Steve Jobs - An EulogybyTara_Neale©
Death and dying. It is not something that most of us like to think about. I would go so far as to say it is a subject that a lot of people avoid. Yet when someone in the public domain dies, as Steve Jobs did this week, we are forced to consider it...if only for a moment.
Of course, the Internet, Facebook and Twitter are full of articles, commentaries and eulogies for the man that has changed the face of computing, if not the world as we know it. But one of these articles in particular caught my attention. It was about Jobs' own view of death. His 2005 commencement address at Stanford University sheds some light on this very private man.
"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."
This from a man who was battling a rare and deadly form of cancer. To see the bigger picture...that we are all expendable.
In the summer of 1988, Yellowstone National Park experienced the worst wild-fire in its almost one-hundred and twenty year history. Over one million acres of forest in and around the park were destroyed. Many people though the park would never recover. But scientist and rangers knew otherwise. The same fire that brings death also is an essential part of life. In the spring after the fires, the freshly cleared land was teaming with new life. The soil was rich with nutrients from the ash that had once been mature vegetation. The heat of the fire had burst open pine cones, releasing seeds that took root in this rich soil and grew at astonishing rates. Bugs that fed on the detritus brought birds in abundance. Over twenty years later, the transformation is remarkable.
The rest of his speech that day gives us a blueprint for bringing that same re-birth to our own lives.
"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."
In this world plagued with the need to conform, to fit into the molds that our parents, our society has for us, Jobs encouraged these young people to live as individuals. To follow their own dreams. Their own path. For me, the words...follow your heart and intuition; they already know what you truly want to become...sang through my soul like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. At forty-six, I am as close as I have ever been to living the life I have always dreamt of. I begin each day as I have this one...typing away at my laptop before the sun rises her shining face (assuming she does in London). I pour my heart and soul onto the blank screen, filling it with stories of people, love and life. Thanks to this amazing new world of the Internet and e-books pioneered by men such as Steve Jobs I am able to share those words with others around the world. It feels as miraculous as the new birth that filled the void left by those forest fires at Yellowstone.
Jobs finished that speech at Stanford with the story of the Whole Earth Catalogue, a magazine of his youth that he likened to Google. He spoke of its demise and parting wisdom. He described how on the back cover of its final issue there was a picture of a country road and the words...Stay Hungry. Stay foolish. This reminded me of one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost. It is the story of two paths in the woods...or life. Frost, Jobs and other great men and women choose to take the path less traveled. The path of following their gut, their intuition, their dream. That poem ends with the words...
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Following our dreams always makes a difference, in our lives, the lives of others and the world. So as we go about our lives this week remembering this man who brought us the personal computer, the iPod and iPhone. Remember too the things that he replaced...the typewriter, the Walkman and the bulky, short lived car phone. Ponder also the unimaginable things that his death might birth...what young minds might envision and build in this void that greatness has vacated.