Wait… and Pay
Let me tell you a little story. OK, it’s not so much a story but stuff I know and remember.
You all know Apple’s Steve Jobs, right? Of course you do. Met the guy in the early 90s, while I was screwing around at being a computer industry journalist. This was during his NeXT days, a half decade or so before he took back the helm of his original baby, Apple Computers. Didn’t much care for him. My exact words to anyone who asked — those words certainly never made it to print — were that Jobs was an “arrogant prick.”
My personal measure of the guy aside, he was also a brilliant and driven arrogant prick, among the handful who literally defined the industry, and probably alone in that he redefined it yet again. As the least technically-competent among that handful to boot.
But you know all that. You probably also know that he died of pancreatic cancer, only in his mid-50s, in 2011. What some of you may not know, though, is that his ailment by then was nowhere close to a surprise: He was first diagnosed back in 2003.
He refused the latest medical treatment for it then — surgery — opting instead for more holistic alternative and dietary treatments. His call, totally and absolutely. But here are a couple of facts to finish rounding out the big picture:
• Towards the end, he did a complete about face to an extreme degree available only to dudes like him with the wherewithal to avail themselves of that course of action. He had the surgery, a liver transplant, researched and tried the heck out of cutting edge tech and experimental solutions, even had his genome sequenced. But, as we all know, it wasn’t enough. The cancer had spread by then.
• This is what I know about cancer: squat, pretty much. But it’s been reported that the type of pancreatic cancer he had — a neuroendocrine islet tumor — was apparently among the 5% slowest growing and most likely cured cancers.
Reality checks being cashed all over the place, huh?
Thanks for everything Steve, but let’s get back to now. I’m reminded of Steve Jobs’ exit by a lot of recent, majorly politically-charged events that have occurred both here in the Philippines and the U.S. Venture into Facebook and you can’t miss them, unless your main preoccupation there is to see how your profile pic would look like rendered as a member of the opposite sex.
Everyone’s reacting to these events, of course, but it’s hard to shake the deja vu vibe: There’s the outrage. The ranting. The appeals for sanity and change. The factsheets and stats. The debates, arguments and fighting. And the memes! Man, that flood of memes; those will be going on for a while, many of them quite clever and illuminating too.
And then… nothing. Probably. Because that’s exactly how many of these things have played out before, again and again and again. Hot hot hot… and then old news, onward to the next crisis du jour.
But that’s not what is of interest to my short attention span at the moment. It’s this: peppered among the who knows how many comments and message threads around the Philippine events — you Americans may take your seats now, please, thanks for your patience and cooperation — are comments that revolve around the particular theme of our people’s “resilience” and “enduring spirit.” All along the lines of:
“We are strong. We can endure the harshest of trials, the most difficult of hardships. And we are resilient. Whatever they throw at us, we will bounce back!”
True and commendable enough. And we definitely are, no doubt about it. One look at all the stories in our long history solidifies those points as truly admirable qualities of our people and culture. And it is a long history — our oldest university is older than the United States, for goodness sake. Would you believe someone there asked me once if we had colleges? Yeah, still shaking my head about that question. That and, “Do you have blue jeans?” But that’s for another story.
So yes, we are resilient and have more than just a smidgen of endurance. And we’ve got the time, too, I presume?
That’s why I was reminded of Steve Jobs, my friends. For all his positive qualities, for all his drive and ability to persevere through difficulty and opposition and see his vision through to fruition, the dude just plain ran out of time.
Much like I am running out of time. Much like you are. Much like we all are. From the day we were born. That’s the way time works, really.
Jobs neglected — or rather, chose to ignore, which was his style — the non-bending, non-forgiving factors that dictate how all our lives will inevitably play out. That time is on top of that list should go without saying.
Should. Because it sure doesn’t seem like a consideration at all whenever I hear, “We are resilient, we can endure!” Of course we can, but why must we have to? There are, and there always will be, alternative courses of action.
Easy action items? Nah, in all probability. So is that what we’re all waiting for, something easy? We can keep jumping through hoops trying to rationalize it all, but let’s face it, it sure looks like that’s exactly what we want. We want easy and effortless.
All well and good, except when we realize the following: That’s what we’re teaching our kids. They’re not dumb. They can see right through our “do as I say and not what I do” posturing. And they learn exactly what we teach them.
So when our time runs out like Jobs’ did and we pay the price for our inaction, what do you think our kids are going to do? Well, all we’ve really shown and taught them is that we are resilient, that we will endure all the pain and the injustice… so what do you think they’re likely going to do, hmm? Much like we’re doing what we were taught to do, and them taught by the folks before them.
Sobering? Well, I think so.
Want another sobering realization? Here you go: We have no shortage of examples, both past and current, of folks who decided, “Screw it, I’m going to do it now, to hell with the consequences,” and how that all worked — and is working — out for them.
Who? See all those people and businesses running the show, forcing the rest of us to “we are resilient, we will endure” our way through life? There you go.
And if it’s not clear to you yet, whatever course of action or inaction we decide to take, we always pay the price in the end. Right Steve?
Tick… tick… tick…