Death and the Triple Wow

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November 7, 2011

Leave it to Steve Jobs to depart this world with words of wonder. In another context his last utterance would have been overused slang, a reflexive expression lacking meaning. Oh wow. Not so with Jobs as he slipped slowly toward death. Immediately after gazing at his family and then staring past them, he said: OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

His sister, novelist Mona Simpson, related the final words in her moving eulogy, published in the New York Times. Simpson’s use of all caps indicates that Jobs spoke with emphasis and even enthusiasm. She offered no clue about inflection or tone. It’s natural to assume that Jobs, guru of technological artistry and paragon of steroidal perfectionism, was describing with joyful awe what awaits beyond the veil. Mere words might have been his greatest creation of all, delivered without marketing fanfare and free to all. Was the Triple Wow a reassuring wink about the answer to The Big Unanswered Question? Or was Jobs elated not by what he saw ahead but endorphins secreted as people journey toward death, chemically easing their passage? We’ll each know soon enough. In the meantime, let’s go with the wink.


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