My Chicago Home

My Chicago Home
How can we best live as modern, active contemplatives where prairie meets city?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs, Rest In Peace

My husband and I were heading to a coffee shop tonight to have a short business meeting about household expenses. Before packing up my Mac to bring along (to help track expenditures on Microsoft Excel), I opened my Safari browser, which automatically defaulted to the Apple home page. A portrait of Steve Jobs, in his trademark black mock turtleneck, stood dramatically against a stark, white background. I saw the "1955-2011" tagline, and knew significant history had just been made. 

Eternal rest grant unto Steve Jobs, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

For someone who knew little about this co-founder of Apple and Pixar (animation studio that produced kid's favorites like Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and Toy Story), I'm one of a fan club of millions hugely impacted by his work. I witnessed Catholic home mission EXTENSION Magazine transition from more manual laying out of "boards" to prepare pages for the printer, to using desktop publishing. We were among the very first Catholic mission magazines to use this technology. My wonderful editor Bradley Collins was positively intrepid in learning to use this technology and getting the magazine transitioned. He'd give his staff lessons, then encourage us to play around a bit with the Mac, until we were confident using it for design work. I experienced history in the making! I remember having to write ridiculously long codes in the early, pre-Mac days, just to typeset fonts into italic, etc, for every title, subhead and set of quotation marks. Tedious. Then, Macs arrived, and we all experienced a sharp learning curve! But the resultant leap in efficiency was fantastic.

I never foresaw in those early days, that such technology would one day be available to the average school child. Even packing up my computer to discuss bills with my husband, shows a climate shift in how technology now penetrates modern lives, down to the most mundane details. It's amazing how techie advances dreamed up by a brilliant "computer nerd" could impact the world. (As an interesting aside, Steve Jobs was adopted. Today, when one in three babies conceived are aborted, Jobs might never have seen light of day. But he was born in the 1950's, so the world received the benefit of his conception.)

Described by many as having a complex, driving personality, Jobs was known for insisting on functionality with elegance. My first reaction at seeing a Mac laptop was awe at its sleekness and ease of use. Two years ago, my husband thrilled me by taking me to an Apple store and suggesting we buy a Mac. With all my writing, he thought it would prove useful, versus our clunkier, older computers at home. What an inspired idea. With the Mac came an iPod touch. I didn't know quite what to do with it. My then-10-year-old offered to give me a few lessons, my other two kids filled in the gaps, and voila, the iTouch took up useful residence in my purse. Now it's fished out daily for keeping appointments in order, and I seem to discover new, handy uses for that little gadget all the time -- not to mention the fun of having a ready-made Scrabble game on hand for long car trips. When my kids tire of playing, I can always challenge the computer. 

As for my lightweight laptop, what an incredible blessing. Desperate for writing time a few weeks ago, I found myself up at 5:20 AM to walk my husband to the train for work. With 6:15 AM Mass offered at a church near the train station, it made perfect sense for me to pack along my computer, attend Mass, then head to a nearby coffee shop for an hour of writing before returning home to officially start my day. My little laptop slung in a backpack made this efficient use of time and portable office possible. I credit my Mac with starting me on the road to blogging, tweeting and writing more easily a young adult novel, now in final stages of editing.

Of course, it's all about balance. When I was a kid, it was hard enough to keep off the telephone and away from TV. Now we have devices like iPhone, iTouch, and laptops so miniscule they travel anywhere. Steve Jobs either invented or influenced much of this technology. I wouldn't want to do without it. I thank God for it! But I'm also determined to stay philosophical and detached. I want to be able to let go easily if I ever, for some reason, have to go tech-free. 

In the end, Mr. Jobs faced that challenge. All his technology couldn't prolong his life. This husband and father of four faced that final moment when all that mattered was himself and his Creator. His loved ones released a statement saying he had died quietly, surrounded by family. Steve Jobs, Rest in Peace.