Normally when a celebrity passes away I consider the event tragic – but no more so than any other of the human deaths that happen every day. I generally have a somewhat callous attitude toward our celebrity-driven worldwide culture.
Yet I found myself profoundly moved by the passing of Steve Jobs, despite myself. At first I was confused and mystified that someone I had never met could elicit such a reaction. Creative prowess aside, how had he instilled such a reaction?
A comment on this Gizmodo post got me thinking. The author said that Jobs was no hero. I pulled open the dictionary to have a look at the meaning of the word and realized there could be no doubt – no matter how trite it may be to say so, Steve Jobs is (was?) one of my heroes. It was not an intentional thing, and I never realized it until now, but it cannot be denied.
What’s in a Hero – For You?
The dictionary defines it like this:
A person, typically a man, who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
I’m not here to make the case that Steve Jobs was courageous or outstanding. You can be the judge of that for yourself. I have watched Pirates of Silicon Valley, read books like Inside Steve’s Brain, and so on – and all I can say is that I have been inspired by the man.
And that is all that matters.
What’s NOT in a Hero?
Even the casual media relating to Steve Jobs makes no effort to hide the fact that he was occasionally… difficult to work under. Or around. Talk to some, and you’d be sure his character flaws were numerous. Some would say this disqualifies him from “hero” status, or that his achievements were somehow not worthy of the ranks of “conventional heroes” (whatever that means).
Any student of the great Greek classics knows, though, that every good hero has a tragic flaw. In fact, in the Grecian sense, a tragic flaw (a major problem in his character) is one of the quintessential parts of a hero. It serves, in a sense, to remind us that even heroes are humans. It reminded the Greeks that even the highest-reaching of men was limited – but that it was no reason to not admire them.
Dig deep enough, and you’ll find a tragic flaw for any hero. Likely, the greater the pedestal the greater the flaw. I don’t seek to defile any memories here, but I challenge you to search around to have a look at Mother Teresa’s views on the necessity of human suffering. If you need more convincing that all these holy names were flawed humans, check out the episode “Holier than Thou” in the TV show “Bullsh*t” by Penn and Teller. You can find some clips on YouTube, if you like. It is quite… interesting.
One of my favorite TV shows, Firefly, perhaps said it best (in the episodes Jaynestown, where one of the baser characters finds himself an accidental hero in a backwater town, a title both undeserved and unwanted):
It’s my estimation that every man
ever got a’statue made of him was one
kind of sommbitch or another. Ain’t
about you, Jayne. ‘Bout what they
So was Steve Jobs a hero? To me, and many in the tech community, he was inspirational. I still look at what he did and use it as a reason to push myself. So, yes, to me he was a hero.
What about you?