Christian Living

Spiritual Life

An iEulogy for Steve Jobs

CBN.com As the world knows, Steve Jobs died recently. For many years to come, the assessments of his remarkable career will scroll down the screens of our lives. In fact they will be innumerable as his inventions and innovations. For he did not teach people how to speak, but taught how to communicate in new ways. And how to compose, to organize, to perceive, to create, to share… to dream in new ways. He simultaneously enabled people to realize the existence of new horizons, and believe they actually could reach them. And at the same time he developed of array of devices that drive people into “virtual” monastic cocoons.

Things he did in the tech world were not just innovations in concept or manufacture: they were seeds planted, sure to grow and grow… perhaps even in ways that America’s Dreamer-in-Chief would never have dreamed.

But another reason he will be written about with increasing avidity is the simple reason that, ultimately, very little was known during his lifetime about his lifetime. He was very private, which is refreshing in this celebrity-addicted culture. What do we know of the man apart from Apple, the iColossus catalog, Pixar? It is reported that Jobs was adopted, and that his natural father, an immigrant from Syria named Abdulfattah Jandali, never was able to receive responses from Jobs after reaching out by many letters and e-mails. Turning from the preceding to the following generation, Jobs fathered an illegitimate daughter whose paternity he denied for years, even swearing in court that he was infertile. He eventually acknowledged being his daughter’s father.

We know that he was a college drop-out. We know that he married Laurene Powell in a Buddhist ceremony at Yosemite. We know that they had three children. Some people are drawn to the fact – in this economy such things have relevance – that Apple did not start or subsist on government handouts and bailouts. We hear that he left at least four year’s worth of new ideas and agenda items as a part of his legacy. We also hear that he was a workplace monster, employed police-state tactics (on his staff, not the competition), and not only outsourced from the US to China, but that Apple’s exclusive factories in China were disgraceful, overcrowded sweatshops.

Speaking personally – and I love everything in the App Store – two impressive things about Steve Jobs’ life (personal, not professional) are that when he was fired from his own company in its “down” days, he persevered, believed in his visions – in himself – to the extent that he not only roared back, but roared back at the helm of his own, former, company. Further, at least from meager accounts, it seems that in nervous start-up days, periods of risky experimentation, good times, public skepticism, several setbacks, triumphs, wild adulation, harsh criticism… his wife and children always believed in him. Sycophants, stockholders, nor investors cannot replace such a thing. Without it, a man fights insecurity, emotional emasculation, and uncountable stumbling blocks in life. He was blessed in ways that were not apparent to the public.

Perhaps it was that precious gift that led to reports we have of Steve Jobs’ last days. The writer Walter Isaacson was chosen by Jobs to write a biography, knowing his days were numbered. And from what that book will tell, a priority of Jobs’ last weeks was to draw a few friends, but especially his wife and children, around his deathbed.

Isaacson quotes Jobs in his last meeting: “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

And a friend, Dr Dean Omish, quoted one of their last conversations to The New York Times: “Steve made choices. I asked him if he was glad that he had kids, and he said, ‘It's 10,000 times better than anything I've ever done’.”

Would billions of MAC users and iPhone, iPad, iTunes users (and on and on); would they exchange their toys and tools for the chance that Steve Jobs could have been closer to his kids, that he could have “been there” more often? It is an artificial alternative: it’s not a choice anyone has to make, but it sets us to thinking. It set him to thinking in his last hours. There were choices he made.

We come into the world naked, and we leave just about the same way. “Accomplishments” and resume aside, we just have our family on one side of the line, and eternity on the other. I don’t know the state of Steve Jobs’ soul. If biographers and friends write 100 books, I still would not know: that was between him and the Supreme Friend we can know, Jesus. Surely during his 56 years Steve Jobs had that choice presented to him.

Neither do we know the answer to a question that ought to challenge us. When he said, “I want my kids to know me,” and having kids was “10,000 times better than anything I’ve ever done,” were those the satisfied words of a man writing the codes of his last earthly chapters? Or an anguished cry of a smart man who could program everything except his own peace?

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This video is a tender song about that last but most important question we will have to answer. It is not the old hymn of the familiar title, but a recent song with an age-old challenge… and a tender invitation.

Click: Tenderly Calling

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Rick MarschallRick Marschall is the author of 65 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia magazine called him “perhaps America’s foremost authority on popular culture”) to history and criticism; country music, television history, biography, and children’s books. He was Managing Editor of Rare Jewel magazine, the Christian worldview journal of culture and politics.   
          Rick has been a faculty member of New York’s School of Visual Arts; Rutgers University; Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts); and the Summer Institute for the Gifted at Bryn Mawr University. He has spoken in Europe on behalf of the US Information Service of the Department of State; in 1995 was consultant to the US Postal Service for a 20-stamp set of commemoratives in the “American Classics” series.
          He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. His anthologies of vintage cartoons have won several awards in the US and Europe. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals; co-writing The Secret Revealed with Dr. Jim Garlow (FaithWords, 2007); and writing a biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series for Thomas Nelson. Rick was on the editorial staff of the 1599 Geneva Bible Restoration Project (Tolle Lege Press, 2007).
          In the Fall of 2011, Rick’s in-depth biography of Theodore Roosevelt, BULLY!, illustrated entirely by vintage political cartoons, will be published by Regnery History of Washington DC. Rick also edits the e-zine reissue of Harper's Weekly -- The Civil War Years. He is currently working on two devotionals for Tyndale House. Rick was named Christian Writer of the Year by the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference in 2007. www.mondayministry.com.

© Rick Marschall. Used with permission.

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