Aug 25, 2011

The quick and the dead

Steve Jobs was in the new again today. As many have expected for years, the Resurrection Man has come to the point where his failing strength and perhaps other priorities have led him to cede control at Apple. It's been a good ride. I made a lot of money over the years buying Apple stock when the doomsayers at the Wall Street Journal predicted the company's imminent demise and the world watched as it soared again.

Last December, a man I know was supposed to die. He was crazy as a loon, still is, a brilliant researcher who sometimes couldn't tell his daughters from his deceased mother or his ex-wife, but he has an unshakeable core of sanity that once led him to cheerfully announce that the doctors who told him and his wife that their newborn daughter would die shortly were daft. Twenty-seven years later the verdict of the medical experts has yet to be enforced. Last December, with Death's doors wide open, he began to plan a trip for the spring. I forgot to ask if he took it, but this week he is expected to die again, and his daughter tells me he's planning another trip. Crazy indeed.

We tie ourselves in knots with worry or plans, predictions of The Coming of TM, The End of the Economy and whatnot, and things usually turn out quite differently on the longer journey. The plan is the hand on the tiller, but to navigate the currents safely, the hand must move with subtlety and good timing. And still in depths sounded well there may be rocks close to the surface.

Mr. Jobs had a good run, because he had clear vision that saw risk as the fertile soil from which real bounty can grow. In my farming days I saw years where the water rose and ruined my neighbor's fields; once I was cut off for ten days at the end of a cul-de-sac when the road washed out. And yet Mr. Jobs continued to plant his seeds and my former neighbors and others around the world still do, and the rain or the drought comes as it may.

There are a few certainties. Children grow until they do not. Friends, family, pets live until they do not. Will the customer accept your well-planned offer at a fair price? The outcome is perhaps more certain one way or another than next week's weather, and if you do not ask for what you need, it is nearly certain that you will get what you have asked for: nothing. The people of my host country, Germany, have insurance for everything, but for little that really matters, as all the myriad payments have no dividend of courage.

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