Saturday, October 8, 2011

Steve Jobs's True Legacy

"...the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..."
~ John 14:12

"Follow your bliss."
~ Joseph Campbell

"Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above / Don't fence me in."
~ Cole Porter

I was packing up to leave Starbucks from an afternoon's writing on Wednesday when I heard about Steve Jobs's death. The news came to me in a terse email notice from the MyAppleSpace social network. The subject line read "Steve Jobs is dead."

Incredulous, I thought it was a hacker's prank. Only when I had double-checked the news against a reliable source could I bring myself to believe it.

Like many, I received and verified the news about Jobs on products he had pioneered. For me it was a MacBook Pro laptop and an iPhone.

And like so many around the world, I was grief struck.

Here was a man who had spent most of his life bucking the system, never letting fear or conventional wisdom get in the way of what he knew to be right and true. Nor did he ever permit the legions of critics and pundits who declared him foolhardy and misguided to stop him from following the path he knew in his heart to be the correct one.

Was he a saint? Hardly. Few geniuses are. Could he be cruel and cutting? Apparently so, for he is reputed to have had little patience for those who doubted or stood in the way of his passionate vision.

Few in the Western world remain untouched by that vision. Even those who swear they will never touch an Apple product have been affected by the revolutions in computing and music distribution that he incited.

Did he change the world? Absolutely. Did he do it uncompromisingly and on his own terms? Undoubtedly.

Is his greatest legacy the products and software systems he engineered? Not hardly.

Through the day or so following Steve Jobs's death, I was deeply moved, sometimes to tears, but the outpouring of love, respect and grief for this man. But by Friday night, as I scrolled through the unending stream of Jobs tributes and Jobs quotes in my Facebook news feed, something about it all began to trouble me.

Don't get me wrong. The sentiments expressed were true and powerful, and I clicked the "like" button on many of them.

But I began to wonder, as I read them all, how often we latch onto the words and lives of others as a way to avoid expressing our own words and living our own lives.

Back in 2006 while visiting Toronto, I was privileged to attend a Barbra Streisand concert. It was a performance that more than filled the city's vast Air Canada Centre. I wrote about that experience here two years ago, in a post titled Larger Than Life.

"Whatever you think of Barbra Streisand's talent or personality," I wrote, "when you are in her energy field, you touch that [limitlessness of your soul's natural state] and your soul cries out, 'Me too! That's who I am, too!!'

"Here in the Western world, where we have been taught to play small, we transfer all of our natural desire for the fenceless world of a life lived large to our movie stars and sports heroes.

"If we can't play out our own passion and power, we play it out through a celebrity cult that's no healthier than any other cult, one we also find in countries with charismatic leaders/dictators, in religions with unapproachable gods and in all situations where we abdicate the expression of our infinite nature to someone or something outside of ourselves."

How much of the grief for Jobs, I began to wonder, is not about the death of a brilliant man whose visions touched so many but about the death of a figure who publicly lived so much of the courage, vision, sense of purpose and uncompromising adherence to inner truth that so many of us shrink from in our own lives.

Steve Jobs was not unusual. We all have the same access to the same infinite pool of wisdom, courage, purpose and inner truth that he did...not to mimic his journey and follow his bliss, but to uncover and follow our own...wherever it might carry us.

In my novel, The MoonQuest, very much a metaphor for all our journeys, the main character, Toshar, is destined for a greatness he continues to resist. Yet destiny, as he is constantly reminded, is not cast in stone. There is always a choice.

"Every choice you have ever made," Toshar is told, "has led to this moment...of choice."

"The power to choose is always ours," I wrote in Larger Than Life. "In every moment and through every situation, we're offered the opportunity to choose our greatness, our passion, our light."

The best tribute to Steve Jobs is to not quote his words but to live them, to not restate his wisdom but to find and write your own, to not honor the choices of his heart but to listen to and honor the choices of yours, to not look backward but to live in the present moment as you step forward into the next.

It's time to awaken your vision. It's time to rekindle your passion. It's time to live your greatness.

If that becomes Steve Jobs's legacy, the revolution in each of our lives -- and in the world -- will only have just begun.

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Unknown said...

Like you, I was stunned and shocked at the death of Steve Jobs. Not being a member of the 'Apple Family' of consumers, my knowledge of him was limited to news reports of occasional product updates. It wasn't until his death that I learned more about his philosophy and personal history.

Your post, I have to say, is the BEST tribute I've seen this past week about him. Strangely, I felt a certain amount of grief at his loss, and the words I've read that he uttered have stuck with me all week.
So many of us look to others for examples of greatness, not realizing that we are capable of the same extraordinary feats, if only we believed we could. Your post is an elegant challenge to to rest of us to 'step up' and stop living other people's lives. Thank you for that.

I just recently 'discovered' your writing through Facebook and your blog. So glad to have found you, your writing is well done and thoughtful. You have the the lovely ability to inspire your readers to keep on reading your posts! Ironically, I started reading them just this week, a few days before Jobs died. Don't laugh, but I believe that, at least as far as serendipity is concerned, the two are related for me as a person. Steve Job's death and your continuing living example are a call to me to live passionately, instead of hesitantly. Like so many others, I've kept my own dreams 'on hold' until the right time. It seems to me that time is now.

Thank you, Mark David! I'll keep coming to you for occasional inspiration while on my journey and I'll watch with love and support as you continue on your own. Blessings to you. - A new fan, Angie Scott-Chavez

Mark David Gerson said...

Thank you, Angie, for your thoughtful and heartfelt comment. I feel privileged to have you now as part of my online family!

Michael of Wilton Manors said...

Thanks for the beautiful comments, MDG. I heard about Steve's passing on my iPhone and confirmed it on my MacBook Pro laptop. We are all one!

For several days I had a photo of Steve Jobs as my desktop photos (iPad, iPhone, and laptop) -- the one that placed on their home page, except I added his quote, "Stay hungry. Stay foolish." I took it off yesterday because it was making me yearn for more of his genius -- and now it will be hard for folks to access his newest ideas ... unless they are channelers.

Fortunately, I think there are a lot of "channelers" out there and now is the time for folks to clear away their mental rubbish and learn how to access the brilliance that is "out there" -- available to those we consider "gone." They are not gone and never can be -- as long as we know that and we honor their real life presence, even in "death."

Underneath the multitude of ego manifestations of this place we call "past, present, and future," there is a pure energy that we all share. I see that best when watching my fellow women and men laughing at (and enjoying) life; while observing a sunset (or similar holy event); whenever I take the time to meditate or do yoga (alone or with others); or when mindfully (and with gratitude) eating a scrumptious meal, whether with or without meat and unconcerned about fat, calories, or carbohydrate levels!!

So-called life is too short not to have fun with it. Steve Jobs, apparently, really knew how to have fun with life -- right up to "the end"; and thanks to his following his bliss, all the world has benefited. And since all the world is a stage, each and every one of us playing our part, I pray that the part I have chosen will benefit someone, somewhere, sometime.

Your writing is so brilliant and inspiring -- thanks so much for it! I am glad to have you in my life!

Mark David Gerson said...

Thank you, Dreamwalker.