Like many other geeks, I cried today.
It was the apple.com page that got me. I go there on a daily basis to drool over products, but today on the front page—in Apple’s typical minimalist style— they announced Steve Jobs’ end date: 2011. It was all that white space and emptiness around his picture that finally made me break down. I lost it.
In my years on earth, I’ve seen a lot of great people die, but I’ve never felt so deeply affected by the death of a stranger. It makes me reflective because my dad is battling cancer. And it also makes me sad because, when I heard the news of his passing, my fingertips were on Steve Jobs at the time … or a 15” titanium 2.5 GHz remnant of his genius brain.
I’ve been intimately involved with Steve for 16 years now. I’ve caressed him almost every day. I typed my first writing project on him, I made my first digital art creation on him, and for the last 10 years, I’ve made my income from his creations. Call me a massive geek, but his products have always made my heart skip a beat.
And now, Steve’s gone. But it isn’t a tragedy …
I talk about death a lot on this blog, and I sometimes wonder if readers are tempted to call 1800-NUT-HOUSE and order me my very own squad of strong men in white lab coats.
I ran a series called Holy Sh*t I’m Going To Die, featuring frank stories of vivid near-death experiences. By publishing these stories, I didn’t wish to scare people, or put them off travel and adventure. (Be warned, your phone and your bed are far more dangerous than sharks!) I only wanted to gently remind readers that death is always there, in the corner, lingering, ready for you. Yes, you.
A reminder of your imminent death is, in my opinion, a gift. I’m scared of a lot of things, and if I let fear in, it quickly takes over and kills my adventurous spirit. With practice, I’ve learned to ask myself:
What’s the worst thing that can possibly happen?
I can die.
Well … that’s going to happen anyway, right?
So, once again, what’s the worst thing that can happen?
The Oak Tree
There’s a huge oak tree near my house with enormous, muscular arms that reach up towards the sky, twisting and tangling in a mass of magnificent limbs. Every year, the lime green leaves turn deep olive, then brown and then, of course, they fall. A tiny gust of wind sends the fragile leaves to the ground forever.
As the chill of winter creeps into my bones, I wonder if the leaves will ever grow back. The tree is ugly without its costume of youth, and all seems wrong with the world. I want to take the leaves, paint them green, and tape them back on, one by one. This shouldn’t be, I tell myself. This is tragic.
But from a carpet of dead leaves, the oak tree feeds. Its muscles grow and it’s limbs—still leafless—reach further towards the sky.
Then, every year when the weather first warms, bright green leaves begin to unfurl. And almost overnight, the tree is adorning a brand new outfit of spectacular leaves, which jive and boogie with the breeze.
Steve Jobs has just fallen from the oak tree. All of us will eventually flutter down onto the same carpet of brown leaves—some sooner than others, but that’s okay. To feel sad about his loss is a good thing: it means he was loved. But it’s not a tragedy.
It’s never a tragedy.
Steve leaves behind his incredible artistry, and his legacy will offer continual nourishment for future generations. On Facebook and Twitter, a lot of people have been posting his nuggets of wisdom today. To me, that’s evidence that his rich nutrients are already soaking the earth.
“Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose” — Steve Jobs