Farewell to the "King of Infinite Space"
For some people, becoming emotional – code for crying - in front of other people is taboo. Particularly if you're a male. Well, that's how I sometimes feel: I usually don't like to cry in front of other people, men or women. I think it shows a certain weakness. While maybe it doesn't, that's the way i was brought up, and it's ingrained in me.
I don't like crying in private, either. Same reason as above.
Still, I do cry, or at least tear up on occasion, and I almost did so a little last week, while I was conducting a photography trip, with Rosemarie Astwood as my co-leader, and a great bunch of photographers from around the U.S., and one from Japan.
While I was in Yellowstone, my wife was in North Carolina, visiting her sister and cousin and other relatives. After being out of phone range most of the day, I called Kathy when I got to our motel, and the first thing she did was to tell me that Steve Jobs, the "king of infinite space," as Shakespeare wrote, had died.
Apple Store Memorial to Steve Jobs, Salt Lake City, Utah
We had never spoken about Steve Jobs before, except in the most casual way. I knew, since he stepped down from leading Apple, that he was very ill, because nothing else could have pried him loose from his life's work. Only the coming of death could do that. My wife knew, though, that Steve Jobs was someone important to me. Terrible as it was, she knew I would want to know about his death. She knew, after all, my addictions to my MacBook, my iPhone, and my iPad.
During that day, before I learned of Steve Jobs' death, I had made hundreds of photographs with my cameras, including the camera on my iPhone. I managed to download most of my photographs onto my iPad while Rosemarie piloted the van, and I edited the photos with a few awesome iPad apps. Within minutes of downloading, I could share my photos with everyone in the van, which I hoped was inspirational and educational.
I began to realize the death of Steve Jobs affected me more than I first realized. While I love my Apple computers, in their various guises, it was Steve Jobs whom I cared at least as much about, and maybe more. He is my technological culture hero, as Galen Rowell is my adventure travel culture hero, and Lance Armstrong is my cycling hero. Each of them journeyed bravely through life, each faced adversity, and they all came out the other side of their journeys as better human beings. They made me want to sit down to write a story with my computer, climb a mountain with a camera in my hands, and pedal a bicycle 100 miles in a day.
I am glad I've been alive at the same time Steve Jobs was alive, when he created so many things that helped carry me through my journey in life. My first photography article ("How to Photograph a Ghost Town," for Outdoor Photographer) was created on my Macintosh Plus. I wrote and edited all the photos for my three books on my various Mac laptops. I've pedaled on my bike listening to music on my iPhone, my iPod Shuffle, and iPod Nano (which currently and most regrettably is lost somewhere in our house; that little Nano contains all of my favorite podcasts).
And now I'm writing this blog with the help of my MacBook, having just stolen the images of Steve (I just can't keep writing "Steve Jobs) off the Apple website, and after reading more about him on the New Yorker magazine app on my iPad.
Many more wonderful, amazing, formerly impossible things have happened in my life because of Steve. Truly, he made me think different, made me choose new paths in my life's journey, and made me rethink old ones. And he made me, as Steve advised in his famous commencement speech at Stanford, "stay hungry and act foolish" more than once.
After Kathy and I said goodbye, I joined my companions for dinner. Some had heard the news, and some hadn't. Suddenly, as we expressed our thoughts about the death of Steve, I felt an odd and old sensation. I felt as if I could cry.
My voice wavered a little, and I sucked in a deep breath to calm myself. I think I began to realize there would be no more iPads, no more iPhone, and no more MacBooks. My iPhone and MacBook and iPad were, in fact, part of Steve Jobs himself. There is no more Steve Jobs, there will be no more "magical and revolutionary" devices, as Steve described the iPad.
When Shakespeare died, I suppose there were those who said, "He was a wonderful playwright, but there will be others just as good, you wait and see."
Tom Stoppard is a fine playwright, so is David Mamet, and so is Edward Albee. None of them are Shakespeare.
If Steve Jobs had an antecedent in the world of technology, it must have been Thomas Edison, who was instrumental in the creation of, among other culture-changing products, the light bulb, the movie projector, electric-powered trains, and useful x-ray machines.
Edison died in 1931. The Macintosh computer debuted in 1984. Perhaps, with the ever-increasing pace of technology, coupled to the ever-growing population of humans, another Steve Jobs will come along in less than 53 years. Perhaps that person will arrive in time for me to enjoy the next insanely great technological leap that change and enhance my life's journey.
Goodbye, Steve. Or as someone long wrote long ago, parting is such sweet sorrow. The parting is sweet for all that you brought us, and sorrowful because you'll bring us no more. It's up to us now, and in truth, it has always been so.
If you haven't viewed Steve's commencement address at Stanford, here it is. This is the full version, with a wonderful – and a little long – introduction of Steve by the president of the university. Skip to the 7:30 minute mark if you'd like to go directly to Steve's memorable remarks.
Note: photos can be viewed in a larger size by clicking on any of them. The square images were made with my iPhone, the landscapes with my Panasonic LX5, and the wildlife images were made with my Nikon.