Why Apple will fail without Steve Jobs

It’s not so much that Apple will fail as a company. I mean, they have a massive amount of cash and they will probably carry on as a strong player in technology.

But when they lost Steve Jobs, the Apple products lost their heart.

Here is the thing about consumer goods like Apple. Like all art that touches us and speaks to our souls, Steve Jobs’ Apple products connected to us on a person-to-person level. Steve Jobs spoke to us through his products. He said, this thing is beautiful. Remember how dismissive he was of consumer complaints about the fact that the earlier models of the iPhone didn’t work as a phone unless you used a special case on it? It was like telling Pollock that Blue Poles was too big. It’s as big as it needs to be, would have been Pollock’s response. It is art.

Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World, first published in the late 1970s, describes how works of art contain a spirit which has nothing to do with the price of the ticket at the door or the barcode on the novel. This spirit, Hyde argues, operates in a “gift” economy – an artist receives some part of her talent as a gift, perhaps from her own soul, in what University of NSW professors Ann Game and Andrew Metcalfe would call a “gift-relation.” This is a time and space that an artist carves out of her day, which allows for moments of grace.

Hyde’s artist must on-give her gift through her art, which then circulates amongst us, replenishing souls as it does so. We have all probably got memories of books which have made an indelible print on our hearts or minds, or a performance which seemed to speak directly to us, or a painting which transcended speech the first time we looked at it.

I think that the iPhenomenon is a market example of the same principle. There is a core group of Apple followers who line up at the stores, buying everything that Apple puts out. This kind of lust goes beyond fandom and consumerism. Sure, there is a lot of simple consumer manipulation at work. But terms like brand loyalty are also hiding something else which is also going on, something more personal.

When someone buys an iPhone, they are receiving a little bit of Steve Jobs. He operated like an artist in his designs, putting some part of himself into them. He did not think exclusively of the marketplace when he made his phone – in fact sometimes he didn’t think of them at all, as the complaints about the phone’s faults have attested. But he did see creating something which could behave as a computer in people’s pockets, transforming how they lived their lives, as a life work. He communicated some form of personal truth through his Apple products. A phone made solely with buyers in mind could never command the kind of loyalty that Apple does. A phone which combines savvy marketing and technological merits with the final ingredient – the precise vision of an artist – can.

There is a similar phenomenon at play in the world of the TV personality, which I call the “Oprah-effect.” People literally love Oprah, although they may never have met her. You can see why – she is personable, friendly and warm. She is loving. And so people don’t just like her – they love her. You could get 10,000 people to like a TV personality. But if you can get just one viewer to love that person, then you can get a million people to love her; and then you have a multimillion dollar business.

Love. Yes, love. We talk about brands and money and consumers, but ultimately we are talking about the mass distribution of things or personalities that people can love. Just as in a work of art, but perhaps more direct, a TV personality who can communicate some part of their true selves to a camera and a live audience is imparting something which is more than the sale price of the TV set or the cable subscription. If they can speak from their soul to yours, you are touched. You are grateful. You and they may operate in the consumer economy, but you are also operating in the personal one – the economy of the gift between people. You have shared something which is inalienable; something in other words, which cannot be bought.

Perhaps Oprah and iPhones are ever more popular because of this – because in a world where productivity and self-interest are preached as the core goals, we are grateful for instances of real contact. It is perhaps sad, or perhaps shoddy, that such instances come mediated, and with all the impurity of money attached. Some would call it an indictment on the current condition, or the failure of community. But we could also see it as a new direction for human flourishing. We could take heart from it, knowing that the human soul will always find a way to grow, and share, and love; no matter what the disincentives.

Abandoning Moopet to Childcare

My arms and shoulders ache. I imagine it is from abandoning, deserting, throwing Moopet into the baby jail, behind the playpen bars of her new family day care place.

Actually, my husband did the heavy lifting of Moopet into the playpen, as I have bronchitis – and it may be this making my muscles ache rather than metaphors.

But nevertheless. My husband and I drove home in silence, which I intermittently interrupted with a status update on my emotions. “I am sad,” I announced, as we joined the main road. My husband squeezed my hand. “Now I feel depressed,” as we climbed the hill towards our house. My husband in response tried to fill the role of the jocular, rational one, but then said when we got home, “Poor thing. I am sorry, I shouldn’t start. But when she cries, I just want to pick her up and cuddle her too.”

We both plucked up as we thought of the benefits to Moopet. As an only child, she likes being around other kids (but can’t I just take her to more playgroups?) And it is good for her to spend time with other adults too and learn how to nap somewhere that is not her own room. And – what was the other thing – oh yes, we remembered how awful we felt when we sleep trained her, but how beneficial that was to her and us. We told ourselves that, back in tribal days, babies would have been cared for by a few adults while the rest went off to hunt, or gather (But couldn’t that adult be me? To which my husband asked, “Do you want to start a family day care centre here?” And I said, “No.”)

It is a bind you see. I want to work and do my PhD. Taking care of five kids in my home so I can be with my Moopet would be a step too far.

I hate, have always hated, these calculations of benefit. I have done them all my life. With a disabled sister, you ask yourself: what would be the benefit to her of me staying here in Qld versus the emotional cost to me of doing so? Always I come out on the side of me. There is an arrogance to assuming you can make a person happy.

Now here I am, back at my desk, writing about it while my Moopet plays with someone else’s mum. Here is the heart of it: I am jealous of others being loved by my Moopet. I want it all to myself! Also, I want to do the best thing by her. And finally, she is growing up, and I just seem to have sped that up, sending her away from me before she was ready to go of her own accord. I like to hold on to people until they wrench themselves away so I can always be the one saying good-bye.

