Two weeks ago I came across a sign bearing a question that I had always implicitly loathed: “where will life take you?” I had never before considered the full implications of the question, but upon doing so I understood why I must never ask, answer, or consider it again. The fact that it is widely asked by job recruiters and motivational speakers does not detract from the fact that it surrenders control over one’s own life to circumstances and statistics. As a person who has never swum with the mainstream or been content to parrot convenient slogans, I’ve since come to ask of myself and others a healthier question: “where will you take life?”
Of people who live by and answer that question, few could be a more outstanding example than Steve Jobs. Had he asked where life would take him from his adoptive parents’ garage in 1976, it would have taken him nowhere, because it never takes anyone anywhere. In the bicentennial year of the United States’ revolution for the individual rights of life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak asked where they would take life. The technological revolution that Jobs then spearheaded would do more good for the world than all the saints and noble experiments and student ‘occupations’ combined could have ever hoped to achieve. In tribute to his 36 year tenure as one of the world’s most loved and prolific innovators, I offer what may be, but should not be, taken as an audacious claim: Steve Jobs was a good man – an objectively good man.
The superlative good of Steve Jobs was his unshakeable integrity, inexhaustible ingenuity, and boundless vitality which allowed nothing to come between him and his goals, and made no other man a means to his ends. He was a man in control of his own life and potential- a master of matter yet to be reshaped to further human values, liberate our time, and lengthen our lives. He accepted, if only implicitly, what is true, real, constant and objective about reality and presented mankind with products that dreams and gods cannot fathom.
A brief review of his contributions to our way of life can leave little doubt that he made a greater “dent in the universe” than he had anticipated; every time we carry our music library to class, every time we slide our fingers over hand-held computers, every time we watch a computer-animated movie, and every time our jaws drop at the latest Apple commercial, we can thank Steve Job for being the impetus behind many of the technologies that have made our world what it is and continue to propel it into the future. The Iphone’s FaceTime connects working parents to their children a mile or an ocean away. The Ipad 2, as demonstrated by a recent apple commercial, enables one to “watch a newspaper…see a phone call…and touch the stars”. The chills that I get from admiring his beautiful inventions, and the ease with which I can switch between my favorite playlist, a paused section of a movie, a political science lecture, and a Spanish learning podcast, are testament to the inestimable value and freedom that Jobs has added to my life, at a much greater expense than I could ever pay for the one Apple product I own: my Ipod. The technology born of Steve Jobs’ innovative spirit has placed the world and the universe in the palm of our hands.
Why do these things make Jobs a good man? Because they were his. His vision transformed our world and improved our lives without stepping on our toes or depending on our alms. He was a prime example of a man of boundless spiritual strength and proudly confident free will. Only an independent mind and free spirit as his could so inspiringly took control of life; the adopted child dropped out of college, spent many nights on the floors of his friends’ dorms, got fired from his first run at Apple, faced a life expectancy of 6 months, survived for much longer, but ultimately lost his battle with cancer. Few have so well salvaged and transformed such meager circumstances or remained as resolute. It would be difficult to imagine an average man accomplishing half as much in a life twice as long, because too many let life take them in average or unfortunate directions. Steve Jobs did not; to the very best of his ability he took life where he wanted it to go.
The example that Steve Jobs offered us to live up to was one of a lover and master of life, without guilt for his success or fear of his future. Jobs knew what it meant to be alive, and knew the supreme importance of pursuing one’s own happiness rationally and relentlessly. Such is the proper task for human life. While the best within all of us makes it possible, the best among us – the Edisons, the Wrights, and the Jobs – make it beautiful and more common.
It is in tribute to Jobs and everyone like him that I proudly carry an Ipod, turn on a light, board a plane, and slowly scan the skyline of New York City. I only hope that my salute has done justice to the man who made one of the most profoundly moral statements I have ever heard: “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…Everything else is secondary.”
Where will you take life?