It's been almost a month since Steve Jobs passed into eternity. So, this post is running a little behind the pack of journos, bloggers and opinionators who have commented on the life and death of Mr. Jobs. But more information on the technocrat has come to light since he died on 5th October. Perhaps, then, some reflections at this point might not be altogether amiss.
Let me say up front that I'm not a card carrying member of the Steve Jobs fan club. Sorry about that, but in the interests of full disclosure I should say that I'm writing this on a PC, not a Mac. My mobile is an Android rather than an iPhone. When I download music it's more likely to be from Amazon not iTunes. Sadly I don't posses any form of MP3 player, certainly not an overpriced iPod. Not that I've got anything against Apple heads with their "i" this, that and the other, but I'm simply not one of them. I hope that doesn't invalidate what I got to say on the world of gadgetry's Man in Black.
Jobs' philosophy of life was best summed up in his famous 2005 commencement address to Stamford University graduates. He spoke of the impact that the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer had on his life, forcing him to face up to his own mortality,
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.
There is a lot of wisdom in the thought that as we're all going to die we had better get on with living life to the max. The Bible urges us think in that way, Ecclesiastes 9:10. But Jobs is saying more than that. He is commending a kind of "live your dreams and follow your heart" approach to life. That may sound all very find and dandy, but it isn't actually very good advice. What if your dreams are little more than sad delusions? Think of the thousands of people who audition for reality TV shows like the X-Factor. Every one of them believes that they are the Next Big Thing in Pop Music. But their dreams are cruelly shattered by the howls of derision that greet their tuneless rendition of River Deep Mountain High. No amount of dreaming and heart following is going to change the fact that they can't sing. Better that they get on with being a good hairdresser, bricklayer, chartered accountant or whatever, earn their crust and provide for their loved ones as best they can. For most people it's not a case of "living your dreams", but "life's hard and then you die".
Also, Steve Jobs may have succeeded in living his dreams by producing phones and stuff for Apple, but from reading reviews of his authorised biography, it seems that he was a tryanical bully to work for. Making his dreams a reality involved making his employees lives a nightmare. But that's the trouble isn't it? The "don't listen to anyone else, follow your intuition" approach to life is necessarily inconsiderate of the needs of others. Isn't that just a little bit selfish and inhuman? What does it profit a man if he invents the iPhone and loses his soul?
Which brings us to Jobs' thoughts on death,
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.
Yes, we're all going to die. Quite true. But is death really "the single best invention of Life"? Not according to the Bible. Death isn't natures way of clearing out the old to make way for the new. It is the wages of sin. Sin alienates us from God, the giver of life. Death is the last enemy, a merciless foe rather than a kindly friend. Death robs a man of his life and loved ones of a dear relative or friend. After death comes the judgement of God, Hebrews 9:27.
According to Jobs' sister, Mona Simpson, who witnessed him pass away, "Death didn't happen to Steve, he achieved it". His last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow”. But sadly, no one "achieves" death. We are its passive victims. I say no one. There is one exception. The death of Jesus was the greatest achievement of love ever witnessed by the world. He willingly laid down his life in order to atone for the sins of his people and save us from death, John 15:13. After achieving atonement for sin in his death, Jesus rose again from the grave, signalling the death of death itself, John 10:17-18. In the light of Jesus' death and resurrection, the believer can taunt death as a defeated foe and live life to the full to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58. Don't follow your heart. It's deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). Follow Jesus, John 8:12, 11:25-26.