The goal is not to be the richest man in the cemetery … Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.
~ Steve Jobs
In my lifetime, I haven’t seen a person so much eulogized before death as Steve Jobs after he announced his resignation as Apple’s CEO. So much angst and sadness (including myself) over the sure passing away of one who was actually gone from the Apple scene for 12 years, until his “Second Coming” in 1996 to later reinvent high technology into a universal appliance. In the words of Michael Horton, is the world concerned about his well-being or about “what this means for the iPhone 5”?
His story, and that of Apple, is nothing short of wonderment. It started in 1976 when he and his friend Steve Wozniak successfully marketed the first PCs, turning the computer world upside down. Mac people used to ridicule the PC, “Windows 95=Mac 87,” which wasâ€”and stillâ€”really true because the Mac OS always seems to be years ahead of the PC. I secretly coveted being a Mac user, because I couldn’t afford it. And sure enough, due to its high prices, Apple eventually lost the PC market to the IBM world. Having been a user of both Macs and PCs, in the early 1990s, I used to discuss the downfall of Apple’s Mac line with a Mac enthusiast friend from Finland, and thought that Apple should just turn the company into another IBM clone maker to survive. It all changed in 2001 when Steve Jobs introduced the iPod, providing almost half of the company’s revenues. Through 2010, Apple has sold almost 300 million iPods worldwide.
Horton himself has written what sounds like a post-mortem to the Steve Jobs era, “Is Steve Jobs Dying for Us All?” musing on his life, his innovations, and his religion. He quotes Tom Junod’s Esquire article, “Steve Jobs is Dying for Us All”:
More than any other purveyor of technological products, Steve Jobs has seemingly translated his soul into machines meant to be immortal even when they are only as eternal as consumerist whim; now, at the very moment when the language of technological immortality is becoming most explicit â€” when he stands ready to translate himself and his company into â€œthe cloud,â€ with its promise of digital files backed forever by technology that never goes out of date â€” he is stranded, like Moses, in the land of the body, and its inevitable swift transit. â€œAnd one more thing,â€ he says, except this time there is no iPod or iPhone or iPad or iCloud to follow. There is only this unspoken plea, as his body changes within its still unvarying uniform of black shirts and blue jeans:Â Iâ€™m dying.
The logic of technology has always been offered as an answer to the logic of mortality; as it turns out, it is the same logic â€” the logic of inexorable advance. The logic of Mooreâ€™s Law turns out to have its biological analogue in the logic of cancer, and so it still reigns. Steve Jobs, in his career at Apple, reminded us that technological progress is but a human invention, subject to human hopes and human dreams and human choice. In his resignation â€” terrible and moving both for what it admits and for what it leaves out â€” he reminds us that technology doesnâ€™t answer death so much as it shares its preference for forward motion.
Dr. Horton writes that today’s Christian religion is not much different from ancient Gnosticism in its “enthusiastic impulse,” its vision of unmediated access to a “seeker-friendly” God and “liberation of the divine soul from its fleshly prison-house” of evil, “Think Buddhism, or the dogma of Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy that evil and even death are illusions. Indeed, the whole external world is illusory; itâ€™s mind over matter.” Steve Jobs’ Buddhism is well suited for his iPod, iPhone, iPad and iEverything technology
where the longing for virtual â€œcommunityâ€ and redemption from the drag of space-time embodiment can at last be fulfilled. Of course, itâ€™s secularized and packaged in colorful boxes, but the impulse is deeply religious and ultimately pagan. That is in no way to demonize the inventions or their benefits, but it does show that even the most â€œsecularâ€ realm of technology is bound up with a particular religious world-view.
In contrast to the Gnostic, Buddhist and New Age religions, the Bible speaks of both mind and matter as overcoming sin and death. In this “present age,” Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit to enable them to overcome sin. But in the “age to come,” they will overcome sin and death in both body (matter) and soul (mind). In this reunion, both elements of the human being, not merely the spirit, will be perfect. But Steve Jobs’ Buddhism or iThis or iThat can never accomplish the redemption of mankind. Only the death of Christ accomplished salvation from this present bondage to sin and death:
The Christian hope is not in escaping the limitations of embodiment, society, and history, but â€œthe resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.â€ The solution (resurrection) is as radical and real as the problem (death). From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible takes death seriously. It isnâ€™t an illusion. We donâ€™t transcend it in our inner, spiritual nature. Rather, itâ€™s the penalty for sin. Once the penalty was borne by Christ, believers have confidence that they too will share in his resurrection.
Resurrection? I wonder if that ever occurred in Steve Jobs’ mind. In a 1994 Rolling Stone interview, he humored, “Well, you know, the goal is not to be the richest man in the cemetery. It’s not my goal anyway.” But in a 2005 Stanford University commencement address, he was thinking of death:
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 everythingâ€”all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failureâ€”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. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
It’s not just him who would be dead soon; it’s all of us. But only Christ’s death is of the utmost significance and urgency to all mankind. You see, Christ, not Steve Jobs, is the one who diedâ€”not dyingâ€”for us all. HeÂ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Gal 1:4), andÂ “[gave] his life as a ransom for many” (Matt 20:28).
We pray that Steve Jobs will come to this conclusion before it’s too late.