Since the death of Steve Jobs, the creative genius and CEO of Apple Computers, we have heard him praised and compared with Thomas Edison. It’s a fair comparison because, like Edison, Jobs created products that absolutely changed the world and the way we live our lives. Apple revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
The college dropout, hippie with an anti-establishment persona became one of the world’s most successful businessmen and was a marketing genius. He combined technology with creativity and made it easy for anyone to apply his own individuality. Because of Steve Jobs and his computer applications, we now say, “There’s an app for that.” And there is truly an app for almost anything you can think of doing. The word Apple has gone from being a fruit to a computer and a company, but not just any company.
Along with his friend Steve Wozniak, who was the real computer wizard, Jobs started Apple in his parents’ garage. With a $1,300 investment, he grew it into what is now the world’s most valuable company. Jobs didn’t create the computer, but think of how the industry changed in 1984 when he transformed the “mouse” (which he borrowed from Xerox) and gave personal computers the point and click, drag and drop technology, features we all use daily. He brought computers out of the world of geeks and engineers, and into the lives of real people by making them easy to use.
Jobs’ last creation, the iPad has made it possible to carry a virtual library around in our hands. It has made life fun and easier for the majority of us. But it has truly transformed the lives of autistic people, allowing them to engage a world that was forever closed to them. People unable to speak now have a voice with a machine that expresses their thoughts as they select and touch an icon on the screen.
Think about how the music industry changed after Jobs created the iPod. No longer do people buy records and CD’s, they download music, books, and tapes to their personal devices and listen to them through earphones. I say “they” because the iPod is one thing I don’t have or want. Although the CD player is practically obsolete and has gone the way of the boom box, 8-track, and stereo record player, I may be the only person on the planet who actually still uses one.
Think of how the iPhone has changed our lives. Jobs didn’t invent the cell phone either, but he’s the one who merged technologies of the cell phone, the iPod, and the computer into one seamless device. Now people use iPhones to shop, navigate trips, read email, share pictures, and send text messages. It has changed our world, some would argue, not for the better since people seem to be glued to their phones.
What genius Steve Jobs had to be able to imagine, build, and market such devices to do things we hadn’t even thought of doing. To meet needs we didn’t even know we had. Enable us to share documents and photos with people around the world without leaving our homes. To change the way we live and even the way we think. It has been said that Steve Jobs made things we didn’t even know we wanted and made us want them. That’s pure genius.
But Jobs was not Superman. In fact, in some ways, he wasn’t very smart at all. According to the recently released Walter Isaacson biography entitled Steve Jobs, he was abrasive and had terrible people skills and was among the worst managers/coworkers a person could have. Jobs clashed with almost everyone, and was actually fired from the company he created by the board of directors he’d handpicked because he was so difficult to work with. Ironically, they soon hired him back when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy, and the rest is history – literally his story.
God gave Steve Jobs a brilliant mind and the ability to move the human race forward in significant ways. Sadly, all that brilliance led him away from God. His colleagues at Apple said Jobs had what they called a “reality distortion field,” a term borrowed from Star Trek, which allowed him to think outside the realm of reality. In fact, some said he tried to bend reality to fit his own personal universe and his agenda.
Jobs himself felt he had the will to make impossible things happen, and often demanded things of people that they thought were impossible. And yet, they were sometimes able to deliver what he wanted despite their limited thinking. They talked about Jobs’ ability to believe almost anything, and not only convince himself, but also convince others to believe almost anything he said using charisma, appeasement, and persistence.
In some areas Jobs was quite stupid. He attended a Lutheran Church as a boy, but admitted turning his back on Christianity at age 13 when his pastor confirmed that God knew about the starving children in Biafra that Steve had seen on the cover of Life magazine. Jobs told Isaacson, “…different religions are doors to the same house,” and he embraced Buddhism after an extended visit to India as a college dropout. Entrenched in this philosphy, Jobs almost seemed to think that rules didn’t apply to him, even the physical and natural laws.
When it came to the spiritual, even knowing he was about to die, Jobs had no clue about what his future held. He said, “Sometimes I believe in God and sometimes, I don’t.” He told Isaacson that he wanted to believe that there was an afterlife so that all the wisdom he had accumulated wouldn’t just go away. His concern when facing death was that the mental strides he had made in this life would be lost, not concern that his eternal soul would be lost.
But then, Steve Jobs was a Buddhist, and the premise for that religion has little to do with God and everything to do with man. It teaches human development and reaching a state of bliss or “Nirvana” through meditation and enlightenment. Sadly, as far as anyone knows, he never accepted Jesus as his Savior. He never knew God and the peace that passes understanding, peace that comes in knowing what lies beyond death, confidence that the soul is safe in the arms of Jesus.
The thing that would be the ultimate example of his not-so-smart decisions was Jobs’ refusal to admit that pancreatic cancer was killing him. You have to wonder if he thought the laws of physical death didn’t apply to him, since he was able to skirt around and defy so many other things that seemed impossible. He refused for almost a year to have surgery to extricate the cancer because he didn’t want to open up his body. That’s not to say that this decision was wrong, but he would later decide (when it was virtually too late) to have the surgery that might have saved his life earlier. When he did finally have surgery, the cancer had spread, and he would succumb to it.
Steve Jobs lived with great panache and gained worldwide fame, yet he died without hope. He was ridiculously wealthy, and yet poverty stricken in the spiritual realm. And it was all vanity, as the wisest man Solomon said when he reflected on all his achievements. As the Scripture reminds us in Mark 8:36-37: “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”