punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Steve Jobs and "The Spiderwick Chronicles"

I haven’t been able to shake something that's been haunting me since the passing of Steve Jobs. It’s something that Jobs said before he died.

Before his death, Jobs enlisted a biographer for the sole purpose of leaving his kids with “a better understanding of their father.”  His exact quote was:
"I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did." 
Something about his words reminded me of “The Spiderwick Chronicles.”  Briefly, one of the major plots in the story surrounds a brilliant inventor/scientist, Dr. Spiderwick, who is father to a young daughter.  This inventor “discovers” a hidden/invisible world that is enshrouded by ours (it helps that he lives near a forest, of course.) To “access” this world, he invents devices to see it, and he and his little girl attempt to co-exist with its various trolls, fairies and monsters (apparently common household items like peanut butter and salt are all you need...or was it honey and a perimeter of smooth stones? I can't remember.)  Caught up in his discoveries, one day he is literally “taken up” by fairies and his “taking” is witnessed by his helpless daughter.

David Strathairn as Dr. Spiderwick
Decades later, a new family, unfamiliar with Dr. Spiderwick’s inexplicable disappearance, moves into his awesomely creepy house and discovers his diary which contains his discoveries, inventions and various warnings.  When things go pear-shaped the person who they consult is Spiderwick’s daughter who is now elderly.  I won’t spoil the end for you, but needless to say, even though Dr. Spiderwick and his daughter discovered a magical world, and the former had devoted his life to it, what do you think the latter wished for through the years, more than anything?

You guessed it, all she wanted was to be with her dad.

I suppose I couldn’t help but wonder if this is how Jobs’ kids might have felt or feel about their dad.  I suspect something of this sentiment prompted Jobs to leave behind a written account of his life for his children.

Regarding Steve Jobs’ personal life, I don't know much else other than what he himself has said.  He was a very private man.  I live in Silicon Valley and whenever he popped into the Apple Store in Palo Alto, it never failed to be headline news.  And I truly appreciate his genius for inventions and his entrepreneurial skills, and I believe in reverencing the dead.  I therefore mean no disrespect at all when I say that if I personally, as a parent, had to select which of Jobs’s two legacies – his children or his innovations are more important, I would choose his family.  This is not to diminish his contributions to the world, certainly, and I'm not trying to imply that anyone is saying anything to the contrary; I believe that it was his love for his family which prompted Jobs to open up to a biographer to begin with.

The fact remains that, although I use Apple’s products, love Pixar's films, and work on a MacBook Pro, if they had never been invented, would my life still be just as wonderful (i.e. contain all sorts of lasting, non-temporal blessings) without them?  The answer, of course, is yes.

This is because, even if my iPhone or iPod did not, nor ever existed, I would still have the things that, I believe, matter the most: my faith and my family, especially my children.  If someone, long ago, had approached me and asked, "Would you prefer to have a gadget to ease your life at the expense of taking someone away from their family? Or to not have these things at all?"  Again, I would opt for his family above my own convenience every time.

It is therefore with some sadness that I've been reflecting upon Job's words regarding his children, but also with great hope that the love they share transcends any absence that might have been felt during his life and now also, in his death.  His words force us to beg the question, "Is any invention ever worth the time spent away from one's family?" I leave it to Jobs' own children to answer that question.

I have prayed for the repose of the soul of a such a putatively great man, and I continue to pray for his family.  May the family of Steve Jobs find peace in this time of grieving, and may the soul of Steve Jobs rest in peace.  Amen. 

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