Steve Jobs, Death, and the Question of Worldviews
As the obituaries pour in at the news of Steve Jobs’ death, many Christians have noted and quoted his very sobering view of life, death and the pursuit of dreams. It’s from his 2005 Stanford University commencement address. In it he says:
“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. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Now I don’t particularly want to bring Biblical commentary on that. It’s obviously got so much to commend it as a perspective on life – something I wish more hedonistic non-Christians would share. However, Biblical Christians would clearly also want to take his statements further – much further, into eternity, and think about that should affect the way the sons and daughters of eternity ought to live. That’s for another person and perhaps another blog to comment on. (One such blog is here.)
The only thing I want to pick up on is to suggest that many Christians wouldn’t know that Steve Jobs’ worldview as articulated in that quote is something known as Existentialism (or at least something very similar to it). Whether Jobs himself is an existentialist or knows it is beside the point (in fact, he’s apparently a Buddhist). The point is simply that his words don’t come in a vacuum, they come from within a worldview.
And so it got me thinking: how many Christians know enough about other worldviews to know what Existentialism is, how it evolved from naturalism and nihilism (the non-theistic varieties anyhow), and how it can be understood and critiqued from within? I want to suggest that unless Christians do grapple with these philosophical questions and spend some time reading about and understanding worldviews, we’re going to be very shortchanged when it comes to engaging with people who embrace Steve Job’s (or anyone else’s) philosophy of life.
So where’s a good place to start? Let me recommend a fabulous book that’s helped me and so many in introducing the different kinds of worldviews. I think it’s essential reading for all Christians. It’s by James W. Sire called The Universe Next Door.
In the mean time, here’s the full video of Jobs’ commencement address.