Thursday, October 27, 2011

Steve Jobs and the US Midlife Crisis

I don’t use an Apple computer, but there is one in our house. It looks good, it works well, but I prefer my regular Windows PC. I was a bit amazed at the outpouring of hero-worship when Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO, died a few weeks ago. I didn’t know what I thought, and I also knew that if I said anything critical, it would probably not go down well.

I remembered Obamania in 2008, when Barack Obama could do nothing wrong in the eyes of many otherwise intelligent, liberal leaning people all over the world. At the time I was told by one astrologer that my problem was having Saturn in Sagittarius, which meant that I was afraid of having faith! Actually, I think that Saturn in Sag has given me a long lesson in where to have faith and where not to have faith, and to always be critical.

Let’s be realistic about Steve Jobs: the man was on a mission to conquer the world with gadgets. And he was brilliant at it. This is understandable in a man in his 20s or 30s, but if he’s still doing it in his 50s, then somewhere he has got stuck. That sort of heroic mould belongs to young men (I won’t try and explore women’s psychology here, I wouldn’t know): they want to achieve something, they want to be recognised, they want to excel, and other people are probably going to get trampled on along the way. The actual value, in itself, of the thing they are achieving is secondary. It is the glamour of the thing, what it stands for, that matters. And how you go about achieving your end also tends to be of secondary value. Steve Jobs turned Apple into the USA’s biggest technology company, and he was also known for his anger, for humiliating and belittling people, and for putting his employees under a lot of pressure. Apple was known for not being a happy company. All this is classic young man warrior stuff, but in the body of a dying middle-aged man.
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It has been well-said that in the first half of life, men are ruled by Mars, and in the second half by Venus (and vice-versa, it is said, for women.) Mars is what I have already described. Venus is where you go hang on, what is this doing to me and the people around me? And what is the value, in itself, of the product? This changeover is part of the mid-life passage, which by no means all men go through.

It passes some by with no discernible side-effects, like Rupert Murdoch, for example, still trying to conquer the world in his eighties and still in good health. Some, like Bill Gates, change their values away from money and raw power and want to give back to society, which he is doing in a big way. He does have a Jupiter-Pluto conjunction, so will always want to do something big. But all the same, in trying to free the world from malaria – which is hard to fault – he seems to still be in thrall to the glamour (Neptune) and obligation (Saturn) of achievement, albeit in a less crude form. These things are not black and white.

And then there are others who receive the wake-up call but choose to ignore it. Like Steve Jobs. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2003. It can be too easy to attribute someone’s diseases to what you criticise them for, what you don’t like about them. Sometimes cancer is just cancer. And maybe that’s all it was.

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But he was diagnosed as Uranus was starting to conjoin his Sun, and Pluto and Saturn were squaring his Ascendant. With this sort of concurrent demand for transformation, there has to be a connection. Because of our scientific culture, we tend to think in terms of simple cause and effect: Steve Jobs’ refusal to re-examine his life ‘caused’ his pancreatic cancer. But the relationship is synchronous, in the same way that astrology works on synchronicity, which Jung called an ‘acausal connecting principle.’ Two events with a symbolic relationship.

Astrology can help show these synchronous relationships, where one event is saying something about the other event. Not everything is synchronous, discernment is required. In Jobs’ case, not only do we have the transits, with their psychological, even metaphysical demands to awaken and re-examine; we also have medical astrology, in which Pluto and Virgo are associated with the pancreas, and Pluto was squaring Jobs’ Virgo Ascendant in 2003. Moreover, Jobs’ Sun was in the 6th House, affirming a general connection between his health and his realisation of his inner goals.

I suspect that Jobs was ruled by his Moon and Mars in Aries and that his Piscean Sun, which was unaspected, was used by the Moon and Mars for their own ends. Who was Steve Jobs apart from the companies he founded and built? It's hard to find out much about the man apart from his business career, suggesting an over-identification with that. It is possible to be fully and authentically identified with a project, if you are, say, an artist, but conquering the world with electronic gadgets? A Pisces Sun will eventually need quite different conditions than these to continue to move on and unfold.

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Apple itself was an expression of Jobs’ warrior cast of mind. Incorporated on 1st April 1976, it has Sun at 11 Aries in a Cardinal t-square with Mars and Pluto. Jobs’ Moon is at 7 Aries. This t-square is exceptionally dynamic. Uranus conjunct North Node makes it a mould breaker (Obama has this aspect in Leo), while the sign of Scorpio suggests issues to learn around money and power.

If a planet is unaspected, it can be hard for it to find expression, for the rest of the personality can put it to one side. It is interesting that Jobs was adopted. I knew someone who was adopted who also had an an unaspected Sun, and his life seemed to be for him a series of ‘important’ events that proved he existed. He was lacking a foundation. The nature of Apple is interesting in this respect, because it is not built on a stable product that can be developed over time, like say Microsoft or Google are. It is built on relentless innovation, the next big new thing. Jobs was always racing. What did he think would happen if he slowed down or stopped?

