Saturday, October 8, 2011

Steve Jobs, San Francisco: Reflections

Coming back from our last trip I was going to write my next post on New York but that day we heard the sad news that Steve Jobs, the visionary co-founder and CEO of Apple, had died at age 56. Steve Jobs was a creator, a ground breaker, the mastermind behind so many inventions that have affected the lives of millions of people around the world. His Apple’s personal computer, iPad, iPod, iMac, iTunes and iPhone have changed technology. His designs were simple but elegant. Steve Jobs has been mourned around the world. His fans left candles and flowers at Apple stores as they paid homage to this technology pioneer. Below is an AP picture showing tributes left at an Apple store in the Ginza shopping district of Tokyo.

The news of his passing was all over the airwaves. Excerpts from a commencement address he gave at Stanford University in California in 2005 were much quoted. As I listened to it I could not help thinking that his words sounded like the philosophy I read in many of my Buddhist books which I started to buy in San Francisco in the 60s. Steve Jobs told the graduates that day “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” The Dalai Lama wrote “Of all the different kinds of awareness, awareness of death and impermanence is best.

Knowing not much about Steve Jobs apart from his persona as an extraordinary technology innovator, I started reading about him. I read that having been born in San Francisco, the 1960s counterculture of the San Francisco Bay Area shaped his worldviews. I came to the USA in the early 1960s and lived in downtown San Francisco for about nine years – I can attest that the culture there at the time was totally exhilarating. At the top of this post is a 1939 postcard of the Golden Gate Bridge. Below is a postcard, I guess from the 1940s, of a cable car and turntable at Powell Street, San Francisco.

A Time Magazine article, written in 1995 by Steward Brand, stated that “We owe it all to the hippies – Forget antiwar protests, Woodstock, even long hair. The real legacy of the sixties generation is the computer revolution.” (Special issue, Spring 1995, Volume 145.) That may be true, but at the time, I did not know the word “computer.” Below are a couple of pictures of me in San Francisco.

If you lived in San Francisco in the 60s, your philosophy of life was heavily influenced by the city’s culture. Below is a house on a street not far from where I lived.

Whether protesting

March in April 1967 (courtesy UC Berkeley)

or meditating like I am doing on the beach in the picture below

living in San Francisco was invigorating and had long lasting effects. Some went and created communes, like our friends at The Farm community in Tennessee (see my post on The Farm here.) Some created businesses. Referring to San Francisco, Steve Jobs said at his high school graduation in 1972 “the very strong scent of the 1960s was still there.”

Steve Jobs in 1975 (all photos of Steve Jobs taken from Web, anonymous authors.)

Steve was born in San Francisco in 1955. His father was a Muslim Syrian immigrant to the U.S. and was not married to his mother until two years after his birth. His unwed mother gave him up for adoption. He was adopted by the family of Paul Jobs and Clara Jobs. Clara Jobs was Armenian - her maiden name was Hagopian. Her parents had emigrated from Turkey to the US. My Armenian father who also emigrated from Turkey had a cousin called Hagopian, which is a common family Armenian name. I read that Steve’s mother had played a very big role in bringing him up. It is also reported that Steve had a good command of the Armenian language (if this is true, my hat is off to him, as this is a very hard language to learn.) Steve went on a spiritual voyage to India and converted to Buddhism. Zen Buddhist monk Kobun Chino Otogawa officiated at Steve’s wedding in 1991.

Gary Li, secretary of the US Buddhist Association said “from his past interviews and speeches, we could see the embedded influences of Buddhism.” This is also what I had noticed when I heard the commencement address he gave at Stanford. Steve said ” Your time is limited. Don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drowned your own inner voice. And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” This is what the Buddha said about “dogma” "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.” (Buddha.)

Steve Jobs also said in the same address “When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation.” That surprised me. I had spent hours reading our Whole Earth Catalogs. Here are our well-used copies below.

These catalogs were the best. At the time (early 70s) I purchased also A Catalogue of the South and the First London Catalogue, but they were nothing like the Whole Earth Catalogs.

Steve Jobs ‘address to Stanford Graduates can be read here. He finishes his address by saying ”On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself.” I think that best describes what he liked. He was undeterred by conventions, he was extremely creative and loved to be different. He will be missed.

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” (back-cover of my last Whole Earth Catalog.)


OldLady Of The Hills said...

That address at Stanford is so beautiful and inspiring and rich in Goodness of every kind---I wish I had known Steve Jobs. What a great great legacy he has left all of us and ALL of our future generations...!

Beautiful heartfelt post, my dear Vagabonds. I LOVE the pictures of you in S.F. What a time it was.....!

Cloudia said...

thank you for reminding me what was special 'back in the day'

and today!

Warm Aloha from Honolulu;

Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

Nance said...

A fine tribute. Our geniuses are not always the easiest personalities to deal with, but Jobs managed to garner not only respect, but real personal admiration.

