John Wiley and Sons has teamed with Forbes Media to publish “The Zen of Steve Jobs” by Caleb Melby and the design studio JESS3. It is a graphic novel focused on the role of Zen Buddhism on Jobs’ life and its impact on Apple technology and design.
The 80 page color comics narrative will be published in January in both print (US$19.95) and e-book formats.
Laura Walsh, senior editor of Wiley Global Finance, said the graphic work is focused on a period in the mid-1980s when the late Steve Jobs was forced out of the top job at Apple and he then left to develop computers for a new company he founded called NeXT.
The book is an imaginative recreation and telling of Job’s spiritual relationship with Kobun Chino Otogawa, a Japanese Soto Zen Buddhist Priest, whose approach to his own spiritual tradition was said to be the main influence in Jobs’ design impact on today’s technology and culture. Otogawa played a notable role in Jobs’ understanding of Japanese philosophy and design concepts during the mid ’80s.
(Note: Jobs spent much of the 1970s at the Los Altos Zen Center and later studied extensively under Otogawa — whom he designated as the official “spiritual advisor” for NeXT. Otogawa also served as officiant when Jobs wed his wife Laurene in 1991.)
It is said that Jobs’ study of Zen has influenced his approach to design. For instance, his concept of ma – which means space or interval, or a consciousness of space coupled with awareness of form – is evident in every Apple product he has created.
The graphic novel’s treatment and narration of Jobs’ life differs greatly from his existing biographies. In Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” (which leapt to the top of bestseller lists in its first week in book stores), he is described as a boss who is “controlling and publicly humiliates his employees, or throws tantrums when he didn’t get his way“. Some say he possessed a personal unpleasantness in his dealings with colleagues and staff.
This is much too different from his positive and inspiring persona in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, where he is the good Steve: brilliant, charismatic and always championing excellence.
Job is also believed to be a hippie. His early experiences with LSD in the 1960s, along with a character-forming trip to India, are well documented. These experiences reverberated through the rest of his life decisions. When he was ill, he also tried Eastern medicine and healthy, alternative diets.
For the celebrity that he is, we think this novel is worth checking out. If discerning Steve Jobs’ entrepreneurial genius and karmic beliefs is not your thing, the stripped down dialogue and simple illustrations will surely make this graphic novel an enjoyable read.
*The author, Caleb Melby hails from Mankato, Minnesota. He has written for Forbes, Chicago Tribune and The Times of South Africa.