Steve Jobs and I went to the movies this weekend. It was the new Woody Allen one, the one where he remade Manhattan only in Paris. I think Steve likes these get togethers because he knows how right I always turn out to be. Me and the other 250 million people just like me.
Steve Jobs is like everybody’s big brother. He isn’t trying to do what’s right for us, he’s just doing the right thing. Sometimes it can come off arrogant, but so does my big brother when he says something in that particular way. The only thing he’s got extra is that couple of years of experience, the next two or three turns around the park that separate the men from the boys.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his period of greatest achievement came as he grappled with mortality. Before then, he was tilting at his own windmills, the missing years when he was exiled from his laboratory, banished to boarding school as his parents took over and ran the ship aground. But when he came back he had the gravitas necessary to not make it about himself but rather what he wanted to get done.
Before then, it was about fashioning the future out of the rough clay of an emerging creative culture. Drafting on a miraculous culture that spawned Dylan and the Beatles, Jobs and Wozniak were astronauts testing out unlimited possibilities. Like some combination of Lennon and McCartney and George Martin, Brian Wilson and Hendrix, Dylan and The Band, these guys made a brown album, a white one, failed, went electric, back from the ussr, rosé from the dead, sang with the Dead, disbanded, blew their minds out in a car, God Only Knows.
And then, just when we thought it was over, just one more thing became the mantra. A different time, a different more self-controlled era, one of possibility but careful ascension of a logical series of steps. A calculation of checks and balances, building one thing to fund another, learning how to pivot as the entropy of the deliberate provided an opening for elegance. A seeming indifference to the enterprise while all the while producing a generation of consumers who backed into power.
Jobs is not a child of the ’60s, but he has inherited the family business. Having used the legacy to build an adult toy based on the music of his youth, he harvested the audience and connected them via the phone, broke the carrier’s hammerlock, and changed the firmware from CD to DVD to iPad and WiFi. Just as Dylan broke the song barrier, Jobs created the new record, razor and blades, a wirelessly streaming living album that wraps, informs, emits, and shares our lives.
Sure we’re afraid, afraid to grow up, afraid not to. We watch in awe of what can be done so quickly and so immensely satisfying in the reaction to it, the joy of getting our hands on the next in a series of impossible objects — Pet Sounds, a Day in the Life, even the president of the United States must stand naked. Kind of Blue, Back to Black, impossibly beautiful with a glint of something hard to pin down, dark and deep.
We see our own possibilities in Steve Jobs. We are not afraid of losing him but of having to make things happen ourselves. And like the big brother he is, he loves us and we him for not laying the sins of the father on us but giving us the high sign to get on with it. It may be a slow fade ahead but he’s doing even that with a fierce grace. As we enjoy his work, he is rewarded in the best way he could possibly imagine.