At the beginning of her column Limits Of Magical Thinking, New York Times columnist Maureen Down gets right down to it.
Steve Jobs, the mad perfectionist, even perfected his stare.
He wanted it to be hypnotic. He wanted the other person to blink first. He wanted it to be, like Dracula’s saturnine gaze, a force that could bend your will to his and subsume your reality in his.
Well! I won't beat around the bush either. Steve Jobs was a classic narcissist. Hardcore. Full-blown. Probably untreatable. No amount of therapy would have cracked that armor.
An Apple C.E.O. who jousted with Jobs wondered if he had a mild bipolarity.
“Sometimes he would be ecstatic, at other times he was depressed,” Isaacson writes. There were Rasputin-like seductions followed by raging tirades. Everyone was either a hero or bozo.
As Jobs’s famous ad campaign for Apple said, “Here’s to the crazy ones ... They push the human race forward.”
The diagnosis gets sharper. Seductions and rages. The "crazy ones" push the human race ... somewhere. I don't think creating and selling iShit necessarily means forward. I would say that constitutes more of the same, a long lineage that runs from stone hand axes, to the wheel, to steam engines, to refrigerators, and finally to iPhones. Next we'll have barely functional but automated check-out machines at the supermarket which always require human intervention. Whoops, sorry, we already have those! Next we'll have cars that drive themselves and crash into each other all the time.
Technological progress marches on. Wisdom does not. Humans can't even govern themselves—Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others—but they sure do love their toys. Beamers, iPads, Predator drones! Hell, they can't even keep a Democracy and get that to work. Hopeless. But I digress.
The monstre sacré fancied himself an “enlightened being,” but he was capable of frightening coldness, even with his oldest collaborators and family. Yet he often sobbed uncontrollably.
Isaacson told me that Jobs yearned to be a saint; but one of the colleagues he ousted from Apple mordantly noted that the petulant and aesthetic Jobs would have made an excellent King of France.
His extremes left everyone around him with vertigo.
He embraced Zen minimalism and anti-materialism. First, he lived in an unfurnished mansion...
This is becoming more and more interesting, speaking therapeutically of course. Aside from being a full-blown narcissist—petulant, an excellent King of France, alternating with sobbing—Jobs was delusional as well. Saint? An enlightened being? Anti-materialism??? Whenever I read about Jobs and Apple in the past, I was always struck by the fact that Apple was run like a secular cult with Jobs as its leader. Narcissists are often portrayed as having charisma.
- a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure (as a political leader)
- a special magnetic charm or appeal
The magnetic appeal of Jobs and Apple extended to its user community. Not all Apple users were drawn to this technology cult, but many were. I posted on this a while back in The Apple Cult. A recent Daily Ticker story The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: Mike Daisey Says Technology Is ‘New Religion’ confirms this from the point of view of a loving cult member (video below).
Another tribute of sorts can be found at New York City's Public Theater in the form of a one-man show: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.
Created and performed by monologist Mike Daisey, the show is, in part, a hysterically funny love letter to Jobs from a self-described tech "geek" and Apple aficionado.
"I've grown up with Apple, love the devices and love the design," Daisey says. "I loved Steve Jobs and the way he was able to meld a human sense of taste and editing in creating these incredibly effective devices."
As the title of the show infers, there's also a religious element to Jobs and Apple, at least according to Daisey, who makes a compelling case that technology is a form of religion in modern life.
"Religions traditionally were ways of seeing the world -- a system for understand the universe," he tells me in the accompanying video. "That's literally what an operating system is for us today. When I wake up in the morning...the first thing I reach for is not my wife, it's my iPhone."
If technology is a religion, then Steve Jobs was clearly a deity, or certainly an extremely powerful prophet, Daisey says.
"The way he was able to chain all of Apple to himself, to make Apple a reflection of his tastes and desires...makes him sort of a saint," he says. "Jobs was a very powerful figure [and] Apple will have to wrestle with that legacy."
I love it when other people basically (and unknowingly) write my story for me. Jobs was able to chain all of Apple to himself—perfect!
I wonder how people would react if they really understood that so many of the charismatic figures who lead them—in religion, in politics, in business—are actually full-blown narcissists, or have some other related personality disorder. (In the DSM IV, borders between mental disorders tend to blur, diagnoses are complex.)
I seriously doubt people would want to hear this unsettling message. Narcissists have a deep hole in their souls which can never be filled. These people often try to make themselves (their psyches) whole by subsuming all the people and things around them, but no amount of money or power or fame can fill up that hole. It is a boundary problem. Pyschologically, there is no place where the incomplete narcissistic Self ends and the Other begins.
And why was Steve Jobs the way he was? Because he was abandoned as a child.
He was abandoned by parents who conceived him out of wedlock at 23, and he then abandoned a daughter for many years that he conceived out of wedlock at 23.
Think about it: if Steve Jobs hadn't been an abandoned child, would you have your iPhone 5? (It changed everything, of course, again.) Steve Jobs, Boy Wonder. He was able to "chain all of Apple" to himself, and many in his user community too. The Apple Cult. What will they do now? Much of the time, those who lead us in business or politics are just plain crazy. And what does that say about human beings?
As you listen to Mike Daisey talk about Steve Jobs, bear in mind what I've told you here.