The Spark of Genius: Steve Jobs

Look at that smirk. He’s saying, “I’m a genius”.

Since 8:07 tonight I’ve been playing a thousand quotes in my mind, over and over. When I was young, and trying to find the answers, I became a person of letters, words, quotes, sayings, proverbs, truisms turned into vocabulary trying to make some concrete connection to ideas. There are a thousand quotes we could use to describe, cope, make concrete something that is ethereal, attempting to encompass a word which doesn’t explain a noun, an event, time or place, but an absence of something: Death. The extinguishing of a flame. Or the spark of genius.

Let me instead, write of the intangible thing which does exist. Let me write of genius. Benjamin Franklin said there are two things which are constant, death and taxes. In the world of science, the world I live in from 9-6 each day, there is only one true constant: Change. I don’t know that Benjamin Franklin was a genius. He also lived between the pendulum and the pen, writing and experimenting, attempting to take abstract ideas and make them concrete and accessible. Genius, however, lives in the ability to create, to change the world in an unthought of an unalterable way.

Here’s where I should talk of Ford, of Da Vinci, of Columbus, and Constantine, the Huns, the Yellow emperor, (and where all the women in history?), but instead I’m going to a more familiar source: Mad Men. Most of the media world would say that show is “genius”, but to be genius it really has to have created some completely original change. Instead, I say it is art, an interpretative representation of genius. It is an indisputable fact that advertising changed America and the world. Looking at the work of Warhol, a so-called genius, who would never call himself that, and we see the interpretive representation of genius, his art showed the power advertising had on American culture.

So let me quote Mad Men. Peggy, the adwoman wannabe rudely to her date “Those people up in Manhattan, they are better than us. Because they want things they haven’t seen.”

We are taught with a mind-numbing number 2 pencil consistency that there is no “better than us”, if we answer right, if we repeat with precision, if we are careful and clear and concise, we are better. But that isn’t genius is it? And geniuses are better than “us”. They’re our heroes, we lifted up on pedestals to godlike status, and when, like today, we’re faced with their mortality, the flesh and blood that is just like us…we ache. Most people affected by Steve Jobs never knew him. They never knew the dreams and ideas in his head yet to be realized, (like the iPhone 5, damnit). They are not “missing” their friend, they are not mourning their brother, we are missing the light from a spark of genius.

More science imagery: Fire, that first “genius” invention of man, is one of the fundamental reactions in chemistry: Combustion. It is the combination of oxygen with another material to create carbon dioxide and water. It happens inside us too. The strangest thing about fire, which is change, is if complete, it leaves us with nothing, only the heat and light we can see and feel. That heat though, can set all other types of reactions, it can be channeled into kinetic energy, the energy of motion, or destroy harmful bacteria, or start enzymatic reactions, or light the pages of history in the dark years before Edison and Teslov.

In my first ever blogpost I wrote about the about watching coders type. They fascinate me with their insane work ethic and creativity. “Their sodium-potassium transport proteins are whirring away, shooting volts down to their digits, flipping switches, translating steriod spikes to photons, building the Matrix.” I think there is a little bit of genius inside each one of them, and the creative people across the web turning Jakob Nielsen’s 90-9-1 principle on its head. Steve Jobs’s computers, software, mobile phones, App store, OS and Apple, Inc. itself gave us the light those creatives write by each day.

I could say positively, it is a light that will be passed, replaced and never burn out. Instead I will leave you with carbon, oxygen and water of Steve Jobs, and the mortality I feel. If you read my blog, you know the only faith I have is in the creative light of genius. I know someday I too will follow it right into darkness. But I wonder, will I ever be someone who possesses it? Can I change the world? Can I return Jobs’s smirk?

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