Ann said...

he was much admired..and will be missed.
the 60's brought much to our culture today...I am a child of the 60's and our generation made such changes for the betterment of our planet!
thank for sharing this lovely tribute
to him.

Kay L. Davies said...

I grew up in the 50s, came of age in the 60s, saw some of the early computers (the size of large rooms or small buildings) and I remember the first little Apple computer.
Steve was too young to die, but he lived a full life.
Thank you for this wonderful post about him, and for sharing the parallels between his life and yours.

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

FilipBlog said...

Very nice article, respect for Steve.


Pat said...

Thank you for an illuminating post. It's a little sad that so many of us didn't know about this man until his death.

Jojo said...

Such an interesting post and background about this amazing man. I've been amazed at how my kids have been saddened by his death. Somehow they felt they knew him and each time he shared a new product, they always felt he was sharing a secret with them. He was able to build more than just client satisfaction and after reading your post, perhaps it was his spiritual side that came through and touched young consumers.

mermaid gallery said...

beautiful tribute....those were powerful times and I feel like he was a guiding light ....and always will be. ...words of wisdom indeed!

Grizz………… said...

Simply a wonderful piece. I read it on my iPod Touch at 2:30 a.m. when I awoke from the aches and pains of stacking several pickup truck loads of wood chunks into the woodpile yesterday, and had sit in the rocking chair in the great room for awhile before returning back to bed. The first computer I ever owned—and the only brand I've owned since—was a Mac. Most writers, photographers, and graphic designers I know use Macs. Most magazine and newspaper offices I've worked in use Macs. I've carried Mac laptops afield and on assignment. I edit my photos in iPhoto, listen to iTunes on my various Macs or Apple devices. And what has always impressed me more than anything else is that they always work—easily, intuitively, elegantly. They are more than metal and plastic and bits of wires and chips—they are devices with "soul." And they owe this entirely to the vision, exactitude, and single-minded determination of Steve Jobs.

I'm not sure he was very likable, and even less sure that he was a good husband, father, boss. Like all true one-of-a-kind visionaries, he was committed, dedicated, unswerving, tenacious, uncompromising, indefatigable, an not prone to suffer fools gladly when they stood in his way or tried to sway him from his course. His dreams were his goals, and most became his destination. He got there, made them a reality.

Apple may continue as a great company, an innovative company, a leader in technology that makes our lives easier and better. But no person or committee wil replace Jobs as their spiritual dreamer and leader.

Fennie said...

A lovely and heartfelt post. I am writing this on a Mac. Do I need to say more? But I wonder if the 'hungry and foolish' injunction works for everyone - or rather for all of the people, all of the time. It doesn't sit too well with Buddhism, for example. Craving new Apple products can make one as unhappy as craving anything - whether you are the creator of those products or their consumer. But it takes all sorts to make a world. Send not to know for whom the bell tolls - it tolls for thee.
RIP Steve.

Ruth said...

Dear Vagabonde, I love this post.

I had just listened to Steve Jobs' commencement speech before coming here! CottageGirl had linked it, and then my brother Nelson shared it with my whole big family from there. I'm very glad I listened to it. I've heard how difficult Jobs was to work with, and I wonder about all of it. What makes us great?

I really love how many similarities you share with him. That is delightful, truly, as are the photos of you in San Francisco.

I have thought since his death how the impact is greater on my two kids than on me. they grew up with computers, our first one was an Apple IIC. My son thinks Pixar films are the most amazing art. We all have Macs. And I was moved to hear him speak of his calligraphy class that he dropped in on after dropping out of college, and how the elegant simplicity of it made its way into his designs of technology.

Even his being a Buddhist makes sense to me now. This machine I type on feels good, it is clean and simple, and it doesn't break down.

Thank you, Steve Jobs, and thank you, Vagabonde.

BJM said...

Fascinating! Thanks for your memories and for digging out those old books! B.

Frances said...

Well Vagabonde, now having had the immense pleasure of meeting you, I so wish that we could have added the topic of this post to our conversation.

The little rectangle in which my typed words appear, letter by letter, just will not hold all that I would wish to communicate.

I still have my own copy of the The Whole Earth Catalogue and honor all that it allowed me to read, think about and absorb so many years ago.

It's odd for me to realize that Steve Jobs was so much younger than I am. I want him to be a great member of my generation.


Vicki Lane said...

Wonderful post, Vagabonde! An interesting man, an interesting city, and an interesting era -- nice seeing these through your eyes!

Dutchbaby said...

You wrote a beautiful tribute. Steve Jobs' reputation around Silicon Valley was that of a harsh manager, but his creative genius is undeniable. Though I've bought relatively few Apple products over the years, I appreciate how he made technology accessible for every mind. No one had his finger on the pulse of society like Jobs did and his legacy will live on for a very long time.

