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A Dent in the Universe

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Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011

Steve Jobs passed away this week and reading through an account of his life in the L.A. Times, I was struck particularly by something he had said in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address with respect to death being “very likely the best invention of life”:

All pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. – Steve Job, 2005, Stanford commencement speech.

I think when Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these words (as translated by Emily Williams):

“…But now that I’m growing older, sometimes I have these thoughts, strange thoughts […] Death. What do we know about it? Apparently everything, perhaps nothing. Often children gather around me as I work, but I don’t know who they belong to. Immediately I am seized by something. Then I dig like an animal, to drive all the energy out of my head, to let my arms expend it. The grave becomes a lot deeper than the regulations require and a mountain of earth grows up next to it. But the children run away when they see my wild movements. They think that I am angry. […] And it is a kind of anger. You become oblivious to it, you think you have overcome it and suddenly…it doesn’t help. Death is something incomprehensible, terrible.”

…I think he was getting at the other side of the same coin. Jobs said, follow your dreams. Rilke as is famously known wrote to the young poet to write if he must. Write if that’s what he truly wanted. In essence, follow your heart, your dream. Rilke though later in the same story touches upon the other side of the coin. He touches upon the other side of life. Rather, the other side of death, or the act of dying. Rilke’s story is beautiful and Emily Williams translates it wonderfully.

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