Do we choose our heroes? Do we decide that some people are worth looking up to, while others just aren't?
Or do heroes arrive unexpectedly and insert themselves into our emotions without our even knowing it's happened?
This week has seen much emotion directed toward what, for many, is a tragedy.
One of the world's most important business and pop culture figures died too young. His was a story of a man who defied the odds. He was adopted, created his own company, and then got kicked out of it. He imagined products that competitors thought either stupid, impossible, or narcissistic.
Here was a man who didn't bother dressing up, didn't bother parking his car straight, and didn't bother with some of the politically correct niceties that so many (especially in California) live by.
His own company, having been botched by numb-brained types wielding blunt corporate scalpels, begged him to return. So back he came, with even more imaginative ideas, even more ambitious notions. Crazy, right?
He drove that company to become not merely the biggest, but the most loved in the world.
We look at that story. We participate in it. And when the hero meets a cruel, heartless death, we cry.
But do we cry just for him? Or do we cry for us?
Do we cry because, far too often, when we could have been courageous in our ambitions, we settled? Do we cry because, far too often, when we could have said what we really thought, we shut up--in the hope that forces we thought more powerful than us would find another target for their wrath or frustration?
Do we cry because here was someone who not merely had dreams but bothered to do everything he could in order to experience them? While we suppress our dreams using excuses that are always at hand--it's too hard, we're not good enough, we have a family, we don't have enough money, we never finished college.
Steve Jobs' success at Apple came at a price. He admitted himself that he commissioned his biography so that his kids might know him better than they did when he was alive.
Yet those for whom he was a hero surely wonder whether they ought to have made more sacrifices and more effort in order to feel that their own lives were truly worthwhile.
Success seems to come to fewer and fewer people these days. Fewer and fewer people seem to be happy with their lives. Many of those who have lived long enough to be able to look back seem to do so in wistful disappointment, rather than deep self-satisfaction. They could have done more. They could have tried harder. They could have been somebody, as opposed to nobody. They could have, at least, been a contender.
But life, the system, people, circumstances, bad luck--they all got in the way.
All those tears shed for Jobs. How many of them were for him? And how many for us?