Posted by: smstrouse | August 27, 2011

The Mortality of Steve Jobs

I don’t know Steve Jobs. But I’m writing this post on my beloved iBook.  An antique, I know. I haven’t upgraded in five years. I don’t have an iPod, an iPhone, or an iPad. So I’m obviously not your rabid iGeek.

But I do know human frailty and inevitable mortality. The writer of Ecclesiastes said it best: As they came from their mother’s womb, so they shall go again, naked as they came; they shall take nothing for their toil, which they may carry away with their hands.”

I know, I know – he hasn’t died. But you might think so, the way he’s already being eulogized. The fact is that the man is ill.  He’s fifty-six years old and battling serious threats to his health which have forced him to step down as CEO of Apple.

It is always sad when bad things happen to good people.  I guess fifty-six wouldn’t be considered one’s ‘prime,’ but if you love your work and know you still have visions to be actualized, then it is still the prime of life. There’s no doubt that Steve Jobs is a man of vision and talent. But he is, alas, a mere mortal, and one being forced to deal with his mortality in a way none of us would wish for him.

Though it seems this is not a new realm of thought. In his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, Jobs said:
“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 everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Maybe that’s a reflection of Job’s Buddhist beliefs. Still, I know that in my experience – even as a Christian who believes that death is a part of life and not to be feared – it’s a major jolt to my system when I’m confronted with my own or someone I love’s mortality. It’s one thing in theory and another one in practice. My gut reaction is usually to revert to cries of ‘It’s not fair!’  Whether you’re Job or Jobs, I think it would be only natural to have some feeling of ‘Why me?’

But of course the answer is ‘Why not me?’  The rain falls on good and bad alike. The hurricane bearing down on the East coast will make no discrimination about anyone’s worthiness, no determination of what’s fair and unfair.  Despite what some conservative Christians might want to believe, God is not some kind of cruel overlord, sitting in some far off place pointing to one and turning thumbs up, and then to another with thumbs down. That makes no sense, especially as we see the devastation of the drought in East Africa. Talk about unfair.

So, no matter what Steve Jobs’ belief system, I do hope that he’s got a good support system to help him deal with this huge issue. I hope we all do. Because we’re all going to have to face it sooner or later – from the least of us to even the living legends of our time.



  1. “Maybe that’s a reflection of Job’s Buddhist beliefs.”

    At first, I was confused…I didn’t realize that Job held Buddhist beliefs (though I guess that’s possible); my knowledge of Buddhism is rather small. Then, I figured it must be a misplaced apostrophe: “Steve Jobs’ Buddhist beliefs” could make sense. Then, four sentences later, you mention both Job and Jobs…back to not quite clear again.

    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)”

    I love that verse. I’ve learned to say that to myself whenever things start to go wrong. And then give some attention to the really great things that are still there (for me, it is Sophia Marie). We are sometimes ready to fear that God is working against us, but for God’s people, even that which seems horrible is for good. God never thinks evil towards God’s people; the evil that they encounter, God means it for good, and will work it for good. God cannot think otherwise because of God’s everlasting and unchangeable love for them. God IS love. (See Augustine’s description of the Holy Trinity.) God has so much good planned for them, and promises them an end better and brighter than they had ever hoped or expected. I can’t see ahead of next week, but in hindsight, whenever evil has struck, something even greater than the loss has (at least) sprouted.


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