Down on the Farm: A secular saint
From the moment twenty years ago when I pulled my first Apple computer out of the box and flipped on the switch, I knew Steve Jobs was on my side.
The only reason I bought a computer was to write. In English. I didn't care to learn a new language, which is what you had to do to use a computer before.
The computer experts hated the simplicity of the Apple. They hated and mocked Jobs' creation all while trying to imitate it, and poorly. They hated that any idiot could use an Apple computer.
Since the beginnings of civilization, the world has been cursed by complicators, people who take simple truths and turn them into complicated systems described by complicated jargon.
Their one goal? To make the simple truth inaccessible to the masses so they can charge them for access to it.
Every great religion in the world started with a simplifier, a mystical seeker who spouted simple, jarringly obvious truths in simple, compelling terms.
Then along come the complicators, the theologians, the systematizers, the pasty-faced nerds with more brains than wisdom who muck up simple truths into incomprehensible jargon.
Now, to understand the religion, you have to pay the nerds to teach you the system. Once you've gone to the trouble of learning the system, of course you want to maintain its value and specialness, so you turn around and impose it on others.
"No, you can't simply turn on a machine and write in English," they would say. "You must learn our special language first."
The motive of the complicators isn't just money. They want a sense that they possess special knowledge. The easiest way to develop special knowledge is to complicate what is simple.
Of course, there are a few professions where specialized terms are necessary. Doctors and scientists need thousands of names just to describe the details of creation. You can't just call that thing-a-ma-jig that hangs from your throat a thing-a-ma-jig. But in most cases and in most trades, specialized jargon is unnecessary.
In the nursery trade, we used to grow and sell plants. Now, we are the "green industry" and we "install plant materials."
Stock brokers used to sell stocks. Now they "take a position in equities." People have become "individuals." Buildings have become "facilities."
At every turn, the complicators try to create their own language, their own world, their own specialty.
The only things they add to the sum of human knowledge are syllables. And textbooks. And degrees. And consulting jobs.
Enter Steve Jobs, the apostle of simplicity, the prophet of practicality.
Somehow, the impulse to use one's expertise to complicate everything didn't show up in the very brainy Steve Jobs. Instead, Jobs worked at every turn to simplify, simplify, simplify.
For this, he was reviled. His crime? Unlike other computer peddlers, Jobs didn't insist that Apple computers bat you over the head with an obscure language and a crazy, impenetrable instruction manual.
Jobs insisted upon a common language.
When you turn on an Apple computer, you can be writing in two minutes. If you want to get fancy, you may do that later, but it is optional.
Jobs insisted that the nuts and bolts, all of the complicated programming that goes into a computer, be hidden behind a simple, friendly front.
Naturally, the brainy geniuses who create computer programs were offended that the complexity of their creations was no longer visible.
They were offended that Jobs made computers accessible to the masses, thus robbing the experts of their expertise.
The technocrats even fired Jobs from the company he founded, before they hired him back to preside over a second period of massive growth.
Under Jobs, Apple Computer grew from a small business to one of the five largest companies in the world. For once, simplicity trumped complexity.
Apple isn't perfect, yet Steve Jobs' passion for simplicity and his refusal to complicate have made him, in death, something of a secular saint.