What was important to Steve Jobs at the end of life may surprise you. The title isn’t a question. Writer Walter Isaacson has spent the last several years interviewing Steve Job’s to write Jobs’ biography. As Steve’s cancer took over his body, Jobs’ mind remained sharp, his physical abilities deteriorated. But that’s not what the book is about as you’ll see if you watch the CBS 60 Minutes interview of Isaacson. Part One of the interview here.
We’re reminded that Jobs didn’t write any code, he wasn’t even the best engineer. “He was a master at arranging ideas, art and technology in ways that repeatedly invented the future.” So it wasn’t Jobs’ words, nor his writings that intrigue us, it’s his person. How he lived leads us to want to know what was important when he was about to die. And that is because in our own minds, we wonder, “If I knew when I was going to die, would I change the way I live now? What would be important to me?”
I read about this book in last week’s copy of Time where Isaacson gives a two page preview of the book [subscription required] as part of a focus article on Jobs’ accomplishments. Summarizing the book preview, Isaacson writes,
“A few weeks ago, I visited Jobs for the last time in his Palo Alto, CA home. He had moved to a downstairs bedroom because he was too weak to go up and down stairs. He was curled up in some pain, but his mind was still sharp and his humor vibrant. We talked about his childhood, and he gave me some pictures of his father and family to use in my biography. As a writer, I was used to being detached, but I was hit by a wave of sadness as I tried to say goodbye. In order to mask my emotion, I asked the one question that was still puzzling me: Why had he been so eager, during close to 50 interviews and conversations over the course of two years, to open up so much for a book when he was usually so private? “I wanted my kids to know me,” he said. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
Interesting. One of the most recognized men in America needed a guy to write a biography of his life because it was important that his kids “knew” him and “understood” him. I plan to read this book, but I do so with a strange question I noted in an article by John Piper on the Desiring God website entitled, “He Kissed the Rose and Felt the Thorn: Living and Dying in the Morning of Life”
The strange question from Piper is, “Books about sinful men can deflect our attention from the main book about the sinless man. So is the writing and reading of such books a good thing?”
“The most important example in all of history of someone who did not publish any books and died young, and yet made an impact on the world all out of proportion to his short life, was Jesus Christ. He was about 33 years old when he was crucified. Today 1.3 billion people call themselves Christian because of his life and death and resurrection.
The key to this impact is two things, not just one. It’s always two things. First, and most important, is who he was—the sheer truth and power and beauty of the God-man. Being who he was created a movement in the world that is irrepressible. It was not his writing. He did not write. It was his Person, his spoken words, and his actions. His presence in the world was inescapable and unendingly powerful. That’s the first key to his impact on history.
The second—and there must be a second—is that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude portrayed his Person and work in writing. They did write. And by means of those writings, the reality and truth and power and beauty of the Son of God can be known today. If there had been no Person, there would have been no books. And if there had been no books, we would not know the Person. And we would be lost.”
If you get to the second part of 60 Minutes’ interview with Isaacson, you’ll learn that as Steve Jobs’ body inched closer to death, he became more and more hopeful for a continuance of life while still struggling with the idea that he was either “on” or “off” – in binary, that’s either “1” or “0”. Steve never did like the idea of being turned “off”, so he didn’t design products with an “off” switch.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Steve came to know the one Person who authors life and offers everlasting life. But it’s not because there isn’t a book describing Him. He wrote a book that not only tells you who He is and what He’s done, but it reminds you that He’s always been there for you – whether you believe in Him or not.