Notes to Poem—
Steve Jobs: Last Words

Peter Y. Chou

Commentary on Poem "Steve Jobs: Last Words":

Gautama Buddha
(563 BC-483 BC)
Kamakura Buddha
Last words may sum up a life as
Buddha's "Be the lamp unto yourself."
and Wolfgang von Goethe's "More Light!"
According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali canon, when Buddha passed on at age 80, he said "All composite things pass away. Strive on with mindfulness." He also said "Be the lamp unto yourself." Goethe's last words when he died at 82 was "Mehr Licht!" ("More Light!). In a letter to Sulpiz Boisseree (March 22, 1831) exactly a year before his death (March 22, 1832), Goethe wrote "A joyous light thus beamed at me suddenly out of a dark age, for I had the feeling that all my life I had been aspiring to qualify as a Hypsistarian." Was Goethe's deathbed cry of "More Light!" a plea for more illumination before dying? The truth was more prosaic. His final words were "Do open the shutter of the bedroom so that more light may enter." [Images: Kamakura Buddha,; Goethe at 70 by Joseph Karl Stieler,]

Wolfgang von Goethe
by Joseph Karl Stieler

Mona Simpson's "Eulogy" reveals
that Steve Jobs' last words were

Mona Simpson
New York Times published an Op-Ed "A Sister's Eulogy for Steve Jobs" on October 30, 2011 by Mona Simpson, novellist and English professor at UCLA. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on October 16, 2011 at his memorial service in Memorial Church of Stanford University. Here are the closing tribute to Steve Jobs— “His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude. He seemed to be climbing. But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve's capacity for wonderment, the artist's belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later. Steve's final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times. Before embarking, he'd looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life's partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them. Steve's final words were: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.” (Image: Mona Simpson,

That's similar to what Edison
said on his deathbed—
"It is very beautiful over there."

Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) invented the incandescent light bulb, phonograph, automatic telegraph, alkaline batteries, and silent movie projector. He has the most patents (1093) registered in his name. Many compared Steve Jobs's innovation at Apple Computers (Macintosh Computer, iPod, iPhone, iPad) to Edison. Walter Isaacson in his biography Steve Jobs writes that "Steve was the modern creation myth writ large and that he revolutiionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing and digital publishing. When I came across Diary of Thomas Edison in the Cornell stacks (circa 1968), I was amazed Edison read Goethe's Wilhelm Meister and Sorrows of Young Werther (7-15-1885). My favorite Edison entry (July 20, 1885): "Read aloud from Madame Recamier's memoirs for the ladies. Kept this up for an hour, got as hoarse as a fog horn. Think the ladies got jealous of Madame Recamier." When Edison died on October 18, 1931 at age 84, he emerged from a coma, opened his eyes, looked upwards, and said "It is very beautiful over there." (Neil Baldwin's Edison: Inventing the Century)
(Image: Thomas Edison,

Were both of these geniuses
embraced by the light as those
with near-death experiences?

Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516)
Ascent of the Blessed (1490)
Embraced by the Light (1992) is a #1 New York Times bestselling book by Betty Eadie describing her near-death experience (NDE). Eadie's NDE lasted several hours, and her book is the most detailed near-death account on record. In Ascent of the Blessed by Bosch (1490), the soul's entry into paradise is through a tunnel of blinding white light. Mellen-Thomas Bendict describes his near-death experience (1982) when dying from terminal cancer— “It was an enormous stream of Light, vast and full, deep in the Heart of Life. I asked what this was. The Light responded, 'This is the RIVER OF LIFE.'” (Images: Light Tunnel by Bosch,; Stream of Light,
NDE Stream of Light
"This is the River of Life"

Death may be likened to
going from the waking
to the deep sleep state

Deep Sleep State
Symbol of the Unmanifest
The Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) says "Sleep is not ignorance; it is your pure state. Wakefulness is not knowledge; it is ignorance. There is full awareness in sleep; there is total ignorance in waking. Your real nature covers both, and extends beyond. The Self is beyond knowledge and ignorance. Sleep, dream, and waking are only modes passing before the Self... Deep sleep is nothing but the experience of pure being... Turiya is only another name for the Self. Aware of the waking, dream, and sleep states, we remain unaware of our own Self... it is the only Reality." [Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi (1-2-1937), p. 274; (1-28-1939), p. 580; (2-8-1937), p. 320]. (Images: Deep Sleep State,; Brancusi's Sleeping Muse I, Hirshhorn Museum,
Brancusi's Sleeping Muse (1909)
Symbol of our True Self

