As I reflected on Steve Jobs passing last evening, I was saddened that a man of such vibrancy and accomplishment had passed from our presence at such young age. I wondered about Steve Jobs the husband, father, friend? It is a different kind of mourning for those close to him and than for this of us who never met the man. But mourn we will.
Like the thousands, perhaps millions, around the world today, I reflected on how Jobs inventive mind had changed my world. There were memories of the first Macintosh being installed at our home, my young daughter crawling under the desk to pull cables through, her small hands the right size for the job. We entered the world of "Where In the World is Carmen San Diego?", "Myst", "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" and online encyclopedias.
Then there was the liberation I felt using a highly accessible word processor for my writing. I felt perhaps for the first time I could just write anything, knowing how easy it would be to edit and revise. Sometimes I would leave a piece I was writing onscreen while I cooked dinner and find myself at my desk adding a new phrase or paragraph that bubbled up like the soup on my stove. My creative process became more fluid and interactive, inspired by limitless possibilities, untethered from time and place.
How can that ever be measured? How can the synergistic effect of just that one change spread among millions of people be grasped?
Then there are the quotes I found as I went online that struck me as great spiritual wisdom. One might argue that many circumstances led Steve Jobs to be able to achieve what he did. He had enormous gifts of imagination, energy, and intelligence when, coupled with technological breakthroughs and a team approach, created a perfect opportunity to build a company, create products and change how the world works. It is clear he used every moment of that opportunity.
But many of the quotes I found reflected a deeply spiritual practice and belief system that allowed him to be the true artist and visionary that he was, that provided the strong underpinnings of his life's work. Steve Jobs showed us that real practice is not about being perfect, but manifesting to the best of our abilities the gifts that we are given. Some might characterize his philosophies as Buddhist in nature, but their essential truth resonates among practices and beliefs of many faith traditions. Here are a few:
"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. ... Stay hungry. Stay foolish."
-- Stanford University commencement address, June 2005
"[Y]ou can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."
-- Stanford University commencement address, June 2005.
"That's been one of my mantras -- focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
-- BusinessWeek interview, May 1998
Finally, when we take the really big view of what Steve Jobs did during his precious time on our planet, he created new ways for us to sense and know and expand the interconnectedness of all beings. The implications and the gift of that as we grapple with the challenges we face as a human race, for finding harmony with our fellow travelers and our environment, is immeasurable.
You have given us the tools, Steve, and your example. "By your fruits do we know you."
Written on my IPad.
Kay Goldstein writes about spiritual practice in daily life, food, and relationships. www.lessonsforthecook.com