Think Different

Inventors of technology are known for stuff and not ideas. From Ben Franklin to Eli Whitney to Nicola Tesla to Bill Gates: each of these people we associate with a thing. Steve Jobs was no different. Say the name “Steve Jobs” to someone sitting next to you and ask what pops up. They are inevitably going to say, “Apple.” They won’t even say, “MacIntosh,” which is the (old) company name – they point instantly to the logo, along with the myriad of creations Apple begat…”the computer with the blue monitors” (that was a long time ago)…”the computer I played Oregon Trail on” (even longer)…”iPod”…”iTunes.” These are all things that Steve Jobs is responsible for, even though not one of them is a new thing. Be clear: EVERYTHING Steve Jobs created already existed.

So why are almost all of Job’s eulogies (an exhaustive though deserving amount) dedicated to his stuff? I’ve thought about this question countless times since his death a few days ago. Because honestly – if you think about the stuff of Apple — they follow along an anticipated continuum of technological evolution. In other words: nothing exceptional.

The difference between Jobs and a lot of his contemporaries was simple and profound: he was an idea man. His intent was not to reinvent the computer itself, but simply to change the way you think about computers. He said, “Computers are not simply government tools for production; you can play Oregon Trail on this thing.” He said, “Technology can be a way of expressing your personality.” Follow the logic:

Computers can be used for personal consumption too → Make the computer YOURS → YOURMAC→ (you will say) MYMAC → (keep working)…iMac…BAM!

This began simply enough, with a Super Bowl commercial in 1984, where Apple announced: “THINK DIFFERENT.” Take a thing, and think different about it. Be a rebel. Be a troublemaker. Be an innovator. You don’t have to invent anything — Muhammad Ali didn’t invent boxing, Gordon Parks didn’t invent photography, Jim Henson didn’t invent puppetry – but they each took the existing and made it radical. They made a rupture in the monotony, and that’s exactly where I feel God is calling each of us.

If you come into my office, you’ll notice I have the Apple Corp.’s “Think Different” campaign photos on my bookshelves. Not because I love the stuff, but I love the idea. We ought to Think Different about how we use Church. We ought to think different about our role in this world, as communities and individuals. Think Different about your career. Think Different about your relationships. The question behind “Think Different” is simple…How can I bring this to life? Maybe again, maybe for the first time.

But neither Jobs’ stuff nor his ideas are new. Jesus was a Think Different kind of guy. He wasn’t out to create a new religion. Further, the life of Christ teaches us to Think Different about situations that seem stifling – Think Different about obstacles – Think Different, even about death.

The prayers within our church community have of late been riddled with overwhelming concern. The next time it comes up in your life, ask yourself a very simple question: What would it be like to Think Different about this situation?

Thanks Steve, and Thanks Be to God!

—Pastor Julian