Jobs' Moon was also unaspected. The personal planet that was most joined up was Mars in Aries, which aspects 5 other planets. So one could say that it was Mars more than any other planet that ruled his life, subsuming both the Sun and the Moon to its desires and demands. The Moon, being in Aries, fitted well, but the poor old Sun in Pisces didn't have much chance. Jobs spoke about his life in terms of holding fast to what you want and going for it, and this is very Martian. As was his desire to conquer, to be the best, and his often unsavoury way of dealing with people.

Jobs was an American hero with a cult following. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the American ability to get things done and to re-invent itself and to think big. But you need something behind that, something you can come back to that is actually more important. Jobs heroic status in the US says a lot about that culture, that it is still adolescent. The US Neptune and Jobs’ Ascendant are both at 22 Virgo. He made technology (Virgo) sexy (Neptune).

I think America is starting to enter its mid-life crisis, which is a good thing, and Jobs may come to symbolise the end of an age – a golden age for some, depending on your perspective. Natally, the US has Sagittarius Rising and Sun conjunct Jupiter. Hence the expansiveness and optimism, but also the reluctance to grow up, to come down to earth, outside of all that futurism, and find who you are.

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When you enter the mid-life passage, things often stop working so well. This is happening to the US. It’s not just in a recession, which has happened before. China is at its door economically, threatening its pre-eminence, and that is new. It has had its credit rating lowered for the first time. It can no longer control the Middle East, the source of its energy, in the way that it has become used to. The US seems powerless in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions. And the US progressed Saturn is, for the first time retrograde and starting to pick up speed, just as the US has experienced a Saturn Return. With Saturn, there is pressure to grow up, to move on to the next stage of life.

I have no desire to see America brought low, and America will remain wealthy and powerful for a long time yet. But its confidence is taking a knock and that is a good thing. Failure, or the perception of it, can bring out the best in people. And for America, its best may cease to mean economic and military eminence. What you’re looking for in the mid-life crisis is an ability to value things and people in themselves. With its Venus-Jupiter-Sun stellium in Cancer, America needs to learn to value itself for what it is, its own values and culture, regardless of its place in the world. You could say this is true of any country or individual, but with that stellium in Cancer, the US has a particularly rich and expansive home culture that, with the natal square to Saturn, has been undervalued.

Sun square to Saturn is a particularly difficult aspect when it comes to creating depth. With Sun square Pluto, for example, you will really suffer, or you may do something abominable, if you continue to seek power outside of yourself. But Saturn acts as a barrier that you cannot see through, a voice that tells you that reality lies 'out there' in position and prestige, and which may always seem to you a self-evident truth. You do not have the suffering of Pluto to make you question it, just the self-doubt of Saturn that keeps telling you your value lies in your achievement. It’s painful, but maybe not painful enough.

So the US will always have this niggling doubt about itself that it has been so good at covering up. This aspect is classically related to fathers and their achievement, or lack of it. The US grew out of, and rebelled against a burgeoning British Empire. It had something big to measure up to, and it succeeded many times over. But that niggle is still there. Look at the fascination with British Royalty, which says so much. When I do a chart, I focus on the major challenges. And in the US chart, Sun square Saturn stands out. The real measure of the US is not its ability to achieve, for that is a reactive pattern expressive of the Sun-Saturn aspect. The real measure will be when it can no longer be top dog – for China, with 4 times the population, will eventually beat it hands down. Will the US find another way of feeling at ease with itself? This is not easy for an individual, let alone a collective.

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Mary Pat Lynch said...

It's interesting how views take on a particular color when we've got a point to make. In my view, your assessment of Apple's product line and of Jobs as a businessman is limited and possibly mean spirited.

Death seems an odd time to focus on someone's perceived shortcomings, or make them emblematic of what's wrong with an entire nation.

Full disclosure: I use Macs and can't stand Microsoft, although I don't see Jobs as a saint or Apple as the perfect company.

Thanks for the blog!

Dharmaruci said...

I think when someone's died, that is the time to assess them, warts and all. I think a lot of people would want that.

Anonymous said...

This is helpful- the comments about Saturn.

About the U.S. I'll add this to the mix. Indigenous people sometimes say that the U.S. cannot break from knee-jerk aggression until it acknowledges its history and present policies toward them. Indigenous people are the burr in the collective conscience.

Anonymous said...

Your mid-life crisis insights are good: But by looking at the consumer stuff, you missed the larger story with Jobs:

Jobs wasn't "just about the gadgets": Your Windows PC really owes a great deal to the Apple II which was the first real PC -- and even the first web server ran on a NeXT computer which Jobs produced. Also Jobs made much more money from Pixar thanks to his Disney stock than from Apple. So his DNA goes much further into the tech industry at large than just the Apple brand that you know. This includes Microsoft which made a ton of money off of Apple in the 80s.

