Steve Jobs and the personal computer will probably be remembered alongside Johann Gutenberg and the printing press as milestones toward the globalization of information and the democratization of culture. Authors should take heed. Those of us who cling too tightly to our paperbacks will someday be lumped in with ancient clergy who preferred to keep sacred texts on scrolls. The times they are a-changin'.
Ashton Kutcher's acting will likely NOT make history. Yet, his biographical film Jobs offers a meaningful glimpse into a time (late 70s) and a place (northern California) that reconfigured the world forever. This movie is also a reminder of how humans are made to dream and strive, to succeed and even to fail, but not to wait around for kings or presidents or central planning commitees to hand us our lives. The societal rules are just traditions, but our lives are our greatest possessions.
Last week, I hung out with travel writer Mittie Rogers. We met in San Miguel de Allende, at a battered piano bar with flickering votive candles, red and green velvet cushions, plus an oil painting of Frank Sinatra. A Canadian crooner sang lounge versions of Fields of Gold by Sting, With or Without You by U2, and Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. An old man in a brown fedora ignored his older-looking wife to chat up a blond Oregon woman with a silver Celtic cross dangling between some creamy breasts.
I drank an Argentinian red and Mittie described her recent travels in Cuba. As someone who has the heart to make the world a better place but the guts to see the way it is, Mittie was disturbed by what she saw there. Getting far beyond the tourist zones, she found the lovely socialist dream of ensuring necessities to all accompanied by the all-too-real socialist nightmare of many residents developing an apathy toward life.
When generations come to accept that control of their destiny lies in the hands of a vast unmovable bureaucracy, they can forget to dream or even smile. When free people in a capitalist jungle make their own choices about what to do and how to live, inequality results and even innocent children suffer. Still, when such choices are delegated to central planners, the human spirit can shut down or at least go on auto-pilot for a while.
People need to reach and even to struggle, but definitely to live their own lives, not prefabricated ones designed by government engineers, packed like Ikea furniture, and distributed to compliant citizens. Freedom is messy. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness sometimes lead only to disillusionment. Yet, they are rights and responsibilities that come with being human.
It's easy to see how unrestrained capitalist zealots like Steve Jobs can abuse their free reign and go too far. Nevertheless, are we living our own lives with gusto and conviction or merely criticizing the bold while living hand-me-down lives inherited from Google, Hollywood, or Big Brother? While waiting for the U.S. government to get the bugs out of the new "free-healthcare" website, why not put on your running shoes and give yourself some free healthcare. By all means, read good travel lit like Sacred Ground Magazine whenever you can, but get out there. It's your life, so live it!