into the zero of emptiness—
cinema screen or clear mirror
accepting all and rejecting none.
Erik van Hannen: About Emptiness Sunyata is the Sanskrit word for "emptiness" or "void" and the core basis of Buddhist philosophy. It is a misconception to equate emptiness with nihilism. Nirvana is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is union with the Supreme being through moksha. The clear sky is a Tibetan metaphor for emptiness offering clouds for our perception. Ramana Maharshi compares our true Self to a cinema screen. Never wet or hot when the scene is rainy or on fire. Joy and sorrow in the characters don't affect the screen's composure. The empty screen resembles a clear mirror projecting whatever comes before it— accepting all, rejecting none, always peaceful and calm. "Zero" may be likened to the Unmanifest, the Unmoved Mover, pure and formless ground of being from which creation arise. (Image: About Emptiness by Erik van Hannen, photographed on 2-24-2008, Bunnik, Utrecht, Netherlands,

Mona suggests that Steve's
last words had to do with his
"capacity for wonderment"

Diana Walker, "Jobs at home in
Cupertino, California on
December 15, 1982"
Steve Jobs on the photo at left: "This was a very typical time. I was single. All you needed was a cup of tea, a light, and your stereo, you know, and that's what I had." John Sculley wrote "He's a minimalist. I remember going into Steve's house, and he had almost no furniture in it. He just had a picture of Einstein, whom he admired greatly." (Business Week, 10-20-2010). Mona Simpson says in her Eulogy, "But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve's capacity for wonderment, the artist's belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later." Einstein's motto: "The important thing is not to stop questioning; never lose a holy curiosity." Steve Jobs was a meditative person into Zen Buddhism, much like Einstein with many wisdom mudra poses. [Images: Diana Walker, Jobs at Home; Alex Grey, Wonder: Zena Gazing at the Moon, 1996]
Alex Grey (born 1953),
Wonder: Zena Gazing
at the Moon

reminding me of Shakespeare's
As You Like It (III.2.68)—
"O wonderful... and most wonderful"

As You Like It
As You Like It is a pastoral romantic comedy by Shakespeare written in 1599 or early 1600. The play follows the heroine Rosalind as she flees persecution in her uncle's court, accompanied by her cousin Celia, to find safety and eventually love in the Forest of Arden.
The play features one of Shakespeare's most famous and oft-quoted speeches—
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

My favorite passage from this play is Celia's remark about Orlando to her cousin Rosalind: Act III, Scene 2, Line 68: "O wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful! and yet again wonderful, and after that, out of all whooping!" At the end of As You Like It, we have the marriages of four couples, so this play ends happily for all. (Images: As You Like It,; Shakespeare's First Folio,

First Folio (1623)

If we spell "OH" like "O" as in
Shakespeare's "O wonderful" then
Jobs last words may be rendered

Steve Jobs in full lotus posture
of Buddhist yogic meditation
Death is going to the other side, from the world of manifestation (waking state) to the Unmanifest (deep sleep where the universe vanishes) through zero (0) or mirror image as Alice Through the Looking-Glass where Alice found wonder all around her. Emptiness is not nothingness. As Andrew Cohen writes "The ground of being is empty of everything. It is an objectless, spaceless, timeless, thoughtless void. But everything that exists has come from this no-place, including you and me. This empty ground that we all emerged from is the womb of the entire universe. When something came from nothing fourteen billion years ago, the nothing didn't disappear. That unborn, unmanifest dimension is the ever-present ground out of which everything is constantly arising." (Images: Steve Jobs in full lotus posture,

Inverting it in a mirror, we have
Zen Buddhist monk Kobun Chino Otogawa married Jobs and his now widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, in 1991. Steve Jobs searched for enlightenment going to India with Dan Kottke in 1974 but didn't find it because the guru Neem Karoli Baba had died. It's interesting that when Steve Jobs died, his last words while crossing to the other shore were "O WOW, O WOW, O WOW." or "OM OM, OM OM, OM, OM."—
symbol of Brahman, the Absolute, the Supreme Consciousness!
(Image: Mirror with OM,

While crossing to the other shore
Steve Jobs was chanting "OM"
to the Supreme Consciousness.
Aum or Om is a mystical or sacred syllable in Indian religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It is placed at the beginning of most Hindu texts as a sacred incantation to be intoned at the beginning and end of a reading of the Vedas or prior to any prayer or mantra. The Mandukya Upanishad is entirely devoted to its explanation. While it is the shortest of the Upanishad, it is perhaps the most profound, consisting of 12 verses expounding the mystic syllable AUM, the three states of waking, dream, and deep sleep, and the transcendental "fourth state" of illumination (turiya). Joseph Campbell explained to Bill Moyers in Power of Myth that turiya is the silence between the AUM's. (Image: Om,

                                                                                                Peter Y. Chou
                                                                                                Mountain View, 11-3-2011

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