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Steve Jobs and Jerry Garcia in India!

It’s been well documented that Steve went to India in 1974 in search of enlightenment. I have no idea if Jerry Garcia ever went. This is post is about neither. Rather, it’s about how I just met both of them on my recent trip to India.

Upon my departure I loaded up my iPad with 10 or so books that I thought would be essential reading while in Rishikesh and Vrindavan, two very holy cities where the bhav is plentiful. One of which was “Steve Jobs” by Walter Issacson. Also on my iPad were your basic go-to spiritual manuals like The Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.

Sunset on the Ganga, Rishikesh

On the plane flight over I was well into the Steve Jobs book and found myself getting more and more sucked into the story of how two guys started a company in their garage that later became the worlds most valuable technology company. Even as I arrived in India and was settled into my daily routine I just couldn’t seem to put it down. I was occasionally going back to the Gita but time and time again the Steve book seemed to have all the instruction and inspiration that I needed while enjoying my own spiritual meanderings in India.

The new agers and touchy feely types decry the Steve story as a downer because he often times wasn’t such a nice guy. He was brash, rude, insensitive, sometimes dishonest and didn’t display behavior of that of a counter culture infused guy from Northern California. All that is true. However, that’s not what his story is about. If you’re reading the book to try and find value in him as a model human being that’s missing the point. Rather the book is about one mans ability to manifest the things he held dear to him, without compromise. It’s the story of one mans dharma. What more appropriate thing can you read about while in India?

Steve has the ability to strip out the clutter and distractions that got in the way of realizing his vision for creating products that fused together technology and the humanities. He was not the best programmer or engineer or even business mind around, but he had a vision for how human beings could build relationships with digital interfaces. Those interfaces had a variety of applications over the years that changed the way we live and behave on a daily basis. Indeed, our entire persona of life in the digital age has roots that go back to something that Apple did within the last 30 years. Steve was a modern avatar who slashed and burned his way to success but through it I found that he was also a shining example of someone who found what he loved to do and then did it. That is discipline. I can’t think of too many modern examples who had such a clear vision of how they saw their little slice of the world and had to share it with people no matter what. In life it is about adding all the things that make you a better person but it’s also about getting rid of the extraneous clutter that is preventing you from realizing potential. Just as Steve slashed most of the Apple product line upon his return in 1996, I look to slash most of my personal product line that no longer serves any purpose. Simplify.

That’s the end of the first part. On to my second story.

After Rishikesh I went to Vrindavan. While there, I did get the typical bug that shut me down for 24 hours. It was about my 12th day on this trip. I was laying in bed not able to hold anything down and feeling really distant from why I went there in the first place. I was sick, it was dirty and noisy. Temple life was rigid and predictable. And most importantly I was losing site of the person I wanted to be. Embarrassingly, I thought I was doing this for all the wrong reasons like fashion or because it felt “cool”. I kept asking myself why did I have to go half away around the world to get closer to my guru when I could have just as well found him in the cozy confines of my Culver City home. I just didn’t know what I was really doing or why I was doing it. It was a dark night.

As I was laying there it occurred to me that I hadn’t listened to any western music in nearly two weeks. I thought that perhaps a nice way to distract myself from feeling lousy inside and out was to listen to some music. So I got out my iPod, hit the shuffle button and just took in what was to unfold and once again reshape my experience. The first song to come up was Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s song “Isn’t this a lovely day?”. The soothing subtle nuances of Ella and Louis immediately warmed my heart and took me back to my childhood home in 1989 where I could see my parents just hanging out being in love by the fireside. They loved Ella and Louis and no music epitomizes their love more than that. Getting warmer, cozier…slowly feeling a manifestation of spirit. I was feeling love for my parents together and how it used to be, which doesn’t happen too often.

The next track to come up was by the Grateful Dead, it was a 1973 version of “Eyes of the World.” More than any other music the Grateful Dead really is the soundtrack of my life. I think you can guess what happened next. Less than 2 minutes into the song I got the chills from the familiar strains of Jerry’s guitar and the music then set forth in motion a complete overhaul of my attitude, thinking, perception and overall happiness. It all made sense. I knew exactly why I was India and I loved it!

Now it’s funny that the intangible can produce a tangible physical experience. What is it about sound that can trigger emotions which can then trigger thoughts which can then shape your experiences? By merely listening to a performance of a song the seemingly confusing state of my spiritual emotions suddenly went away. The music fixed me! One could add another fascinating tangent to this discussion – how matter and energy is really connected to the same “stuff” which leads to a realization of how the material world and the spiritual world may not be as far apart as we may think.

But this non-dualist probing will be saved for another post.

It’s funny that I traveled so far to be in the presence of such mystical and wonderful places and traditions but in the end the things that were already nearest and dearest to me are what brought me closer to those mystical and wonderful things! That really speaks to the point of what being a seeker all about. It’s so important to remember to not get caught in the trap of searching for something outside of yourself in hopes of attaining some goal. The external things that you may be investigating as methods or tools are really just conduits to bringing you closer to what’s already dwelling inside. That familiar love is always right there. Trying to avoid traps along the way…

I found Jerry Garcia in Steve Jobs in India!

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