Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

This week marks the passing of a great mind. Steve Jobs successfully turned technology into an art form.  In doing so, he brought several iconic objects into the lives of millions of people around the world, enabling them to get to an intersection of the information, entertainment and communication realms. All of this with the swipe of one’s finger. His creations were brilliant masterpieces of industrial design, transforming complex engineering into simple and intuitive experiences. The user interface, or the “mind” of his products such as the iPhone, mesh seamlessly with their outer casings. 

Some of his greatest works came to fruition after he was diagnosed with cancer. Physical limitations did not hold back his creative genius. In the collective human consciousness one cannot erase the memory, however faint, of the Wright brothers whenever an aircraft takes off from lands somewhere in the world, or of Thomas Edison whenever the darkness of night is lit up with light. Steve Jobs will undoubtedly remain in our memory, and in the memory of generations to come, for his unique contributions.

It was not uncommon for him to speak on the subject of death, even in his younger years. Some of his quotes regarding death are simple yet profound:

“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.”

“...almost everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure-- these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something...”

Death is the inevitable conclusion of life that we get to experience only once, and one can only wonder what might be the final thoughts of people before slipping into this permanent state. In death, mind and body cease to exist, deep sleep is a temporary form of death where mind and body seem nonexistent. In sleep, tired bodies and minds slip into subconscious realms only to emerge a few hours later in a rejuvenated state. In both instances, one permanent and the other temporary, trials and tribulations of one’s life fade into oblivion.

It is an interesting experiment in self analysis to observe the last lingering thought before one slips into sleep. Perhaps it is a different thought everyday. The first step is to identify the exact instant when we go from being awake and conscious to falling asleep. Just as an aircraft’s wheels lift off taking one from solid ground to flying in air with no apparent support, one goes from apparent “reality” of the waking state to the subconscious state. As you fall asleep, clear the mind by telling yourself that every worry that the mind brings to your attention is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things and what remains is the most important companion - peace of mind. Visualize the body and mind in the awake state as a tightly wound coil spring that needs to come undone prior to sleep. Rather than depending on sleep to achieve this relaxed state, just before sleeping mentally undo this coil spring with slow deep breathing to achieve greater relaxation in sleep. Just as the iPhone has one external button that controls the device, this sense of peace or lack of it controls one’s existence. Clearing the mental data bank of worries on a daily basis prior to falling asleep may have a long term cumulative effect in helping one achieve peace of mind.

Despite leaving his mortal coil, Steve Jobs will continue to live on in the minds of people who enjoy the gifts he has left with the world.  May his soul rest in peace...