Steven Jobs’s ‘oh wow’ and other last words

CHRISTOF STACHE AFP/GETTY IMAGES The face of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is created with adhesive notes on … Continued

CHRISTOF STACHE

AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The face of Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs is created with adhesive notes on the window of an Apple Store in Munich on October 18, 2011.

According to those closest to him, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’s last words were “Oh Wow.” Some are suggesting that they are not unlike Thomas Edison’s last words upon briefly emerging from the coma into which he sank before dying, “it is very beautiful over there.” Maybe it’s me, but that’s an awfully long stretch, even for one such as me, who is entirely comfortable with the idea that there is life after life.

Edison’s words attest to the inventor’s experience of some other world – one which he seems to have visited while comatose. Whether that utterance is better explained as a neurological event, than as reliable evidence for an afterlife is debatable. But whatever one concludes based on Edison’s report, and those of others who “come back” with similar reports, Job’s words do not belong on that list. They could mean many other things and the jump to connect the two utterances says more about the living than it does about where the departed go after their departure from this world, or even where Steven Jobs thought they went.

According to the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 74 percent of us believe in life after death. While Jobs’s comments could point to his seeing something beyond this world as he departed, he could just as easily have been calling out in recognition of the enormous finality of the moment. It could be that his words reflected the exact opposite of a hereafter – instead signaling the awesome awareness that his amazing life was really and fully over. There is no way of knowing –at least not for now.

What we can know is that different understandings of life, and what may or may not occur after our deaths, can shape our sense of purpose while here on earth. Those who believe in this existence and not other, may become deeply depressed about the relatively small amount of time we are given and the fact that when it is done here, there is nothing else. Those same people may decide that given how little time there is, each moment is precious and we must fill them all with as much meaning as possible.

Similarly, those who believe in an afterlife may take both this world and life in it, for granted – assuming that since there is so much more coming, there is no reason to fret about this life or even to struggle to make it better. On the other hand, those same people may see this life as their great opportunity to “practice” for the world to come – to live as fully and as richly now because that is the best preparation for whatever is coming.

There is evidence for all of these responses among various groups and schools of thought, and all point to the fact that we have choices to make regardless of the beliefs that we hold. Personally, I am not so arrogant as to assume that those things which we know intellectually are the full measure of existence. On the other hand, I am more interested in how we make life on earth as “heavenly” as possible whether heaven “really” exists or not.

It seems to me that if there is a heaven, having lived that way here on earth, we are more likely to be welcomed there. And if there is no heaven, we will have made the most of what tere really is.

About

Brad Hirschfield An acclaimed author, lecturer, rabbi, and commentator on religion, society and pop culture, Brad Hirschfield offers a unique perspective on the American spiritual landscape and political and social trends to audiences nationwide.
  • chm_xiang

    Maybe he saw all the abused workers who commited suicide after they worked their bones off for his pocket book
    Billionaire baron–Google FOXCONN apple suicides
    where you had to sign “I will not commit suicide pledge

  • msdaif

    What I guess is that Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs saw the heaven of the the afterlife. I think they are in heaven now because they served humanity.

  • rascal16

    I disagree. I think Steve Jobs’ last words are just as pertinent and meaningful as what Edison said “way back when”. I’ll bet in hindsight, you and others might change their viewpoint. Maybe Steve was too “contemporary” to be able to utter spiritually significant words for some of us?

  • Anne44

    Great article. Those closest to Mr. Jobs who were present at the time of his death may have their own ideas as to what he meant.

  • Anne44

    Hopefully everyone will pray for you.

  • mtoffler

    “It could be that his words reflected the exact opposite of a hereafter – instead signaling the awesome awareness that his amazing life was really and fully over. There is no way of knowing –at least not for now.”—Really. If you’re going to call some people out for a stretch-interpretations….I mean really…

    Look out, Post, your bias is showing again!

    P.S. At least not for now? This guy’s a moron, get him off the payroll.

