Culture At Large

Steve Jobs - modern prophet?

Paul Vander Klay

Harold Camping, the would-be San Francisco Bay prophet, wasn’t all wrong. Late October 2011 brought Judgment Day to this world, but not as he predicted. No earthquake or rapture was required. God didn’t even need to show up to do the judging. We’re judging our own culture through debate over the life and death of Steve Jobs.

I’m beginning to think that Jobs is the boomer generation’s JFK. He so embodied their idealized narrative. Now, in his death, their lives hang in the balance. Will they be found wanting? Will the rest of us?

Look at Jobs' resume:

Wealth and success: Apple, Pixar, Macintosh, iPhone, iPod, iPad, etc.

Spirituality: Zen Buddhism, consulted with gurus in India, meditation, diet.

Adventurous youth: drugs, sex, grew up a techno hippie in the Bay Area.

Family: died surrounded by his loving family, lived in a “normal” home.

Made a dent in the universe: fulfilled the dream of expressive individualism as espoused in his commencement address.

“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. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

A respected pastor from my own denomination made this statement on Facebook: “You know who we ought to thank God for? Steve Jobs of Apple. He was an instrument of God without doubt.”

Now, with some time since his passing and the release of his authorized biography, “Jobs the Jerk” has become the defendant. Can we really have it all, success and niceness too? Is our lust for magic and power through technology destroying our ecosystem and exposing China’s character?

In the "60 Minutes" piece on the book, Jobs says this to the camera:

“I saw my life as an arc. And that it would end and compared to that nothing mattered. You're born alone, you're gonna die alone. And does anything else really matter? I mean what is it exactly is it that you have to lose Steve? You know? There's nothing.”

Where I think this is leading us is to an Ecclesiastes moment. Steve Jobs seemed to master all things under the sun, save death and himself. In the end, he finds “There’s nothing.” Apple will have its day, but that day will pass. He hopes the dent he leaves in the universe will be something other than beautifully designed e-waste. We are fixed on him today like the viewers of Truman Burbank of "The Truman Show," but once the show is done we’ll return to our baths, food and labors, which never end. How might his life arc have been different if resurrection had been part of his figuring?

When the Isaiah 60 ships from Tarshish arrive, Jobs and his gadgets may well be represented, but the man was a nihilistic Qoheleth. If this is the best we can do, we need a better prophet.

(Photo courtesy of Matthew YoheAido/Wikimedia Commons.)

Topics: Culture At Large, Science & Technology, Technology, Theology & The Church, Faith, Theology, News & Politics, Social Trends, North America