What comes to your mind when you think of death? I was intrigued in hearing Steve Jobs’ answer to this question in a 60 Minutes documentary on him entitled “Steve Jobs: Revelations from a tech giant”. Steve Jobs has had an impact on my life and millions by single-handedly revolutionizing how we use technology today. He was a world changer. “Jobs“, a film on Steve Jobs’ life, has just been released in theaters. In the 60 Minutes documentary, Jobs’ biographer, Walter Isaacson, reveals what Jobs’ shared with him on the topic of death and the afterlife shortly before Jobs died of cancer. From that documentary Jobs is quoted:
“Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50/50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about him more, and I find myself believing a bit more. Maybe it’s because I want to believe in an afterlife, that when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear…the wisdom you’ve accumulated, somehow it lives on.” Then he paused for a second and then said: “Yeah, but sometimes I think its just like an On/Off switch. Click, and you’re gone.” He paused, “And that’s why I don’t like putting On/Off switches on Apple devices.”
Here is a very candid admission about death from one of the most successful men in the world. Here was a man who was one of the most wealthy and successful people in the world, who had to reckon with an uncertain future, a bleak forecast of what happens after he dies.
I try to avoid thinking about death. In fact, I find that I am good at creating elaborate avoidance schemes of thinking about the reality that one day I will die. I stay away from the obituary section of the newspaper, I flip through news after reading too much of tragedies, and I plan remarkably too little for eternity.
It seems we live in a culture where wisdom on how to age well, how to die well, and how to deal with cancer is remarkably silent. Instead, we are bombarded with messages about how to stay young and feel like you’re 25 for the rest of your life. We can sell youth and beauty. We do it quite well. Most of our advertisements, movies, and products contain people in their 20s looking like they are having the time of their life. But we’re not good at selling aging, wrinkly skin or death.
Why are we obsessed with youth but silent on aging and death?
Perhaps it is the fear that we will be placed in a weak and vulnerable position like Steve Jobs, needing to admit that we cannot control life and death.
If Steve Jobs was not immune to death, you are not either. Will your life end like an “On/Off” switch or is there something more to life when you die?