Steve Jobs and The “Zen stare™”

There’s been lots of talk about the Steve Jobs/Buddhism connection. Thanks to eagle-eyed friend and reader Sam DeWitt for sending on this latest example. Sam writes:

“Walter Isaacson, author of the new biography Steve Jobs, was interviewed on The Daily Show. He talks about Steve Job’s ‘Zen stare,’ where he wouldn’t blink when staring down an opponent — or something like that. Buddhism is also mentioned a few times in the interview, and it is just all-around fun. (It is The Daily Show after all).”

To see what Sam is talking about, watch here. (Our friends in Canada will want to go here, and watch the third segment of October 25th’s show.) Thanks, Sam!

Comments

  1. demagnetized says

    Actually the biographer says he learned to do it at 17 years old… a couple years before he became "buddhist". He found a way to stare without blinking and used it to make people feel uncomfortable.

    Also:

    Walter Isaacson: I remember sitting in his backyard in his garden one day and he started talking about God. He said, “Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s 50-50 maybe. But ever since I’ve had cancer, I’ve been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of– maybe it’s ’cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn’t just all disappear. The wisdom you’ve accumulated. Somehow it lives on.” Then he paused for a second and he said, “Yeah, but sometimes I think it’s just like an on-off switch. Click and you’re gone.” He said and paused again, and he said, “And that’s why I don’t like putting on-off switches on Apple devices.”

    • anh says

      He learned to do that at the age of 17, before converting to Buddhism, but that doesn't mean that he was not influenced by the tradition by then. He could be absorbed a lot of Zen traditions before actually calling himself a Buddhist. That Zen technique was employed by Japanese Samurais, yet the bloodthirsty Samurais didn't really give a hoo about the Buddhist philosophy of compassion.

      I'm not a Buddhist nor was I a Buddhist, but when I was 11 and a Catholic, I was a lot convinced by Buddhist philosophy.

      However, I don't like this hurried association between Steve Jobs and Buddhism, despite his fame. He was a manipulator.
      I don't like it as much as I don't like the association between Tiger Woods and Buddhism. Ironically, Gates' actions are much more in line with Buddhist philosophy.

  2. says

    I am always sorry to see someone use Buddhism or Zen to their own ends. Is it like putting a gun in the hands of a baby? Maybe this is the spiritual materialism Trungpa Rinpoche often spoke of. Well, there is apparently evidence in the new biography and elsewhere of Jobs’ near-mental illness and narcissism—see Maureen Dowd today in the NY Times.

Steve Jobs and The “Zen stare™”

There’s been lots made of the Steve Jobs/Buddhism connection. Thanks to eagle-eyed friend and reader Sam DeWitt for sending on this latest example. Sam writes:

“Walter Isaacson, author of the new biography Steve Jobs, was interviewed on The Daily Show. He talks about Steve Job’s ‘Zen stare,’ in which he would not blink when staring down an opponent — or something like that. Buddhism is also mentioned a few times in the interview, and it is just all-around fun. (It is The Daily Show after all).”

See what Sam is talking about, watch here. (In Canada? Then go here, and watch the third segment of October 25th’s show.) Thanks as always, Sam!

Comments

  1. says

    I am always sorry to see someone use Buddhism or Zen to their own ends. Is it like putting a gun in the hands of a baby? Maybe this is the spiritual materialism Trungpa Rinpoche often spoke of. Well, there is apparently evidence in the new biography and elsewhere of Jobs’ near-mental illness and narcissism—see Maureen Dowd today in the NY Times.

  2. Brian Sheridan says

    What about Right Livelihood? I would think that many workers in China would not see Jobs as living up to that Buddhist principle.

  3. Hokusai says

    You speak of using Buddhism or Zen to one’s own end as a negative thing and call it spiritual materialism, but is not Buddhism and all spiritual practice then materialistic by this definition. All spiritual practice has a goal so that would be the end of each practice. You are using the practice to achieve what you want, which is the goal of the spiritual system being practiced. So one using a spiritual practice to achieve one’s goals which just so happen to be the goals of their spiritual system doesn’t seem much different than one using a spiritual practice to achieve one’s own goals. The only real difference is that one party has a spiritual system as the root of their goal. This implies that the person who would make such an assumption sees the validity of only their spiritual practice or another equal powerful or renowned spiritual practice as worthy of courtesy and acceptance. That is what seems very narcissistic to me. I guess what my point is is simply that words like narcissistic and mental illness are rhetoric and loosely defined. They also demand that you buy into psychology as a valid science just like the first statement made about spiritual materialism demands one to buy into a certain spiritual belief as valid or correct. I do not believe this was your intention though, this is simply an observation based upon the words you used and the tone they evoked in my mind. To touch on the subject of spiritual materialism though, I find that this term is also rhetorical. Obviously anyone who is interested in spirituality is trying to focus on the metaphysical and in this regard has a predisposition to react negatively to anything relating to materialism. Furthermore spiritual materialism doesn’t seem to relate to this issue at all. I may be wrong here or not fully understand the complexity of Trungpa’s idea (Hell, I could be wrong about all this eh? :P) but spiritual materialism is as I have seen regarded within Trungpa Rinpoche’s teachings the belief that one may seek refuge from suffering by entering a temporary state of mind. This is seen as trying to do something only attainable through normal Buddhist practice of the eightfold path, nirvana, or etc. (I am not well versed in Buddhism’s texts but I believe that is there ultimate goal). Anyway this doesn’t seem to relate to using spirituality for material benefit as you suggest but rather using meditation or altered states of consciousness as a sedative-like escape. If it were to be used as you suggest though where is the harm in using spirituality to further one’s self physically (or as you say materially)? Obviously it is easy for someone like Chögyam Trungpa who is born into a renowned line of Tibetan Buddhism to have his material needs met but for someone with no viable way of meeting their needs in their society they must use their whole being to supply their needs. Our needs are physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. To say what you are essentially saying is that spirituality is more vital than physical existence. That is a bold statement indeed. This would not upset me so as to compel me to write to you. The thing that truly upset me is that you use this statement as a fact to judge another human being. You judge a person who doesn’t even have a physical form anymore of being negatively materialistic. Your views seem to be trapped in what Trungpa would call Psychological materialism. Feeling that clinging to whatever your beliefs are will bring you a release from suffering or fulfillment spiritually. This I find to be a common symptom of religion, certainty. You seem to make the assumption that your religious and psychological views on spiritual materialism as well as mental illness and narcissism are valid. Personally I saw Jobs as more of an objectivist or at his very worst an ethical egoist. I’m not certain though, and I wouldn’t be certain if I had been Jobs’ best friend. I cannot judge or assume to know another consciousness fully without being it. Non-judgment as I recall is the heart of mindfulness in Buddhism. I am going to be reading the book to learn from another’s life rather than judge it. And I guess that is my main point of writing this letter. Would not existence be more wonderful if we learned from each other rather than judged.

    “We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” -Paulo Coelho

    “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” -Mother Teresa of Calcutta

    “Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.” -Dandamis