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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.


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Thursday, October 06, 2011

entry arrow6:02 PM | In Celebration of Round Pegs in Square Holes



As I write this, the news is pouring in and tributes are flying everywhere about the passing of Steve Jobs, the co-founder and visionary behind Apple. It wasn’t exactly news that surprised many of us. We had known of his battle with pancreatic cancer for the longest time, and the evidence of the ravages that the illness wrought could be seen in Mr. Job’s gaunt, emaciated look of late. A few months ago, he stepped down as CEO of Apple. And we knew the day would soon come. And it did. But it didn’t make it any less painful.

Truth to tell, I am myself surprised by the level of grief I have found myself indulging in. I have never been an ardent Steve Jobs fan—my friend JB Lim is, and aside from the fact that he owns virtually every gadget Apple has produced of late (JB also used to be the man behind the Genius Bar of Dumaguete’s iStore), he goes around his every day life in signature black wardrobe inspired by the man.

But I am always, always saddened when visionaries and people of distinguished talent pass away, and most often in the prime of their lives. Because these people contribute so much to the world, and yet they die too soon, I think. Pero si Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile—the architect of the Martial Law and a powerful lawmaker whose latest antics in the Senate (the masturbation brouhaha, for example) could be grounds for speculation on his verging towards senile dementia—bakit buhay pa? Of course, Billy Idol once said that “the good die young,” and such may be the irony of life, which I cannot be bothered with trying to understand.

I must admit there was a profound sadness in the way I greeted my day when I woke to this news this morning. Perhaps no one can understand this level of grief unless one has been touched by the kind of technological lifestyle Apple has given to hipsters, creatives, and forward-thinking people this past decade. For many of us, there is a demarcation between a certain past and then the moment when the magic of Apple’s humanized technology touched us. Once you go Mac, so they say, you can’t go back. I write this article, for example, on a MacBook while listening to a movie score by Michael Giacchino for a Pixar film from my iPod. Mac, Pixar, and the iPod. That’s three instances, all at once, with which Jobs can lay claim to an influence on the way I live.

And yet beyond all these marks of influence, it is Mr. Job’s template of having forged unlikely success in a culture of low-minded thinking that captures my imagination. A hipster to the core—his enduring philosophy advises us to “stay hungry, [and to] stay foolish,” something he got from The Whole Earth Catalog from the hippie culture of the 1960s—his success can be traced to a singular drive to strip everything down to a marriage of technology and design informed by taste, which he knew could not be gleaned from the overpowering marketing notion that the consumer is king. From the New York Times tribute to him, John Markoff writes: “When asked what market research went into the iPad, Mr. Jobs replied: ‘None. It’s not the consumers’ job to know what they want.’”

And to this, I say, Thank you very much. This is something that ABS-CBN and other panderers of the quick-profit philosophy of common taste can learn, if they want to stay relevant in the long run. The antithesis to Steve Jobs would be this masa culture awash in Willie Revillame, the Transformers movies, the Kardashians and reality TV shows of their ilk, FoxNews, the Twilight novels, StarCinema’s No Other Woman, and others of their kind, which follow undying formula and get rewarded by the masa for the comfortable conformity they champion—but do not push human civilization any further at all. Why do you think StarCinema gives us the same kind of movies every single time? Because every single frame has been market-researched to death, destined to give what the consumer wants, and all for profit.

What change the world are often people with vision and drive. These are people who don’t follow rules, who could care less for the status quo, who are often unpopular. Or if not unpopular, these are people who rock the boat and send shivers down the spine of people who only have eyes for the bottom-line. I am reminded of Oprah Winfrey when she decided to chuck the template of daytime talk popularized by Phil Donahue back in the day. These are shows, not unlike Jerry Springer’s, glorifying in trashy topics, which does bring in eyeballs and the eventual ratings and dollars. But no, Oprah said; she wanted to do a show that specialized in “elevating the human spirit”—and that must have made the television moneymen cringe then. Who profits from goody-goody daytime television? But guess who has the last laugh.

Of all things that I want to remember most about Steve Jobs, it is this quote: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Think about this. Men and women who have broken the rules have shaped world history. Give me a conformist or a rule-follower who has impacted history, and you will most likely draw a blank. Jesus? He angered the religious authorities of his day, which led to his crucifixion. Gandhi? His unquiet revolution of “passive resistance” molded a nation, and cost him his life. Mother Teresa? She abandoned first world comfort to take care of India’s unwanted—not a career shift anybody “practical” would wish for anybody.

Today we live in a world that forces—or even shames us—to conform, to abide by the strict rules, to surrender to hierarchy instead of merit, to give up the pursuit of creative thinking in favor of “the practical.” I get reprimanded for eschewing these reminders all the time; sometimes they even call this “arrogance.” But I don’t mind. I know who I am.

It takes guts to be a Steve Jobs. But if you have the guts, and you have the courage to follow the promise of your potential, you can change the world in your own small ways. Mr. Jobs said it best: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Farewell, Mr. Jobs. And thank you very much.

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[1] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





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