how – of all people – Steve Jobs has helped me feel a little less lonely

I wasn’t quite as familiar with Steve Jobs, the public figure, as some other people I know. I remember when we got our first computer, an Apple IIc+, in what must have been 1988, I sat down and dutifully read the instruction manual because I was an awesomely adventurous child. The manual mentioned that Apple had been founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in one a garage and that they named the company Apple because they couldn’t think of what else to call it. For a long time, that’s about all knew of the guy.

I learned much more about Steve Jobs after he passed away. Like many, many other people, I read Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography and, from it, have no problem describing Jobs as a man with a soul but no heart.

To have a soul is required, I think, to believe in things like poetry and music and change and the sheer force of one person’s will. Jobs did all of these things, and I can see his soul shine through my iPhone and iPad.

To have a heart is required, I think, to be kind, considerate, compassionate and honest. Having a soul is self-directed; having a heart is other-directed. At this, Jobs failed. He was a brilliant man with a brilliant vision and a brilliant passion, but let’s face it: more often than not he seemed to care very little for and about how other people felt.

Which is why it’s so weird that I owe him a big thank you for helping me feel less lonely right now while Ashley is in Disney World.

Because she recently acquired an iPhone,(1) and because we share an iCloud account, I can hop on the Find my iPhone app at any point and see what she and her family are up to.

Okay yes. It’s a little creepy. Or at least it would be if she didn’t know I was checking her location. Granted, this isn’t precisely what Find my iPhone was meant for,(2) but yesterday when I had a quick look and saw that they were watching the Lion King show at Animal Kingdom…well, for a moment it was like I was there with her. There’s a part in the show that I find to be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life. I won’t spoil it for you, plus there’s simply no way I could describe it with any real effect, but both times I’ve seen it, tears came to my eyes. And both times I’ve seen it, Ashley was with me. And right then, last night, just for a second, I felt what that felt like, instead of just feeling bored and vaguely sad. I felt Ashley right next to me, looking up in wonder. I could even picture her face smiling under the light. And for a little bit I felt somewhat less alone.

Then there’s Photo Stream. For those who don’t know, Photo Stream stores a copy in the cloud of any picture taken on an iDevice for 30 days. So, again, since Ashley and I share an iCloud account, I can see the pictures she takes without her having to send them to me. Photo Stream only syncs photos to the cloud over WiFi, so I can’t see her pictures until after she’s returned to their resort. The other day she took a picture of a gallon of chocolate milk. I have no idea why. Can’t even guess. But it’s exactly what I was looking for, exactly the kind of randomness that is Ashley.(3)

And of course, there’s FaceTime. I love Ashley’s voice a lot, but everyone sounds different over the phone. She says I always sound like I’m waiting to get off the phone, while I think she always sounds a touch put-off. But with FaceTime, Apple’s video-chat, I can hear her lovely voice, see her pretty smile and watch her laugh. That was the highlight of my day yesterday. There’s something about seeing someone, seeing the person you’re talking to, watching her react to what you say, seeing smallish movements of eyebrow and chin, that makes me feel a little less here and a little more there.

And it’s odd that this closeness has been brought about by one of the most emotionally distant people I’ve ever read about. It’s as though he wanted to connect everyone in the world with what they love – music, art, pictures – and the people they care about even though he himself had a hard time connecting with anyone. I’m sure he didn’t create FaceTime or Find my iPhone (though the books mentions that iCloud was something he wanted to make work), but you can believe not a thing shows up on any Apple device out-of-the-box that he didn’t know about and approve of.

He’s caught a lot of flack over the years for a statement he made at a company retreat way back in 1982: “Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them.” But he was right. At least in my case. I didn’t know I wanted ways to miss Ashley just a little bit less until I figured out how to use Apple’s devices to do exactly that. And that’s what technology should do: bring us closer to whom and to what we love.

  1. 2011 will forever be the Year of Apple for us. Make of that what you will.
  2. Which seems to be helping porn stars find their stolen phones.
  3. I should point out that it’s only seeming randomness. She always has a reason.

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