On Being a Visionary

I suppose you've heard that Steve Jobs, the founding visionary of Apple Computers, died this past week from  pancreatic cancer. When I heard the news, I couldn't help but think of my friend Joe Vitello. Joe and I carried on a good humored "Mac vs PC" argument for years, long before Apple came out with their commercials. It bugs me that "Mac" is the cool guy in the commercials, but then Joe was much cooler than me-- he once played drums for Carlos Santana; I once owned a Santana cassette. I also thought of Joe a lot because, like Steve Jobs, Joe died of pancreatic cancer eleven years ago.

I start most mornings skimming through the headlines on Google News and CNN. Both of these have been dominated recently by articles on the life, accomplishments and death of Mr. Jobs. In fact, Michael Oher, the Baltimore Ravens football player featured in “The Blindside” made the news because he had the audacity to admit that he had no idea who Steve Jobs was! For a time the media was all Steve Jobs all the time. Now, I love my iPad and iPod, and I will get an iPhone just as soon as one's available for the $35 a month I’m paying now. But even as an Apple admirer, I was amazed at all the press his passing generated. Some of it was likely due to the fact that no one really realized how really sick he was (some thought he'd make a "one more thing" appearance at the iPhone media event the day before he died).

In the midst of all the Steve Jobs retrospectives that I skimmed, the following post from Brett Harrison on his “Aliens and Strangers” blog caught my attention. (Thanks to Alan Smith for pointing me to this).

I don’t know much about Steve Jobs. Frankly, neither do you. That’s what seems strange to me about our world’s response to his death. We collectively mourn for a man with whom we never shared a meal, a man with whom we never had a conversation.

I’m not suggesting death shouldn’t sadden us. But we do this every time someone in the public eye passes away. Are we grieving the death of Steve Jobs? Or are we simply celebrating the technological advances he brought us — and calling that celebration sorrow, masking our love for things with tears for a man?

I am full of sorrow, though. I recently read this article, which explains why Jobs, on his death bed, authorized a biography to be written about him. Here are his words: 

I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why…” 

I am sad for Jobs’ children. And I am equally sad for a nation who praises and glorifies a man simply because he achieved much in the world of business and technology. That’s a polite way to say it, I suppose. Maybe it would be more accurate, or at least more pointed, to say it this way: I am saddened that we worship a man simply because he gave us phones with touch screens. (Well, look on the bright side: at least we don’t place undue importance on the athletic achievements of 18 and 19-year olds.) 

How I wish our society honored those men who love their families with a love that is second only to their love for God.

I think he nails this pretty well.  No one is really a "visionary" if he allows his children to grow up needing to read a book in order to know their father.