Steve Jobs on our shared mortality
Last month’s Wired UK Carried a host of mini-articles by various techie, business gurus and Apple groupies about the phenomenon that is Steve Jobs. One of the standouts though was Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, an account of his address at Stanford University in 2005.
Much has been made of the fact that he is a college dropout, a fact which would no doubt have enhanced his pleasure at giving a commencement address at such a prestigious institution. But in the course of his speech, he told just three stories. And the third was about death. His own.
He recounted the story of the diagnosis of his pancreatic cancer.
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. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
So true and honest. And yet, so not quite there… Is that all we have to live for in the face of our mortality…? What really ARE the ‘big choices’? Is following the heart really enough??
- For as Jeremiah has it: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)
- And as the Teacher put it: He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men (Eccl 3:11)
- As Isaiah has it: And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. A voice says, Cry out. And I said, What shall I cry? All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands for ever. (Isaiah 40:5-8)