Steve Jobs is not dead. Nor is he Jesus. For all of media frenzy that's emerged in the past day, you might get the sense that either (or both) of those things is true. Reactions to the Jobs news has, of course, been glowing, not because anyone (except maybe Samsung) is glad to see him go, but because Jobs is a brilliant man deserving of his accolades. Apple won't be the same without him at the helm.
But there's also something strange afoot as people begin to reflect on the Jobs era and publish their lengthy and perpetually-queued retrospectives. This was perhaps epitomized most strongly in this post from Allen Paltrow, who details his experience meeting Steve Jobs at the opening of the Fifth Avenue Apple Store in 2006. For Paltrow, his love and adoration of Apple's products found a clear and manifest source in the body of Steve Jobs. Jobs is Apple in corporeal form, the literal and figurative core of the company. This is reason enough to love him.
"To me, like many of you, it is an incredibly emotional moment. I cannot look at Twitter, and through the mist in my eyes, I am having a tough time focusing on the screen of this computer."
Clearly there is something amiss here.
The Cult of Apple is well-documented and discussion of it is almost entirely played out by this point. But that doesn't mean it's gone away. In the aftermath of Steve Jobs' resignation, we are seeing, with increased frequency, the rise of personal reaction pieces, the "where were you when it happened" posts that read more like obituaries than they have any right to.
So here's mine. The seemingly universal adoration for Steve Jobs is not something that I share. This isn't because I have any particular animosity towards Jobs, but rather because I can't seem to draw the connection between Steve Jobs the man and Steve Jobs the man who led the company that created the computer I am currently using. I simply can't conflate the two.
I don't, for example, praise the inventor of the microwave every time I nuke a pair of Hot Pockets. Nor do I, to my knowledge, silently thank Garrett Morgan every time I cross the street. There is a difference, I think, between appreciating a product on a personal level and virtually idolizing those who had a part in creating it.
But maybe the adoration makes a certain amount of sense. What better way to show your appreciation for a company's products than to express your adoration for the people responsible for them? If you love the iPad, iPhone, and iPod, shouldn't you, by default, love the people who created them?
For Allen Paltrow and certainly countless others, that's the way it works with Steve Jobs. As a figurehead, Jobs' role is indisputable. But it should also be tempered by the fact that Jobs is a man, an exceptional one, sure--but still a man. Jobs may be worthy of the praise, but he certainly isn't deserving of the worship.