Friday, October 7, 2011

Think Different

I started getting enquiries yesterday about whether we were going to mark Steve Jobs' death, and I did what I usually do when I can't think what the appropriate response should be, which is move the question up to Paul and Rosalie. Paul was in favour of doing a memorial service, on account of Jobs having been a student of Kobun Chino, who had long associations with Zen Center, so we are going to do one this evening - just the same service as we do when we are asked to mark the passing of a sangha member or someone close to a sangha member. This morning there have been a flurry of emails circulating among various staff members as we field the media interest in this; people seem keen to explore the 'zen of Steve Jobs' angle. We are trying not to make this more of an occasion than it needs to be, but of course anyone reading this who can make it is welcome to attend as part of the usual evening schedule.

Written on a MacBook Pro


Chris vLS said...

Thanks Shundo for the word. Not sure I can make it, but glad to know.

Some of the reaction to Steve Jobs' passing reminds me of the literature around the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster -- lots of reactions shaped by one's reference points. Communications and design professionals talked about how the disaster was caused by bad communications. Statisticians focused on flawed calculations. Organization design folks on teams and incentives. Technology skeptics on complexity. All had a point, but many overreached by saying that one of these facets was the 'true' cause of the disaster.

Similarly, everyone sees something special about Jobs from their own angle. Marketers remember the 1984 ad, Designers remember the depth of commitment to beauty. Businesspeople see the breathtaking way he remade industries, plural.

But, what's amazing is that these multiple points of view aren't over-reaching explanations. Jobs actually did deeply inspire people across all of these different disciplines.

And so, there's something fitting that Zen Center's view of Steve Jobs is as a "sangha member."

Shundo said...

Not that we are trying to 'claim' him, I think, but it is nice to acknowledge that he saw beyond the business world even while being deeply immersed in it, as his 2005 Stanford speech points to.

Fanfan said...

My coworker told me at lunch today that he was ranked very high on the list of the cheapest CEOs because he rarely does philanthropic work.

Once was a zen student said...

This does beg the question and forgive me for asking -
By all accounts Steve Jobs was a very driven man, very competitive, for whom accomplishment mattered a lot. How does this square with the 'no-self' teaching of zen and that business about generally not having too many preferences etc?

How can you have accomplishment and drive, be very competitive and still be a zen/buddhist person? Shouldn't these two be mutually exclusive?

Shundo said...

My understanding of Buddhist teaching is that nothing is mutually exclusive. All the things you say are undoubtedly true, they just need to be followed by 'and', not 'but'.

Shundo said...

Fanfan, the fact that people are getting excited about Steve Jobs' Buddhist connections point to how much he did not necessarily do everything in public. It may be that there is more to the philanthropy than we know about.

Fanfan said...

Oh well, I am not informed enough to argue further. I am simply passing opinions around. However, I'd love to know more about his humane attributions besides the planned obsolescence of ipod.

Once was a zen student said...

Sorry Shundo you lost me here as the word 'but' isn't there in my previous comment. I have no idea what you meant.

Fanfan you have raised some good points.

It is certainly remarkable, the enormous adulation for Steve Jobs, when much of what he has helped produce have in the end really been consumer products. A bunch of slick, continuously disposable gadgets that certainly do appeal to our image conscious nature for their 'coolness'. Gadgets that, rather than help us practice non-preference and see the big picture, in fact help us ensconce ourselves completely and totally in our minute by minute preference, our small self. (They are nice gadgets, that is for sure, but that is what they are).

I'm not sure how this is Zen, and I'm sure I don't know what Zen is either, but if Zen is the feeling of 'cool' one gets on getting one of these gizmos and being wrapped up in our space and our preferences while talking about expanding our consciousness, then I'm glad I'm not Zen.

If we wish to talk about saving all beings then we might find better inspirtation in his rather more dour, unhip conterpart, Bill Gates (at least based on what is publicly known). Bill Gates has given away most of his money to his foundation. The Gates foundation is doing a huge amount of work in improvement of public health and povery allieviation all over the world. He himself spends a significant amount of time running around villages in India and other parts of the world trying to vaccinate all the kids.

How does that stand versus the buds in my ear listening to my customized music stream? Here is what at least I found. That customized music stream gets old very quickly, and although I enjoy it on occasion, in general the more I customize my life the more isolated I get.

Once was a zen student said...

A happy birthday to you Shundo. Perhaps this comment will stick. This link is worth sharing.

How we interpet words can have a great impact on how we do things. I'll let the article speak for itself, but the last point is worth shouting out. "Self knowledge happens in dialogue". Yes! And I would add, open, honest dialogue, not just empty affirmation.

And in the give and take of mirroring we find that elusive common ground with others, however painful to our ego the process might be.