For those of us fortunate enough to live within proximity of giant stands of mixed hardwood trees, fall is a glorious time of year to observe life’s constant changes.
The annual autumn spectacular of the once lush leaves magically transforming the emerald landscape into magnificent warm rainbows carries us into nostalgic reflectivity. This year I couldn’t help but note a symbolic similarity in the recent death of the ingenious Steve Jobs, the guru who started Apple Computer.
The very first computer I ever used was an Apple. Just the name of the computer endeared educators to these amazing, easy to use personal computers. School systems across the country bought them for student and teacher use. The fact that Apple was wise enough to give teachers and school districts educator discounts on their purchases made them all the more attractive.
One of the schools where I was principal acquired an Apple computer for the library in 1989. Now obsolete floppy discs were inserted to boot programs or software for students to use. I have primarily used Apple computers ever since.
Shortly after hearing of Jobs’ death, the Internet was full of information about his life. I found many of the touching quotes and reflections via posts on Facebook.
One particular poignant clip greatly moved me. It was a 15-minute video of Jobs’ address at the 2005 Stanford University commencement. No one would have mistaken the pure genius that produced innovative personal electronic devises like the iPod, iPhone and iPad for Shakespeare. But his message was prophetic nevertheless.
His words were neither flowery nor convoluted. Like his multitude of popular electronic inventions, his exhortation was straightforward and concise. He had three simple points for the graduating class that day. Each was illustrated by personal stories from his humble yet incredible, creative life.
His final point was perhaps the most powerful and applicable. Just a year removed from having survived pancreatic cancer, Jobs told the sun-drenched audience “death is very likely the single best invention of life.” He told those gathered that if you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll be right. Jobs was as pragmatic as he was innovative.
Though he had hoped to live decades longer, Jobs emphasized that remembering that he would be dead soon was the most important motivator for him. He related that view even though he of course had no idea how long he would live. Jobs said no one wants to die, but death is the destination that we all share. Death clears out the old to make way for the new.
That’s the way it is with the leaves. They bud in spring, unfold overnight to lush, lovely green or crimson until their predictable fate in the fall. Having done their job of helping the tree thrive and grow another year, the leaves succumb to the inevitable.
The leaves unveil their natural, vibrant colors, keep us captivated for a few precious days, and then drop and wither. Left behind is a tiny bud that will become next year’s new foliage. The old give way to the new, returning to the earth from whence they came.
Our lives follow the same cycle, though most span more than a year. The colors of some leaves are more remarkable than others. In the same way, some lives shine brighter than others for humankind.
Steve Jobs was one of those brilliant leaves.