By now the world is well aware that Steve Jobs has died. As an avowed Mac user, an encomium for a man I never knew seems somehow appropriate. In a world where most religious leaders are known for their lack of vision and staunch conservatism (“Where there is no vision, the people parish,” to paraphrase Proverbs 29), Steve Jobs gained high priest status among technocrats for making the computer accessible. Even if you are reading this with a PC—thank your lucky Mac-OS-emulating Windows that you didn’t have to begin with a god-forsaken C-prompt—Jobs’ impact is part of your daily life. Although Mac has always been second fiddle in the computer market, Apple has always taken the lead in the gear: your iPods, iPhones, iPads, perhaps even the letter ”i” itself. We have entered the world of the Matrix, so much so that earlier this year it was reported that Apple fans experience a high like a religious encounter when they behold Apple’s mighty hand.
Nevertheless, a deep uneasiness overtakes me when I consider how helpless I am without my electronic accoutrements. When my laptop crashed last month, I was completely disoriented for about a week. I didn’t know what the weather was supposed to be like, who had tried to email me, and just how few people had decided to read this blog. I had become immaculated, and I was embarrassed. I miss the days of wandering carefree through the forest, concerned only about bears, cougars, and getting lost. Not having to wonder if there is an email I had left unanswered or if some new gadget had been invented, or if I had forgotten the birthday of someone I barely know on Facebook. No, electronic reality has supplanted actual reality. On the bus I’m nearly the only one who passes 90 minutes with a book. The glow of LCD screens peer like huge eyes in the pre-dawn of a New Jersey highway.
If it hadn’t been for Apple, I would not have joined the computer race at all. Back in college, several of my friends and I vowed we would not give in to the computer craze. I made it through my Master’s degree using an honest-to-God typewriter with ribbons, white-out and retypes. Today I can’t image how I ever survived all that. My wife first encouraged me to use a computer. She took me to the computer lab at the University of Michigan one Saturday and sat me in front of an Apple. “See, it’s easy,” she said. She was my Eve, offering me the bite of an Apple I’d never be able to put down.
We dream of building legacies, something to show that we’ve passed through this weary wilderness. Steve Jobs did not live to be an old man, but he has left a legacy. This blog, and countless others like it, would be inconceivable, were it not for his genius.