living someone else’s life

steve jobs left me a lot to think about, and not just world-shaking inventions. that whole death thing… his words are hard to lay to rest. is it even possible to live as if you know you’re about to die relatively young of cancer, until you know? it almost seems like he did that his whole abbreviated life. he grabbed that unique vision of his, focussed on it with laser precision, and didn’t waste any time living other people’s decisions or expectations. he had no time for killing time, even before the fatal prognosis. he kept his chosen priorities straight, even ruthlessly at times. these priorities seem to have included his immediate family to some extent, especially toward the end, to the exclusion of other urgent demands on his time by the outside world. he loved what he did, and did it ferociously until the last moments. he knew there was nothing to lose by living intensely and uncompromisingly according to his own gut instincts.

along with much of the world, my own life has been greatly changed and affected by steve jobs’ vision. i realize there were many unknown people behind the scenes making his creations a reality, but without him, would the world’s technology even look like it does today? i doubt it. one takes people like that for granted, until they suddenly exit. he was a human, not a god, but we were still in the presence of greatness. yes, i’d put him up in that pantheon of great inventors. but what i’m really left with is those now-famous words, the stanford commencement death-speech about living every moment like it matters, not as someone dictates. because we’re all gonna die! and death clears out the old to make way for the new.

i wonder if only certain gifted, endowed people can live like that. or could we all do that if we were hit head-on with the reality of personally ceasing to exist, and stopped giving in to pressure to conform and sell out? can even a nobody like me wake up this late in life and change? how would a person who is compelled by necessity to bend to others’ previous decisions, good or otherwise, having spent most of a lifetime living someone else’s life and expectations, go about overhauling and rebuilding to entirely new specs? not wasting one more single precious moment on meaningless, pointless busy-ness. making every minute count toward something that improves lives, starting with your own and those of the people close to you, and rippling out toward the future. not compelled by guilt or pretension, but by genuine passion and vision. how does one go about that?

you notice someone like that, because it seems so rare and unattainable. you heed their words, because they seemed to live them. you know they’re speaking truth, but you can’t grasp the secret to implementing it. you’re caught in the inexorable, unrelenting rush toward whatever, or the circumstances that you were dealt, and can’t get off. and then you’re gone, and forgotten. i guess i think about this a lot of the time, because i’m surrounded and confronted by it. i’m not off somewhere busy living my life, distracted by normal, everyday pursuits. i have way too much enforced empty time staring at the relentless dying process, unrelieved by actual living. so these words of steve jobs on his way out, really struck a chord.

i just do not have a clue how someone like me can implement that truth. turn around 180 degrees, live like it matters, and make a positive difference in lives. i’m not just out of practice, i’ve never learned in the first place. is it possible to start over? (just doing a little soul-searching, appropriately on this yom kippur eve.)

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