A few weeks ago, Apple took the covers of the much awaited new iPhone. It didn’t quite live up to all the hype (iPhone 5 anyone?) but did mean that Apple remain top dogs in the Smartphone market. Much less eagerly awaiting was the news a day later that Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple had died after a long struggle with pancreatic cancer. Even his enemies admired his bullish determination and technological savvy.
Steve Jobs was undoubtedly a prickly character, as testified by many who had to work or trade with him. In the height of the battle between Apple and Microsoft, the adage was that Microsoft had terrible software but a very amiable CEO (Bill Gates), while Apple had great software but a nightmare for a CEO. He was intense, driven and totally single-minded, which is why in many ways, Apple products turned out so well. They weren’t designed by committee, they were designed by a PR genius. Steve Jobs had a knack of knowing what people wanted when they didn’t.
As the new of Steve’s death spread across the web, the talk he gave when he was given an honorary degree at Stanford Uni went viral. In it he expresses his philosophy about life, death and everything else. Here’s a quote:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
He’s right about the first bit. No one wants to die, or few people do, but I think he’s terribly wrong about death being the single best invention in life. The reason no one wants to die is because death is the ultimate enemy, not a great invention. In fact, ironically, the death of Jobs has meant the techie world will be worse of without him for many many year. Death has a nasty habit of clearing away the best as well as the worst. Death is always unbelievably tragic.
I also think he’s wrong when he says that no one has escaped death. The Bible’s view is diametrically opposed to Steve’s. The hope of Christianity, the central hope is that death is not a full stop, it’s not the end, but a beginning of something greater.
The great news of the Christian gospel is that everything sad will not remain sad, but one day come untrue. Tim Keller notes that right at the end of the Lord of the Rings, there’s a brilliant insight into the Christian hope:
In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” (Tim Keller)
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