The Zen of Jobs

I have never owned, or for that matter even touched, an iPad, iPhone, or iPod. I have never seen an Apple computer turned on, outside of a computer store. In regards to much of the technological innovation that Steve Jobs created, I guess you could say that I am iGnorant.

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. At least, I love using certain types of technology. I spend a lot of time in front of my laptop; however, I don’t necessarily need to understand exactly how it works. No geekhood for me.

I can’t say that I am a real big fan of the culture that Steve Job’s technology has unleashed. Whenever I venture out into our brave new world, I see folks walking around almost zombie-like, heads downturned, focused on the little box in their palm, or strolling through our communal reality impervious to what’s going on around them because they are self-contained, listening to another world through their ear phones.

Which brings up my biggest problem: whenever I see these people with their headphones on or wearing an ear-plug, I can’t help but think of the Bob Dylan song:

Well, you walk into the room
Like a camel and then you frown
You put your eyes in your pocket
And your nose on the ground
There ought to be a law
Against you comin’ around
You should be made
To wear earphones

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

Ironically Dylan was Steve Jobs favorite musical performer.

Anyway, it seems that human interaction ain’t what it used to be. Although I don’t think its improved much on the intimate, one-on-one level, I have to admit that Steve Jobs left his mark on this world. And despite my grumbling, I think he leaves behind a very positive personal legacy. I just didn’t follow his career or know much about him. Now I wish I had. I think he would have inspired me.

Think Different: A Mantra for Everyone

One thing I learned just today is that he was a Buddhist. According to an article at ABC News,

Jobs and his college friend Daniel Kottke, who later worked for him at Apple, visited Neem Karoli Baba at his Kainchi Ashram. He returned home to California a Buddhist, complete with a shaved head and traditional Indian clothing and a philosophy that may have shaped much of his corporate values.”

Robert Thurman, who met Jobs in the 1980’s is quoted in the article saying,

I wouldn’t say Steve Jobs was a practicing Buddhist. But he was just as creative and generous and went outside the box in the way that he looked to Eastern mental discipline and the Zen vision, which is a compelling one.”

Thurman makes some other good comments, one of which is to point out that by putting computers in the hands of everyday people, Jobs empowered them.  And there is the “focus and simplicity” that were the “foundation of Apple’s ethic.” Focus and simplicity are the hallmarks of Buddhism, at least in some forms, and, if we are to accept the idea that Buddhism influenced the way Jobs thought and conducted his business, we see how Buddha-dharma can exhibit a subtle and transcending influence on the world. I’ve not thought of it before but I think there can be no doubt that the innovations brought by Steve Jobs helped relieve suffering.

I knew Jobs had some health issues. But I didn’t pay much attention. Apparently, a few years ago he had a liver transplant. Pancreatic cancer got him in the end. Lately, when I hear of people succumbing to cancer it hits me right between the eyes.

Did I mention that Steve Jobs favorite musician was Bob Dylan?  Shows he had excellent taste in music . . .

The problem with earphones aside, I think we all owe him a debt of gratitude. So, thanks Steve . . . and peace, brother.

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night
In the violence of a summer’s dream, in the chill of a wintry light
In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space
In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand

– Bob Dylan


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