Savvy business people, high-tech geeks and the popular culture at large have known and respected Apple Founder Steve Jobs. However, Steve Jobs’ passing is bringing him to new levels of iconic fame and god-like celebrity. The public’s response may reveal more than the passing of a modern day legend: it may signal the advent of America’s newest societal enlightenment.
Let’s face it. People die every day. During my lifetime, I’ve experienced the passing of JFK, RFK and MLK, Jr. I’ve witnessed the departure of pop culture idols like Elvis, Michael Jackson and movie legend John Wayne. I well remember the shocking murder of ex-Beatle turned peace activist John Lennon.
Yet not since the death of Princess Diana has the public reacted with such a peculiar adoration and a sense of respect and reverence. Diana connected with the public beyond her external beauty. Dubbed the People’s Princess for physically visiting poor and disenfranchised around the globe, Diana’s empathy and compassion resonated with us beyond her royal title. Yet there is something about Steve Jobs that strikes an even deeper, collective chord, transforming him into near saint-like status only moments following his death.
Steve Jobs was neither statesman nor politician. He wasn’t a rocker, a religious leader or even a flamboyant personality. Neither was Steve counted among royals in bloodline, marriage or pedigree. Yet the nature of this quiet and thoughtful man, captured for posterity in a rare, 15-minute disclosure of the three biggest lessons he learned in life before Stanford University’s 2005 commencement class, has stirred hearts and souls as few other lives have – or could.
I’ve spent years studying the lives of great people - everyone from government leaders to pioneers, visionaries to inventors, and sports stars to legendary entertainers. One of my earliest memories dates back to age 9, when I consumed an entire series of biographies from our public school’s 5th grade classroom. I found each book opening a new world for me as I transformed to intimate spectator of a giant in the making. Each biography provided me with a time capsule where I could join each personality in his or her cultural, social and economic environment. Every life contained opportunities and limitations, moments of elation and disappointments of equal depth. Reading each of these personal tales provided me with adventure, learning, life lessons and a bit of wisdom.
So it’s from that perspective that I find myself pausing over the impact of Steve Jobs’ life and why his passing feels significant to us as a society. Steve Jobs will no doubt be studied, revered and talked about for his business acumen and contributions to technological innovation; however, he’ll be treasured for reasons more sublime. The quiet and unpretentious man who followed the loves of his heart while living daily in the awareness of death brought sincerity to the forefront and eclipsed much of what we otherwise esteem in life.
We will undoubtedly remember Steve Jobs as the genius who brought us the iPhone, iPad, iTunes and even Toy Story. We’ll celebrate Steve as an innovator in technological community. Yet we’ll reveal something about ourselves as a society as we remember the unassuming person who, in exposing his own vulnerabilities and failures, followed his dreams and established a standard for us to do the same. If we want to lead a life of personal greatness, it should now be one step easier to accomplish. Steve Jobs has already been the App for that.
Maura Sweeney is an Author and Public Speaker.
For Maura's Amazon book series, click here for The Art of Happiness.