When I heard of Steve Jobs’s death, the thought came to my mind of John
Lennon’s death; the circumstances were different but the times — Lennon
died Dec. 8, 1980 — remarkably the same. And both found symbolism in the
apple. Drudge had a picture of Steve Jobs from the beginning, dressed
in a business suit, holding an apple. Actually, offering us an apple.
The apple appeared as well in Virginia Postrel’s remembrance of Jobs in
Bloomberg, illustrated by Leif Parson’s rendition of the iconic Magritte
painting of the Englishman in bowler hat with an apple obscuring his
face. But the apple is sky blue, like the company’s logo, and the sky
gray, in mourning.
Steve Jobs, of course, brought the apple to the day, but most in the day assumed he got it from the Beatles, as the apple was the symbol first with them: Apple Records.
Homage to the times in which Jobs, like Lennon, broke bread with the Hari Khrishnas. But to go back, the Magritte image of apple man tells us something. It was painted in 1964 and overtly suggested a shaman rising was at hand. The painting was called “Son of Man,” the phrase taken from the Book of Daniel, widely seen among the faithful as a harbinger of the awakening. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
“In the great vision of Daniel after the appearance of the four beasts, we read:
" ‘I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.’
Like so many things in art of numinous circumstances, this picture comes with a double; Magritte did another painting just the same, but with the image of a white dove before the face of the Englishman instead of the apple.
No question, something rose with the times in about 1964 and ascended in the bard of Apple’s phrase to visit a million suns, calling him on and on across the universe. It carried through every day and to the end of Steve Jobs’s life.
I remember where I was — in my kitchen in west Philadelphia feeding my cat — when the call came from a New York friend to say that John Lennon was dead. And although I was never the greatest of fans of tech per se and still read by oil lamp, I think that the moment when Lou Dobbs, almost in tears, broke off his interview with a Massachusetts sheriff to announce that Steve Jobs had died, will stick as well.
That which arose in spirit in1964 feels like it has come to an end here this week. But if it dies it brings forth great fruit. I’m sure the shaman of Cupertino saw it coming; no doubt, and he gave a suggestion with his last public words to describe the new Apple campus with its extraordinary circular building which looks like a grounded UFO.
“The spaceship has landed,” he said.
But maybe he was talking about himself. Or something else.