Thursday, 6 October 2011

Thought Picnic: Reading Steve Jobs on living, life, cancer, hope and death

As stories begin

It was well past midnight before I went to sleep last night first in elation of my nephew having won the MOBO Award for Best Gospel Act for which I penned a short update before I retired and retiring is not what it seems.

Over a year ago, I read of a house fire that broke out by reason of an overheated laptop on a bed, the occupier of the house lost his life. The next day after hearing that news, I went shopping for a laptop stand, something that lifts the warmish to hot parts off surfaces that might be prone to catching fire and so my almost 3-year old Toshiba NB 100 netbook with an unsupported 2GB memory module has retained its pride of place beside my strewn pillows.

I keep something inspirational playing through the night from bible readings to messages from my virtual church; in the midst of many of my life’s troubles, I need all the encouragement I can get that I can still make the best of the days I have ahead.

The death of an iconic man

Most of my activity appears to take place on Twitter and I caught a glimpse of breaking news from New York Post that the legendary and iconic Steve Jobs had passed on.

Only 8 weeks ago, he stepped down as CEO of Apple and I suspected he needed to slow down a bit, maybe undergo some treatment and avail himself of the need to recuperate.

It is amazing the power of ones intellect, brain and mind to want to keep going just as the body is failing to keep up by reason of the disease and most especially cancer, it is a fight for life and survival like you can never understand until you find yourself in the middle of that battle.

Then each small victory like a day, a week, a month, a year or even more leaves you with the drive first to return to what you once did, probably to do it better and with the time one has left, maybe to leave a legacy, a memory, a mark that your footsteps did also trod the sands of time.

Knowing what cancer is

I know that much because Steve Jobs died exactly two years after I took my first session of chemotherapy out of what stretched to 7 sessions and that was just 5 days after the specialists had conclusively diagnosed the cancer I had and basically planned a course of treatment to go after it and deal with it.

The cancer lesions with their amazing pain to which I cannot find adequate expression began to heal, necrotised skin being taken off for fresh new skin to grow in its place; these were tended to almost every day for 8 weeks and when they were fully healed my nurse marvelled at the speed of healing, he said he had tended lesions for upwards of 6 months – I had a miracle, not necessarily instant but laudable all the same.

The cancer and chemotherapy began to write their histories in my life, the stark realities of living began to loom large, the bills, the threats, the angst, the helplessness, the vulnerability and no one was giving medals for having come through such an ordeal.

A beginning so unsure

Life just seems to go on and you either hope on the bandwagon or you get left behind, the respite of finding work was a great change but it offered nothing near what one once did – it is possible the most important thing my colleagues learnt about me was I was a pleasure to work with and I could rise to the challenges set before me as I half-recuperated and worked just 7 weeks from my last chemotherapy session – they were sympathetically accommodating.

The journey back to the life one once had is still long and arduous, you almost thing you are living on borrowed time as you watch and I have seen 5 friends and relations taken away by cancer since I first had my diagnosis, but we cannot dwell on those apart from the fond memories of those people who touched our lives for the better.

What I owe Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs did many things and whilst I was not particularly an Apple buff my early years in Information Technology Computing started with programming BASIC, ForTRAN and Pascal on the Apple IIc and Apple IIe, I never really used Apple products professionally but a company in which I own 30% was named NeXTStep in tribute to what Steve Jobs was doing at NeXT, it was just fascinatingly mind-blowing to read of the NeXT Cube and what a different it might have been if these system got more widely adopted.

I never really jumped on the iProduct frenzy, when I did high-level legal desktop publishing in the late 80s, the Mac could not offer the kind of consistency we needed, with Xerox Ventura Publisher on the PC whilst we were no print shop the Mac was playing catch-up at the time but there was always some admiration for the products from afar.

Fate, fortune, faith and future

The passing of Steve Jobs for all the well-deserved tributes that will make his passing almost as moving as that of John Lennon reveals to me another reality of which one must learn never to be fearful of, it is our mortality and death, somewhere out there in the future, either for a long time hence or shorter, who knows – I lost a friend just after two weeks of defending his PhD, one of the winners of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2011 died on the Friday before the Monday when the prize was announced.

What fates and what calls for faith and mining of the depths of hope that one be more prepared and as well as being available to win whilst having planned one’s exit such that it is not all so sudden.

A beginner again

For those of us who have survived and hope to thrive and live life until the last breath is drawn, I take this message from Steve Jobs, it is meaningful to me enough to help me face a future that may at times be uncertain but is there to be lived in and seized with the fervour of a person full of life and zest.

The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.” Indeed, after a life of the many things one has done, that is one prospect one faces after cancer and one does hope one has the opportunity to just begin again.

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