Genius


Among the many tributes and articles about the passing of Steve Jobs, Roger Black’s stood out for me this morning:

“And all of us Apple users are wondering what we’ll do without him. Will Apple be as good? How can they be as good? That genius, that leader, that great impresario who staged an exponential synthesis of culture—the very essence of great design—is gone.”

By its very nature, genius cannot be replaced. By the same token, it cannot be predicted. The individuals in Apple’s 1997 Think Different video appeared in our world, changed it forever, and passed. Their passing didn’t mark the end of change, or the end of genius.

And we never saw any of it coming. Who could predict Martin Luther King? Frank Lloyd Wright? Jane Goodall? Or any of the others. Just so, we won’t know the next genius until he or she lights upon us.

“…Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”
—Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford commencement address

Death cleared out Steve Jobs. That’s a harsh way to put it, but it’s true. No one will replace Steve Jobs, because that’s not the way it works. Genius is one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable.  All we have to look forward to is someone wildly unexpected and marvelous, someone who will change our world in ways that we could never have imagined.

Steve

I’m surprised at the depth of my grief.

I came late to the Apple party – my first Apple product was the 1st gen Windows iPod, a gift from my sister. Years later I started making websites and needed a Mac “for testing.” My black MacBook sits next to me right now. I finally replaced my PC last spring with an iMac, after years of wondering could it really be that different?

Different, yes. It took me a while to get it, skeptic that I am. But like many converts, I am now a true believer. (Two more iPods and an iPad have filled out my Apple family.) But what is that I believe in? Is it just a cult of personality, and now that Steve is gone my belief will fade? I don’t think that’s it.

What Steve Jobs did for the planet will be sorted out over the next few centuries. Last night over dinner, as I broke down and wept for the eleventh time, my husband Steve said that to him Steve Jobs was our generation’s Benjamin Franklin. (My) Steve described Franklin’s curiosity.

Curiosity. The word fit, and perhaps that’s what I admire most about Jobs, and what he has wrought. Steve was insatiably curious. Don’t settle for repeating what everyone else has done. Think different.

Some days I think that all the words have been written, all the paintings painted, all the notes played. No more. If Steve Jobs has taught me anything, and I think he has, is that there is always a way forward.

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
—Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement speech, June 2005.