Steve Jobs’ On-Off Switch and Eternity in Man’s Heart

It has been a month since Steve Jobs’ death. The talking heads have had their lime light, the biography has been released, and the tributes have been turned down to a simmer.

Before this passes out of the realm of current events and sinks into the internet’s vast catalog of oblivion, I want to make one more observation on Steve Jobs’ life.

The absence of an on-off switch on Apple devices is more than a design feature. It’s a life philosophy. It has been said that Steve Jobs didn’t put on-off switches on his products because he didn’t like the thought that at the end of a successful, influential life a person is just gone- put eternally in the off position.

“Ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about (God) more. And I find myself believing a bit more. Maybe it’s because I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear,” Isaacson quoted Jobs as saying.

“Then he paused for a second and he said ‘yeah, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone,” Isaacson said of Jobs. “He paused again, and he said: And that’s why I don’t like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.”

How could a person who changed the world and radically improved technology- who in October 2001 raised the iPod amidst the collapse of the twin towers and in January 2010 launched the iPad amidst the financial collapse- not somehow endure the greatest downturn of life itself? How could the difference between life and death be as simple as flicking a switch?

We’re shocked to learn that even the greatest among us are still men. Death is a great leveling force. It’s the greatest common denominator. It’s the second most powerful thing in the universe, second only to God Himself. Physical strength, mental acuity, bank accounts all are defenseless against it.

For Steve Jobs to have this consideration near the end of his life is, I think, a great testimony to God’s existence. What Steve Jobs voiced may be what Christopher Hitchens is not voicing while he is facing the same situation. We should pray for people like these to be saved, believing that all things are possible with God and that He can turn the fiercest opponent into the boldest proponent.

Many atheists are so only in their mind and with their mouth but not in their heart. They may deny God in their mind, but there is something deep within that still questions.

I have a friend, an analytic philosopher and convinced atheist, who told me that she sometimes wakes in the middle of the night, anxiously turning over a series of ultimate questions: “How can it be that this world is the result of an accidental big bang? How could there be no design, no metaphysical purpose? Can it be that every life—beginning with my own, my husband’s, my child’s, and spreading outward—is cosmically irrelevant?” In the current intellectual climate, atheists are not supposed to have such thoughts. We are locked into our rival certainties—religiosity on one side, secularism on the other—and to confess to weakness on this order is like a registered Democrat wondering if she is really a Republican, or vice versa… But as one gets older, and parents and peers begin to die, and the obituaries in the newspaper are no longer missives from a faraway place but local letters, and one’s own projects seem ever more pointless and ephemeral, such moments of terror and incomprehension seem more frequent and more piercing, and, I find, as likely to arise in the middle of the day as the night.

-James Wood, Secularism and its Discontents: The New Yorker

Thus when death comes on slowly and we have time to process it or when the pinnacle of achievement leaves the taste of the vanity of life in our mouth, something of eternity is activated within us. We suddenly want to know what it was all for. Even within the most resolute champions of atheism there is an inward protest that this is not all there is, that human life has a higher meaning, that we were made for God.

Within man in God’s creation there are certain things according to God’s nature. Even if we do not have the words to express or explain it, we realize that within our human nature there is something that senses there is a God. We cannot explain this, but we sense it. A young man may be able to boldly say that there is no God, but the older he becomes, the more weakly he will say this. When he comes to the verge of death, he will have no more boldness to say there is no God. This is because the inner sense created by God within our nature becomes stronger and stronger as we grow older. The older we become, the stronger this inner sense is.

-Witness Lee

Man’s need for God is not religious. It is human to need God. This need is woven into the very fiber of our humanity. In a sense this is what makes us human. Therefore, you can only suppress the inner cry for so long. Food, water, shelter may be man’s outward basic needs, but God is man’s intrinsic need.

God has planted eternity in man’s heart, something which can only be satisfied by the eternal God and His eternal purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:11, Isaiah 40:28, Ephesians 3:11).

9 thoughts on “Steve Jobs’ On-Off Switch and Eternity in Man’s Heart

  1. this is why we need to speak the HIGH GOSPEL, brother… the whole world lies in the evil one, and it is completely drugged when it comes to God and the real belief. People are so confused when it comes to this that they would rather believe an idea that doesn’t make sense than believe in the living Person of Christ!

    There’s a seeking and a hunger put into man by God Himself – and nothing under the sun can satisfy it except God. Lord, satisfy the hunger of many today!

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    • I don’t think we can blame people if we don’t speak. I’ve always been impressed with Paul’s threefold realization of his role in the gospel in Romans 1:14-16- “I am debtor… I am ready… I am not ashamed.”

      Did anyone have the thought that they owed Steve Jobs the gospel? Was anyone ready to reach him with the gospel? Was anyone not ashamed of the being identified with the gospel? A lot of times looking at these verses I realize the fingers point back at me.

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  2. Your post is making my eyes teary. One of the teachers at my high school passed away very recently after battling cancer for quite a while. We’re glad he believed in the Lord, but his passing just brought me to a thought, how tragic it is to not realize that indeed, it is human to need God. Why not be honest to our own inner longing… Jesus is Lord! Thanks for sharing, Kyle.

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    • Thanks for sharing your story too. Until you see someone go through cancer, I don’t think you understand how horrible it is. The gospel truly is good news in a world of tragedy, where “quite half of the human race is in tears.” -Proust

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  3. Thanks for this Kyle. Your recents posts on Jobs have been refreshing while remaining sensitive. In all of the respect that has rightfully been paid to the man, we must be reminded that we are still dying.

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  4. The lack of an on-off switch is a design flaw. What Steve Jobs did was design his products to intentionally have a finite life with non-removable batteries (another design flaw) as well as be always on until the battery wears out like car batteries inevitably do.

    All manner of things that have to “remember” settings can, with the technology found in SD cards can be designed to be able to in fact be shut off, draining no power when not in use. Think of a car stereo and how as you replace the battery forgets the settings. This poor design is so common it’s ridiculous.

    Now, as far as death, we are all doomed to find out the answer of the unanswerable question…

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