Yes, another attempt to articulate sadness over the passing of Steve Jobs…
It is raining here in Northern California, the first really big storm of the winter.
Steve Jobs is dead. I know it seems trite, but I’m really sad. And it got me thinking – why am I sad? I never met the man.
But I did. And all of you reading this have met him. You know him through his works. And I am not just talking about gadgets. I’m talking about the mind and heart behind the gadgets and the reason why he created the world we live in. Jobs was truly moved by a vision of a world made better through technology. In my view, Jobs left us powerful tools that can be used to help ordinary people, even poor, uneducated people, to transcend their condition and rise to heights undreamed of prior to Jobs’ time on this earth. It doesn’t matter that most who use the technology Jobs envisioned and pioneered use it frivolously. The greatness of a tool is in its potential, and the potential of the tools Jobs gave us, even if not yet fully or even partially realized, is beyond our ability to imagine. All we lack is the will to learn how to use those tools.
John Birmingham over at Blunt Instrument compared Jobs to Ulysses and quoted the last part of Tennyson’s poem of the same name to express Jobs’ spirit of adventure and discovery. That got me thinking. If Jobs is Ulysses, then who are we? The answer was and is apparent: we are Telemachus, the son Ulysses left behind. And we, like Telemachus, are forced to wave goodbye, a little overwhelmed and knowing we cannot ever measure up to the man.
Thinking got me writing, and below is the result – a very poor attempt to answer Tennyson’s grandiose and romantic poem from the starker, colder – and, necessarily more prosaic – perspective of the son who must deal with what his father left behind.
I watch him sail away, this time for good.
The sun set pulls his withered crew onward,
beyond the rocks and out onto the deep.
I wave and smile, and the great Ulysses,
my father, waves, smiles and vanishes in
the distance, no different than when he sailed
for Troy – long ago, in another age.
He was gone for twenty years. Twenty years.
His horse crushed the siege; weary Greeks came home.
But he did not. Mother – his Queen – waited.
I stopped hoping. I stopped waiting – hating
my youth and weakness, crawling like a dog
through my own home, hiding from the jabs and
jeers of the suitors who mocked the King’s son.
I learned much about Man’s heart, soul and mind
watching those jackals fight among themselves,
worrying at the carcass of lost love.
I hated her for never losing faith,
for never doubting he would return,
for choosing not to end that long nightmare.
Then he did return. With legendary
guile and strength he slaughtered those animals.
My father broke their backs and cleansed our home.
My parents touched and all was well again.
I witnessed their love, unable to partake,
and knew this, too, was the stuff of legend.
When mother died his spirit disappeared.
Restless and aging, he looked to the sea
and gathered together the last remnant
of the heroes who shared his odyssey.
Gone now. They pass into a seeming dream.
Decrepit heroes sailing to their deaths.
I mourn the end of such nobility.
Their clarity of sight matched their greatness,
while our vision darkens with each day gone.
They walked with Gods, while we shuffle like brutes.
Yet it is they who set sail and leave when
demons of the soul remain to battle
and the everlasting night to vanquish.
Though we shall never leave this bitter land,
we work the greater work, should we so choose.
Justice is our quest; the State our vessel
and the Law our sword and shield. Come, my love,
it’s not too late to shape a brighter world.
The chamber waits; the slate is barely touched.
Though we lack that strength which in simpler times
our parents used to best heaven and earth,
we inherit the final battle field:
the endless wasteland of the human soul.
And we remain a base, bad tempered host
of malignant hearts, made noble by chance,
as we stumble, blind, toward paradise.