This article was published in the innovative scientific magazine Frontier, May 2012.
Steve Jobs was admired worldwide, and an example to many. Nevertheless he could be unbearable, and even downright mean. Yet people would add quickly, ‘well, that’s what you get when you want genius’. Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs’ biographer, who was in the Netherlands in 2012 put it thus: ‘Steve could be a demanding ass-hole, but always with a reason’.
All these opinions on Steve Jobs illustrate the shortcomings of our way of thinking. All those point of views centre – consciously or subconsciously – around a physical image of the world and humanity: people are their body, and people receive their character at birth, allowing no room for change, just minor adjustments. Yet if we stipulate that people are much more than their bodies, a different set of answers comes in range, as we enter a broader reality, that is the world of the soul and of consciousness. How are they related to the personality and the body? Because that is the question. So let us imagine the following mind play: say the purpose of life is to transform ignorance into insight and to learn as we live. And suppose that it the intention is to rise above our personality (character), so we can live from the soul ever more often? What could this view tell us in the case of Steve Jobs?
‘Jobs was successful, but could also be unpleasant’, are those traits intertwined? No, they need not be, though clearly for Jobs he could not untangle the two. That was his shortcoming, so to speak. Geniuses that realised a lot, yet were pleasant and sociable have been around, right? So in the case of Jobs – still wilfully suspending disbelief – part of his personality stood in the way. He was a victim of it and could not control it. So in the process of rising above his personality Jobs could not sufficiently tap into the deep quality of his soul. This is not to pass judgement, but a careful consideration (which is also part of the broader way of thinking: do not judge, but make distinctions.)
Another question that arises is the following: Was Jobs’ disease (pancreatic cancer) bad luck, or was it trying to point out something to him? In other words, does disease have a meaning, or does it just happen to occur? To continue the same mind play: a disease is generally not just an unlucky event, but often has its causes in a disturbed mental life. They say that disease is the disturbance of soul at peace. The soul has its eyes on a certain life’s path, but – to put it bluntly – the personality attempts to further its own course. This leads to an imbalance that can manifest itself through the body. Generally in those places where the personality problem has taken root, as every organ or part of the body has its mental equivalent.
An example by the Flemish author and philosopher of life Christiane Beerlandt (1955-2015) on the pancreas: ‘This symbolizes the loving presence in ones self. The trust in your deepest Self, to fully put your trust into the adventure of life, and not to want to plan everything ahead.’ From this point of view a tumour in this organ might indicate that the person in question ought to have more trust in his inner wisdom. Because he does not feel safe within himself, he puts up an extra tough pose towards the outside world, and wants to have everything under his control. ‘Don’t try to reconfirm yourself with endeavours or superficial manifestation, but feel your heart that is begging for attention’, according to Beerlandt. In the specific case of Steve Jobs it may not have been the case, but the combination of his disease and his ‘tough side’, and the symbolic meaning of the pancreas is remarkable.
Of course, this does not mean that everyone who is stricken with cancer has to turn himself inside out. Someone working in an asbestos plant getting lung cancer, need not look far, but when a direct cause is hard to point out, a broader mental perspective can be inspiring. More sensible than the one dimensional view we are our body and our brain, that much is certain. Because from that point of view, criminals would be the victims of short circuiting in the brain, yet if you look at it that way, what about our own responsibility, our free will, and the capacity for spiritual growth?
To return to Steve Jobs: was the disease that manifested itself in him in 2004, and of which he must have had prior signals from his body, trying to point out something to him? If Jobs had confronted the problematic elements of his personality and had been able to fix these, would he still be alive today? And would he have become a more agreeable person in the process? I don’t know, and it would be hard to tell with any certainty, as we, for instance, don’t know his karma. Perhaps – for a variety of reasons – it wasn’t the intention for him to grow older than he did? Interesting questions to muse about, as they put our lives in a different light of day as well. What do we run into when it comes to our own personality? And is the quality of our soul afforded enough opportunities?
From this point of view Steve Jobs is an informative example for us.