I love the vintage postcard of the Powell Street cable car. The two corner buildings still stand today and tourists usually teem around the turntable.

You remind me of Dusty Springfield in the first two photos. Simply beautiful.

Ginnie said...

He will surely be Time's Man of the Year, Vagabonde. No doubt about it. Few people have impacted the world so much!

I especially love the two pictures of you back in "that" day. WOW. What a beauty you were...and still are. You will be forever young in heart and spirit. I LOVE this about you and how you write these posts so well. Truly an educational experience every time I visit.

Speaking of which, we're hoping to see you this weekend! I'll call you once we're in Atlanta...probably on Friday.

Carole Burant said...

I think I'm one of the very few people who didn't know who Steve Jobs was! Honestly, I had never heard his name until I heard it on the radio when they announced his death. So, this post was extremely interesting to me as I didn't know anything of his life. He was a genius, there's no doubt about it. A wonderful tribute to Steve Jobs who I now know who he was:-) xoxo

Kenza said...

Une bien triste perte pour le monde entier!
De mon côté, ce week-end ne fût pas des plus joyeux, nous avons perdu notre petit chien Papillon!
Je te souhaite une très belle semaine Vagabonde

Friko said...

This is one of the best blog tributes to Steve Jobs I have seen.
He was a very special person, neither saint nor sinner, just a special, but very human, being.

I wouldn't want to be without my apple gadgets, incl. the computer I am using for this comment.

DJan said...

I have gotten behind in some of my favorite blogs, VB, so I have just read this and concur with the commenters that it is one of the best tributes to Steve Jobs I've read.

I have long been an Apple fan, but only since he's died have I learned these many things about his life. He will be missed for a long, long time. He was so young...

Wanda..... said...

A wonderful read!

Unknown said...

Great Steve Jobs tribute even though my life has not been much affected directly by his activities and inventions.

My name is Riet said...

What a beautiful post in honour of Steve Jobs. Some weeks ago I saw his farewell of Apple and he looked so sick.
A beautiful man and too young to die.
I was happy to read your story about his life. And yours living in San Francisco . Have a good week.

Anonymous said...

Excellent reportage et bel hommage.

Reader Wil said...

Merci de raconter l'histoire de Steve Jobs. Je comprends qu'il a été tres important pour nous.
Thanks for this great tribute to a most remarkable man. I didn't know that he was a buddhist. That makes it extra interesting! Have a great week!

this is Belgium said...

Very interesting reportage.......I was surprised to see that since yesterday, only a few days after his death, the not so pleasant aspects of his personality are being revealed and openly discussed on facebook. People are quite amazing.
Even though my Imac broke down today and is in the repair shop and whatever anyone says, I am grateful that a visionary like Steve Jobs came along and did his part in changing the way the world works and looks.

Dianne said...

beautiful post
how I miss my hippie days although to a large degree I still live the same way but now I need to explain more

Steve was a light in the world

Jeanie said...

Thought I'd heard everything about Steve Jobs over the past few weeks there was to hear, but as always, you find the most fascinating bits, weave them into the most marvelous language and take me not only into his world, but into that vibrant city of San Francisco, I place I like very much! Thank you!

Kay said...

It's so tragic that Steve Jobs had to leave us so soon. Your post was such a beautiful tribute to this amazing man. I didn't know he was Buddhist. I love knowing that. Thank you for writing this.

claude said...

Bonjour Vagabonde.
J'ai été très touchée par Steve Jobs quand il avait annoncé son retrait de la direction de son Entreprise, il était si amaigri.
C'est un génie qui est parti bien trop tôt. 56 ans est très jeune pour mourir, que l'on soit un génie ou non d'ailleurs.
Jolies les photos de toi à SF.

Vagabonde said...

Thanks to everyone for your kind visits and lovely comments. I always enjoy reading your thoughts and I know that Steve Jobs touched everyone. Your comments are a wonderful addition to my posts and an important part too.

Merci à toutes et tous pour venir rendre visite à mon blog. Je suis toujours contente de lire vos pensées et je sais que Steve Jobs vous a touché. Vos commentaires son un excellent atout à mes posts ainsi qu’une partie importante.

Roger Gauthier said...

Thanks... Don't forget one thing: History will not let us forget that man. He changed our ways of thinking. He changed the way we work. He liberated us...

Nobody foresaw what was coming, this electronic revolution he forced upon us.

iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macs, iTunes, and now iCloud... the list is endless. Thank you Steve, and may Apple show the way forever.


Jenny Woolf said...

Wow wish I had lived in San francisco in the sixties, it must have been an amazing and unbelievable place. I love the art of the period. I have a copy of Last Whole Earth catalog.

Margaret said...

Steve Jobs... Yes, he has touched our lives. We just purchased our fourth Mac (two kids away at school) and two at home. I love the clean lines, the simplicity. I love his thoughts and words and your post here has really made me appreciate him all the more. Thanks, again.

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