Xmas/New Year - When God gave man hyperbole.
How good to be able to blog again, to slog around in syntax and subtext. In fact, I have been muzzled for several months. Forbidden by legal counsel to blog or give interviews because of a legal
contretemps with a publisher. (See earlier blog: SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY.) But soon there will be closure, all will be well again.
Although a hairy, little seer in diapers has recently stepped from a cave on some far mountain-top and announced that the world will end in May. Oh, really? In fact, the world as we know it ends every day, is radically transformed with each birth, each death.
In 2011, we were radically transformed when we lost a force, a Messiah, for which the obituarial scribes are still scrambling to find adequate language. I met Steve Jobs some years ago before he was diagnosed with cancer. You might say he was in his prime. He had already magisterially transformed major industries, like computing. But there was still the iPod, iPhone, iPad to come. He had not yet altered the entire planet.
He was still black-bearded then, not gray, semi-virile looking in that perennial tight turtleneck. Eternally Goth in black. I hadn't seriously crossed over yet to electronic publishing, I was hanging with a Big 6 print crowd. So I had only a vague idea who Steve Jobs was. Some genius hacker-inventor. Another 'nerd.' But even across the room, across that vast reception-crowd, one could feel his intensity, so strong it was like the pull of gravity. It looked like men were spilling blood trying to get next to him.
I remember his face. Even when he smiled it was like he had two faces, a stern, bespectacled, intell-ectual's face, superimposed over a wider, sort-of-handsome, sort-of-sexy face. But even then, surrounded by ecstatic fans, he seemed not fully focused on the here and now. His brain perhaps at play in more celestial spheres - mobile-computing, the coming cyber-wars.
By 2011, I had become a cross-over, a hybrid-writer still published by one of New York's big publishing houses, but - as the Big Malaise set in, and print-income drastically declined - I was now also dipping my toes into electronic self-pubbing. And slowly I came to appreciate and revere Steve Jobs, the semi-sexy 'nerd' across the crowded room, the man they were now comparing to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The man they say will be forever unmatched in the modern history of innovation. (For starters, think how he has affected computing and telephony.) Again, there is not yet an adequate language to describe his feats.
But what Steve Jobs did for me, and you - for all writers - is something much more personal. He invented our freedom. He created the means by which we are each in charge of our destiny. As self-published authors - ebook and print - we are the uber-independents, high plains drifters of the digital age, high-tech entrepreneurs answering to no one. A natural progression. Jobs was the role model and reigning avatar for a whole generation of entreprenurial rookies - Bezos, Zuckerberg, etc. ( many of whom became million-and-billionaires. )
Addressing a college-graduation class, he spoke of the period when he was fired from Apple and spent more than a decade in the wilderness, battling depression and trying to stay afloat. He described how, after the 'heaviness' of being successful, he eventually experienced the pleasure, the 'lightness' of being a beginner again, less sure of everything. "It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life." He was eventually rehired by Apple, the rest is history.
By the time of that graduation-day address he was losing the battle with cancer, and he told the audience that "Death is the single best invention of life. It is life's change agent. It clears out the old, making way for the new." In the years since his cancer diagnosis, he had pushed himself harder than at any time in his life. He warned them, "Don't be trapped by dogma. Dogma means living with the results of other people's thinking. "
Jobs' parting words that day were: "Stay hungry! Stay foolish! I have always wished that for myself. This is what I wish for you."
We had a conversation that long-ago night at the reception. He asked what I did, what my life-goals were, and how I planned to achieve them. After I responded, he scowled and said. "Never, NEVER ask permission. Just do it."
My New Year's wish for all of us. That we stay curious, stay foolish, even hungry. That we dare everything. That we continue to leap, knowing somehow a net will appear. That, in short, we just roll up our sleeves and Do It. And that, finally, in our warp-speed, digitized and networked world we take time to remember, and sit back in awe.