    P.P.S. Ron Paul 2012.

  • Viss1

    Personally I think what people “see” as they near death is just a neurological phenomenon as the brain dies. Why is it a “stretch” to believe the “white light” people talk about is actually just the shutting down of various functions?

    The brain creates dreams when it’s functioning properly. I can only imagine what type of weirdness it creates when it’s going haywire.

  • jmontecito

    I’m afraid someone with pancreatic cancer may have uttered, Oh, Ow.

    Godspeed, Mr. Jobs.

  • RabbiMichael

    Brad (my teacher) finds in Steve Jobs’ last words an ambiguous expression of wonder. Assuming, he meant to say “wow,”. Jobs is responding to some recognition of something beyond the expected and it cannot be determined whether it is of a supernal or worldly nature, an indicator of joy or sorrow, or some combination of all of these.
    However, there is another piece to the puzzle worth remembering: Jobs identified to large extent with a brand of faith rooted in Buddhism and sought throughout his life to open his mind (sometimes with chemical assistance) rather than subscribe to any dogmatic ideology or belief system. His story and values are easily fit into the narratives of monotheistic “Western” religions, but it is wrong to impose such a framework on his after-death experience. Combining his “oh wow” with his unyielding insistence to live each day as if it were the last can teach a powerful lesson: whatever may or may not come next, this world is full of wonder to the very last moment.

  • RabbiMichael

    Brad (my teacher) finds in Steve Jobs last words an ambiguous expression of wonder. Assuming, he meant to say “wow,”. Jobs is responding to some recognition of something beyond the expected and it cannot be determined whether it is of a supernal or worldly nature, an indicator of joy or sorrow, or some combination of all of these.
    However, there is another piece to the puzzle worth remembering: Jobs identified to large extent with a brand of faith rooted in Buddhism and sought throughout his life to open his mind (sometimes with chemical assistance) rather than subscribe to any dogmatic ideology or belief system. His story and values are easily fit into the narratives of monotheistic “Western” religions, but it is wrong to impose such a framework on his after-death experience. Combining his “oh wow” with his unyielding insistence to live each day as if it were the last can teach a powerful lesson: whatever may or may not come next, this world is full of wonder to the very last moment.

  • RAMC1

    Pain isn’t really a factor when one is dying as Jobs did. The body prepares itself for the death weeks ahead. also liquid Morphine is also used to keep the dying person pain free. I recently lost my Mom and her final words were “Who would have thought”. I learned alot from Hopsice nurses who prepare you for a loved ones death. They have many, many stories of final moments with patients. Many transitioning patients say things that confuse us, but they have meaning and its up to us to figure them out. Jobs could have realized that the moment was upon him and said “oh wow” at the realization that this was it, or maybe he did see/feel something beyond. As with my own Mother, I am unclear what her final words meant. Nurses have told me that many patients do similiar things for example they may say they are preparing for a trip, or need their suitcase, or the train/bus is coming. Many share that their loved ones that had already passed are with them. One patient told the Nurse that she was upset at her passed siblings because they kept begging for her to go with them, and she didn’t want to go. She said they were sitting on her bed at that very moment. One Nurse also told me her 30 years of experience that birth and death have many similarities.

  • chaitanya1

    i guess he gets to show his magical thinking off in heaven .. an ambitious man like him, heck he’d be eager to move on just to see what he can do after.. peace and creative vent to him

  • sqwidman

    “And if there is no heaven, we will have made the most of what tere really is.”

    Proofread bro.

  • sqwidman

    Workers work voluntarily and reap the benefits of getting paid.

  • Kingofkings1

    Oh wow

  • E-Quipman

    Mr. Hirschfield, it’s not an “awfully long stretch” from Steve Jobs’ “oh wow” to Thomas Edison’s “over there” . . . it’s an INFINITELY long stretch. Your disconnect says something about your living. How now “oh wow”?

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