I dramatise. I do it because these are words, you see, words to fill the gap between heart and the outside world. Maybe I should have stuck to describing the body blows. My chest hurts – I have strained a muscle in there, I am sure of it – the one which stretches the further away your baby goes. I reassure myself that I love my Moopet, and all this will work out.

A final note: I called the carer when we got home. She told me that Moopet had stopped crying as soon as we left. She is now eating some raisin toast. So I have taught her two good things to see her through this next stage of her independent existence: one, that there is always solace to be had from warm bread; and two, that we would never leave her with someone who did not know this and other, simple truths.

Childcare take 2

It’s been about a million years (in baby time) since I last blogged. Bubba is now 13 months old, and such a different little proposition to how she began. I think I need to find another bloggy pseudonym for her, seeing as she is not going to be a bubba for much longer. How about Moopet?

Weaning Moopet

It had to happen, and so we did it. Over a period of a month, I weaned Moopet, and Moopet weaned me a little slower. I gradually dropped feeds, until we were down to one a day, and she started to reject the boob entirely at that point – obviously there was not enough in it for her any more. I felt OK – I had done it slowly enough to feel like it had been my decision. It was just before she turned one. I was needing to go do more meetings, and wanting to be able to claim a day to myself again – a whole day, with no need to be any place to feed her within a few hours.

And then there we were. My husband took over four of the seven morning shifts, and I slept in for the first time in a year. The first day, I still got up at 7 am. I just couldn’t help it, and it felt like such a sleep in as it was! Now, two months later, and I find it hard to get up for my early morning shifts at all, and often I go back to bed for an extra nap when Moopet does. Unbelievable – the sleeper in me was just biding her time all along, waiting to be reborn.


Second babies

I held a friend’s newborn a few weeks ago. He waved his little fists, and tried to focus his eyes on the light from the window. Whilst I was extremely happy for my friends, I did not feel the maternal rush I had expected. I had imagined I would be swamped with a hormonal urge to have another baby. As soon as I weaned Moopet, I had desperately wanted another child, even though my mind wasn’t convinced. This is how it went: my husband wasn’t keen on the idea of a second baby, although we both thought it would be good to keep an open mind and see how we feel in a couple of years. But I wanted to be the one who was being refused, so I could retain any copyright over regret and blame when we are old and grey.

In reality, it was like this: I didn’t want, I don’t want, another baby. That’s not strictly true – I would LOVE another baby. But I do not want to have a life which involves having two children. I don’t want that life. I can see it now for what it would be: busy. I always thought I would have two kids, and I may still (and if I do, it will be because I dearly want you , second child, so if you are reading this, know that this was just what I was thinking for a short period of my life, before I met you). I thought for about a week that I was pregnant, last week, and that as when I truly realised that I don’t want another child. I am totally in love with Moopet – I am besotted in a way I could never be with anyone else. I look at her al the time – I can’t look away. I get bored, and annoyed, and often anxious that I can’t do it – but I repeat the same songs over with her and it is still fun. I don’t want her to grow up, and leave me. I know the day will come when she won’t look back, and i want that day, and I want her to be so well grounded that she does not need to look back. But I don’t want that day to come.

And yet I do not want to have a second child. I feel kind of like a big wuss – like, everyone has two, so we should too. But also, I think of it like this: my husband and I have a great life right now. Families of yore used to have too many kids (8, 9, 10 kids) and the stress was too much for the family. We have jobs with no security of income. and we don’t want jobs with security of income. So maybe for us, two kids may be the equivalent of 8, 9 or 10 in the olden days. Two may be too many. We are keeping an open mind and all may be different in a couple of years and if I did fall pregnant I would be overjoyed. But I also relinquish all rights to blame and regret. Equal partnerships have no room for people who are not making decisions for themselves.

Childcare Take Two

We just got a phone call that we might have a place in family day care for Moopet. This is good news. We are currently paying more than we can afford, for nine hours of babysitting a week. There is no rebate for this, but we need it to get a minimum of work done. We have been hoping for a place in one of the day care centres which have a higher carer to child ratio, but that is not looking likely. And with the phone call, came all the attendant fears and preparations for regret. She is bigger now, and more robust. She likes other kids now. But how will she go, one amongst five? And will she get enough attention? And will she nap or will she be ropable by the end of the day? Our little Moopet, into the world without us. Too soon! My husband and I are both already sad. So we revisit our work. Do we really need to do all of this? Can we survive on less for another few years? We will look at it, but I already know the answer.

Moopet-isms

Having a baby is so much fun. Moopet does lots of cool things now.

1. She comes in for cuddles. My heart melts whenever she does and I hold her for just a bit too long, and kiss her a bit too hard, hoping that she will always want to be near her mumma, yet also hoping she will be OK without me.

2. She has words. She has a whole bunch of words, and is trying to say a whole bunch more. Moopet was always a sound and music and word baby, not a walker. She is still crawling, as a matter of fact. But she can say nom nom, for food, and nana, for banana, and pe, for pear. She just started saying no, for nose, and mo, for more, and for a long time she has said No and Mumma and Dadda. there are a range more but I don’t want to sound boastful. She is doing fart kisses like there is no tomorrow, and like her parents, she laughs at her own jokes.

3. She is really, very cute. Her hair stands up in an Astroboy peak. She sings and has favourite songs and games. She plays with her baby doll, saying “baby,” and patting it and kissing it and cuddling it, just as we do with her, which makes me feel like a (relieved) good mum. She crawls to people after a few minutes of getting to know them, and taps them lightly, before crawling back to mumma or dadda and facing the other way, sucking her thumb furiously, taking a bit of time out from all the excitement before going back for more. We love her and we tell her so and it is so easy to start a new way of loving which is open and free because she doesn’t know any other way, so we can be new too.