"[I]f I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week…The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature." --Charles Darwin

Thursday, October 6, 2011

"I think it would be fun to run a newspaper"

A lot of electrons are being spilled today over the too-early death of Steve Jobs, and rightly so. We speak of his vision, imagination and energy. He is thought by many as representing the kind of innovation that serves as an engine of capitalism.

But I suspect that he wasn't primarily interested in pumping up the capitalist system, although he chose to be an entrepreneur, literally a garage band company. Judging from pictures of them from 1976, when they first introduced the Apple II, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak look as though they think it would be a lot of fun to mess around with computers, make some that everybody could afford and everybody could use, then stand back and see what happened.

There's a key line in Citizen Kane which explains why Kane's substitute parent, the banker Thatcher will never understand his ward. Kane surveys all the businesses he now owns thanks to the shrewd investments of his bank-parent and sees mines and factories and who-knows-what-else in that gallimaufrey. Buried deep in the list of enterprises is a small, shabby unprofitable operation in San Francisco, a fussy and fusty old newspaper. He grins with delight and says, "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper."

From that observation flow power and influence that would not likely have accrued to a mine operator or a stock manipulator. But Kane heard his own siren song and he went and from that his and many lives were forever changed.

Steve Jobs heard that song; not the song of increased productivity or bounding entrepreneurship, but good old-fashioned fun. Maybe more of us should follow that call and see what happens.

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