Putting a Dent in the Universe

Putting a Dent in the Universe

Neil Stevenson
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I’m in a graveyard in Palo Alto, California. The sky overhead is cornflower blue. Wind rustles through surrounding oak trees. A squirrel trots out onto a tree branch and squints at me. It’s like nature is doing everything it can to emphasize the contrast between its own glorious aliveness and the utter deadness of the humans underfoot.

It’s not just the squirrel that is looking at me. A cemetery employee purrs past in a golf cart, giving me the once-over. I am an intruder. The etiquette of cemeteries is strange. You come here for funerals, at which you’re allowed to be sad and to contemplate mortality. The rest of the time, you’re supposed to be getting on with your life.

I look up at the oak trees again. I recognize them from a video posted on YouTube by an Italian man. Like me, he was here looking for the grave of Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs died in 2011, of complications arising from pancreatic cancer. Now he’s somewhere around here, just a couple of miles from his house, in an unmarked grave in the Alta Mesa cemetery.

I remember watching The Daily Show on the day his death was announced.

“For him to die young seems so strange,” said Jon Stewart. “With other people of his magnitude, like Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, you feel like we wrung everything out of them. They were old when they died. With Steve Jobs, you really got the sense… we’re not done with you yet.”

Looking at Alta Mesa’s barren grassy field, broken only by tarnished plaques and a couple of windswept bouquets, I wonder if Jobs would have ever got around to redesigning the death experience...

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Neil Stevenson
Neil Stevenson is on a mission to understand creativity and find new ways to enable and encourage it in others. He's particularly interested in how the slowly-evolving human brain interacts with the rapidly-changing tech environment we live in, and the strange and wonderful new behaviors that emerge as a result.
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