Why Do We Care About the Spirituality of Steve Jobs?

Our fascination with Steve Jobs continues in the wake of his death. From the bestselling biography by Walter Isaacson to the poignant eulogy penned by his sister, Mona Simpson, Jobs’ influence seems to be extending beyond the Cult of Apple. Simpson wrote that Jobs’ last words were, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” A flurry of speculation about the spirituality of Steve Jobs followed.

Do his words suggest that he was ushered into heaven? Did the beauty of the afterlife cause Jobs to crossover in a spirit of wonder? And perhaps most of all, why are we paying so much attention to Steve Jobs’ spirituality?

Our hope in science to cure all that ails us has been usurped by leaps in technology, particularly the entertaining options found in the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. Steve Jobs has provided the soundtrack (or at least the ease of playlists) to accompany our wait for designer genes. And he delivered upgrades with such regularity that progress seemed inevitable (even amidst an economic downturn). With each product rollout, we focused on the new gadgets in his pocket rather than Jobs’ increasingly gaunt appearance. The tablets he offered suggested that like Moses, he had dialed into the ingenious mind of God.

While Jobs’ death could occasion moments of reflection on our own mortality, we have leaped beyond to Jobs’ enduring fame. A billionaire who could remind us that “You Can’t Take It With You” instead becomes an example of how technology cozies up beside us, eager for our attention. Those vibrations emanating from our iPhones are strangely comforting. The glow of the iPad beckons us to even greater apps, equipping us to paint, draw, and create with childlike glee.

Maybe Steve Jobs took us back to the garden or at least to a time when work still felt like play. Having recently toured one of Jobs’ original playlands, Pixar Animation Studios, I can testify to the childlike spirit animating the workplace. On a Friday morning, the cereal bar was humming with Pixarians eager to fire up their MacBooks. They gathered around their screens with genuine enthusiasm. They were shooting practical jokes for their co-workers’ birthday on an iPhone. A spirit of spontaneity prevailed even amidst feature films that take five diligent years to create.

The merging of form and function in Steve Jobs’ vision suggests a harmonious future when Adam’s curse will be reversed. Our work will be our play. Those gleaming Apple products already have sparked a few beauteous bursts of “Oh wow.” Perhaps our fixation on Steve Jobs’ spirituality springs from the foretaste of glory divine he already delivered from the technological mountaintop.

Craig Detweiler directs the Center for Entertainment, Media, and Culture at Pepperdine University, and his latest book is Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God.

Category: Q&A

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3 Responses

  1. Baker says:

    Good example. Like many spiritual paths it was the inside out approach he took to his work that truly made a difference.

  2. “The merging of form and function in Steve Jobs’ vision” was greatly flawed from the beginning by the ‘out-sourcing’ manufacture of the products Apple created, subjecting mostly Chinese workers to abject conditions that should not be allowed in any civilized country. But out of sight out of mind! To presume the Mr. Jobs was spiritual is just a PR illusion. Anyone in such a position finds that success in the most predatory capitalist fashion.

  3. [...] But regardless of how we want to view Jobs’ version of Buddhism, there is still the question that Craig Detweiler asks asks at Science and Religion Today: Why do we care? And he might have the answer: Maybe Steve Jobs [...]

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