an illusion? That it's only the ego in you that has trouble living, aging, or dying? That the real you has no difficulty with any of these because the real you is eternal? Virtually every spiritual tradition teaches that the opposite of birth is death, not life. Life has no opposite. Life is eternal, which means you, the real you, is eternal.
What could death teach you? Perhaps how to die to the ego-self and instead live unto your higher self; how to die to clock time and instead live in the timeless now; or, how to die to the life you live and instead live the life you love.
Leonardo di Vinci purportedly said, "All my life I thought I was learning how to live; now I know I've really been learning how to die."
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