From Facebook, via a personal computer, I learned of Steve Jobs’ tragic passing. The irony of the information’s medium was not lost upon me or the Internet community. After the initial shock, understanding the meaning of Jobs’ life and work, which so dramatically shaped our generation’s relationship with technology, became incomprehensible. The Internet seemed the only recourse. Apple stated, “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives.” Can his prescience, minimalism and ingenuity truly be eulogized in such a concise statement?
By this point we probably have all been inundated with the narrative of Steve Jobs’ life, but it makes the details no less sensational. From his adoption to his precocious interest in computers at an early age, his Jobs’ life seemed linearly projected for greatness. He first brought us the Apple I, of such minimalist design it featured no display or keyboard, before ushering in the personal computer era with the unveiling of the Apple II in 1977. Following a 10-year forced sabbatical that started in 1985, Jobs returned to a floundering Apple Corporation in 1996 and unleashed innumerable devices that forever altered the technological landscape. Peaking with the 10-year run, starting in 2001, that birthed the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad, Jobs propelled Apple to its perch atop the consumer peak it occupies today. It is impossible to overstate the material impact Jobs’ life has had on the contemporary world.
Lost in the shuffle, though, are the qualities that made him so gifted or, rather, mercurial. It is our morbid fascination with death that compels us to impart value on the lives of the recently deceased. So, in passing, Steve Jobs becomes a headline, the trending topic of the day, before fading into the recesses of our brains as an icon, distant and unfamiliar. But that should be the fate of a lesser man, for Jobs left us more than products, provocative marketing campaigns and the largest publicly traded company in the world based on market capitalization.
Steve Job’s took his garage hobby and fundamentally re-envisioned the public’s relationship with capitalism. Apple products transmitted individuality, while, paradoxically, being available for mass consumption. Moreover, they connected technology with personal expression and creativity rather than the robotic efficiency that had come to signify our relationship with computers. Jobs gave us iMovie, GarageBand and iPhoto among numerous other creative media that inspired many of today’s creative artists. Shit, the man gave us Pixar for crying out loud. Each movie: “Toy Story,”
“Finding Nemo,” “Monsters Inc.” and onward, incrementally asked us to dream, to seek out adventure and to take solace in the fact that we are not alone, that the world can be a beautiful place.
Steve Jobs’ lasting legacy should not be the products he created, the wealth he earned or the company he left us, but rather how we perceive the world around us. A world fraught with opportunity, one in which we have the unique capacity to change it for the better. No quotes or respects paid can fully convey the enormity of his footprint in the world of today. But maybe, even in life, Jobs left us a way for understanding his death. From the 2005 Stanford Commencement speech he delivered:
“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.”
Jake Schurmeier is a fourth-year political science major.