The outpouring of warm sentiments and fond memories on the internet today about the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a reminder that what we accomplish in this life is deeply colored by who we are. We are flawed, imperfect human beings. As T Thorn Coyle says, “You try to do good work in the world, and die when you die.”
This iMac computer that I write on is just a gadget, hardly better or worse than any other in the grand scheme of things. Many ethical and environmental compromises went into its making and marketing. Yet it has also opened up opportunities for conversation and community that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. It was with this machine that I wrote my first love letters to my husband, back when he lived 500 miles away. Yet it’s also with this machine that I daily find myself plugged in to a network of strangers and acquaintances with loud opinions who sometimes drive me to the brink of misanthropy!
Every object, every gadget and technology in our world holds within it potential for both help and harm. The same is true of people. Computers, smart phones, frivolous gadgets and toys for the rich can be transformed into objects of inspiration and possibility, thanks to the passion, vision and creativity of a single daring, dying man. The public remembers Steve Jobs fondly, as a kind of modern day magician and creative genius. And yet, he was most certainly one of the top 1% that “the 99%” participating in #OccupyWallSt are so angry at right now. We hold within ourselves that contradiction as well — we, who willingly give our money for gadgets that promise a better life, we who fume in anger at the concentration of wealth in a few hands and at the deferred dream of equality.
When I hold gratitude and anger in tension, when I try see my crazy-messy culture with open eyes, that’s when I discover that the strange, unexpected animal of hope is everywhere stalking the streets, licking her lips and smiling.