Steve Jobs died last week from pancreatic cancer. A man of incredible vision and creativity, Jobs clearly revolutionized the world with his inventions and innovations. One of my favorite Steve Jobs’ quotes was: “Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your inner voice.” His creative imagination seemed to know no bounds and his inventive efforts have dramatically changed the way we do business, educate, and communicate–much of which I believe has clearly been for the good of humankind. (I suspect from what I have read about him, however, that Jobs would have been a bit embarased by this cartoon.
Jobs’ passing invites sincere and well-deserved eulogies. It also opens up serious and worthwhile debate about the price of technology and the hidden costs to human community and relationships. I have found one of the most helpful commentaries to be that of Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent and Youth Understanding (with the attendant links he offers):
” … I don’t think I’d be able to do what I’m doing in the way that I’m doing it if it hadn’t been for the vision, creativity, and work of guys like Steve Jobs. That said, the outpouring in reaction to his death had me tossing and turning a bit overnight.
Most of the reaction I was following came from the world of youth ministry. That’s where I’ve lived for the last 30-some years. Naturally, the tweets I saw came from all over the youth ministry world. I was seriously blown away by how widespread the response was. I saw it on Facebook too. I can’t ever remember a more immediate and widespread response to the death of anyone. Granted, if all this stuff had existed when Mike Yaconelli died several years ago, I wouldn’t have heard about it several hours after the fact through a phone call from my friends at Youth Specialties. This left me pondering not so much what Steve Jobs meant to people in my youth ministry world, but how much we’ve come to love and depend on the technology guys like Jobs created. Several weeks ago the church lost John Stott – a great theologian who has done more to directly and indirectly shape the faith of our youth ministry world than maybe any other theologian of the last 50 years. Judging from the traffic – or lack thereof – on Twitter and Facebook, Stott’s passing was a small blip. . . especially when compared to the passing of Jobs. So I’m asking and wondering. . . do our reactions to both indicate what’s more important to us in the church. . . technology/tools or the content of our message?
Some words from Marshall McCluhan are fresh on my mind as I’ve been looking at his 50 year-old “prophecies” on media and technology and what they do to us without us even knowing it. Consider these quotes from McCluhan that I shared with youth workers in San Diego last weekend in my Digital Kids seminar:
“Societies have been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.”
“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical and social consequences that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the message.”
“We shape our tools and afterward our tools shape us.”
Steve Jobs’ death is sad, very sad. But I’m wondering if there’s something even more heartbreaking about our response to it and what it says about us. AP writer Pamela Simpson’s piece this morning included these words: “Fans for whom the Apple brand became a near-religion grasped for comparisons to history’s great innovators, as well as its celebrities, to honor the man they credit with putting 1,000 songs and the Internet in their pockets.”
Have we been lulled into worshipping the tools and their makers? Thoughts?”
Mueller had some powerful responses and I would invite you to read the next day’s post. Mueller …