HolyCoast: He Cared for Humanity, but Not for Humans

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

He Cared for Humanity, but Not for Humans

That's how Tim Challies describes the late Steve Jobs after a review of his biography.  I found this analysis by Challies interesting:
Let’s get one thing out of the way up-front—the thing that has been the subject of thousands of articles and blog posts in the week since the biography was released. Steve Jobs was not a nice person. In fact, he was often downright horrible, bearing lifelong grudges, throwing tantrums and berating the people who worked for him and with him. He seemed to have a binary view of the world where some things were wonderful and other things were horrible; there was little space between. He despised the mediocre or even the merely good. He used his keen intuition about other people to find and then exploit their vulnerabilities in a way that maximized the hurt he could inflict upon them. He was a brutal boss and a brutal man. He was the kind of man who would praise his own parents for adopting him and then pretty much abandon his own daughter.

While examples of his temper and tantrums have been widely discussed and dissected, I think a lot of people have missed the root of it all. Jobs was a lifelong student of Eastern religion and Zen Buddhism in particular. Along the way he became convinced that he was an enlightened being, that he existed on a higher plane than most people. From this exalted position he was able to see and to judge; he had the right to. He was able to stand, if not in the place of God, at least in the place of a judge. He felt that it was his right to speak the truth—the truth as he understood it—to others. After all, he was enlightened and they were not. His arrogance knew no bounds.

A brutal man with a terrible temper and a genuine god complex, he was also a man who drove people to new heights of innovation and creativity. As much as people hated to receive a tongue-lashing from Jobs, they knew that in the end he motivated them and pushed them to do better. And this is a crucial component of the strange legacy of Steve Jobs. He will forever be known as a great innovator and a man who lived at the crossroads between the humanities and the sciences. In his own field and in his own way, he sought to make the world a better place. But he did so at the expense of so many people whom he left abandoned and brutalized. It’s like he cared for humanity but not for humans, for mankind but not for individuals.
Challies closes his piece with this:
I learned earlier today that Steve Jobs’ last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” What I wouldn’t give to know what it was that he understood or perceived in those last moments. I wonder if he finally understood futility, that in all of his creativity, in all of his enlightenment, that he had missed the truest light of all.
Read the whole thing.

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