Steve Jobs, “Occupy Wall Street”, and recreating the way we live

The outpouring over Steve Jobs death has been an almost unique experience in the western world in the past 50 years.  Why?

Jobs seems to personify the person who is “master of his fate”, the person who can create a future of his own imagination — a future markedly different from the trajectory that is commonly accepted.  He didn’t ‘distort’ reality, he changed it.  We know that the changes he wrought will endure and expand.

When so many people feel powerless, caught up in the machinations of “fate”, Jobs represented our preferred self-image — free-will, self-determination, creativity, energy.  He seems to be someone who invented, not simply devices but a different culture, and institutions, and ways of being in community.

When we consider the “Occupy Wall Street” phenomenon, or the Arab Spring, we see people who do not want to distort reality:  they want to make it markedly different from what it currently is.  The story of Steve Jobs is that he made (a big part of) reality markedly different from what it was.  His story may be the classic parable for our time.   Like any parable, his story should not be examined too closely.  Most of the people discussing his impact on us didn’t know him at all well enough to understand him on close examination.  But a parable is not a detailed story:  it makes one major point.  For us, perhaps, the one major point of Steve Jobs life is that humans, not institutions, can make reality markedly different from what it is.  Sometimes the person is a very singular individual; sometimes she or he is part of the whole that occupies Wall Street.  Change comes from – and with — people.

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