Jobs told "three stories" in his famous speech, and his last story was about "Death." This piece of advice pretty much summarized the story:
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.Prior to communicating this insight, intended to provide some individual guidance to the graduates on how they should conduct their lives, Jobs made a more philosophical observation:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because 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. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.This observation, it seems to me, is not only "quite true," its truth reflects an understanding of the world that sees our human lives as taking place within a natural environment that is, ultimately, more important than we are. We are the background, not the foreground, of the story. We get confused when we forget that "Death is ... the single best invention of Life."
It is no coincidence that our synthetic materials have a peculiar characteristic: they never die. In fact, it is this characteristic that makes them so toxic. Many of our other efforts, including our recently-invented GMOs, seem intended to achieve the same result: to establish a reality, created by us, that will never die. And we want to achieve that result for ourselves, as well.
Steve Jobs made great contributions to the human world that it is our delight to be able to create within the greater world that we do not create. Steve Jobs is leaving that world all too soon. It brings me, as so many others, great sadness to see him go; every day (in fact in this very instant, as I type this) I am empowered by the realities he helped to bring into existence.
I do think, though, that Steve Job's advice was good, and that his understanding of our place in the world that underlies that advice is not only "quite true" but is "profoundly" true. May we remember this, so that life can continue.