There's something else too: Most of the technology that Jobs brought to the masses was envisioned in the 60s - be it the net which was came out of DARPA or the idea of the iPad which you can see in the Dynabook:

In fact with Pixar the first real computer animation was also done in the 60s as well:

And even with the net we're getting the first real taste of "the global village":

So in Jobs you're seeing some of the dreams of the 60s come to life. Granted he didn't invent all that stuff himself -- but he played a real leadership role in making it become real.

What's very interesting about these tech ideas from the 60s is that they're very much powering the actual revolutions of today. What's happening n the Middle East wouldn't have happened without that tech. And if you look at what China fears today it's not America but "Little Brother" -- or those who are circumventing central control using the net as a tool. These are very much legacies of the 60s.

Back to Jobs: He's not just a child of the 60s but a child of silicon valley which has also come of age -- and that has a different meaning to the world than say the US at large if you go to places like India as an example. Nobody is trying to "copy America" but everyone is trying to copy silicon valley. Although silicon valley is very much the result of a certain place and time.

It should also be noted that his second act in mid-life was to make for the failures of his younger days. He was kicked out of Apple before the Mac really caught on in any way, his company NeXT did some great work but was not a financial success -- so even though he had more money than most, in the 90s he was seen as a real failure (especially given the status of Windows during that era).

By the way I love your insights...

Michael from NYC

gawd_almighty said...

Great article, DR. I am Pisces with Sun square Saturn, and I can empathise perfectly with that - you're only as good as your next project, though you also have a niggling feeling that there's more to life than this (hence Jobs' long-time interest in Buddhism). Meanwhile, why all the public grief and hand-wringing about his death?
Interestingly, Jobs died the same days as the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who — along with his family — was bombed, beaten, and stabbed during his years of principled activism in the US civil rights movement. And yet we didn't hear much about him, a man who had sacrificed his life for others.
I think the public outpouring of grief (reminiscent of the death of Princess Diana) was partly because the media had been 'preparing' us with fairly regular updates on Jobs' health, thus establishing a public emotional investment in the head of Apple, but most importantly, there was the fact that he formed part of the entertainment culture - this being the only sector in which we, the media-swallowing public, feel that we are emotional stakeholders. Liz Taylor, Michael Jackson - every time a celebrity dies, we feel a terrible loss that we wouldn't feel on the death of, for example, a scientist who had found a cure for some terrible illness.

Dharmaruci said...

Steve Jobs did, of course, have a wider computer-cultural significance that I didn't go into. But I think the recent years WERE about gadgets, that was what made Apple really big - iphones, ipods, ipads etc.

And it's far from obvious to me that this is a good thing, wiring people up in this way, taking them away from ordinary physical interaction. It was going to happen anyway, and Jobs happened to be someone who played a big part in it.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point DR about gadgets being so seductive they take us away from physical interaction with one another. Steve did it best, hands down. I wonder when it will re-occur to the collective we live in bodies, have social needs for physical interaction, and need development of accompanying skill sets for getting along, etc. Now that you can talk to your iphone and tell it to do stuff for you, maybe this is a turning point.

I do think though, that Steve would have eventually gotten around to contributing to the larger problems, more directly. One of his reported projects was to undermine and reform the crappy school textbook industry and put them on ipads. Yes it's another avenue for sales, but his larger passion was about education. Original Apple computers were designed to go in schools. I'm just saying, he was this restless intelligence always roaming for a larger context, I think as he matured he would have gotten beyond the gadgets. May I suggest you try the Apple computer in your house? There is a huge difference in the way Macs and Windows function, Apple is exemplary of tech actually working like it should. Steve wasn't a hero, he was a genius. I personally feel sad he died so young.

Dharmaruci said...

I think that's maybe the thing, he DID have that deeper interest beyond gadgets. As a youngster he went off to the East and dressed in robes. But he didn't follow through, the interest went elsewhere, spectacularly so, and I think he became consumed by ambition: his drive towards wealth and power and supremacy was clearly enormous. So unlike say a Murdoch, there was a conflict there, and that's maybe what did for him.

Winnie said...

I just wanted to point out if not for Jobs, we may not even be able to type here and do this whole blog & commentary thing. We would not be able to share our thoughts on the internet like we do now. Astrologers like you will not be able to reach us. You would be limited by the people you physically interact with.

Power is always a double-edged sword. The power of technology could empower us or disconnect us from love. It is up to us humans to decide how we want to use it.

The 'gadgets' which Steve brought into the world are not just pretty things with all that cool jazz. He created an eco-system that gave opportunity to people like me and others who could create meaningful apps and make a living out of it. He gave us freedom to express ourselves and tools to edit videos in our homes. These tools were no longer limited to the rich.

He breathed new life into the music, publishing and animation industry.

He loved the world, and you could see the love when you see his Stanford commencement speech. He loved the world and wanted to empower us – in doing so he spent his entire life doing it.

He was certainly flawed, just like all of us. But that does not lessen his impact on the world.

I think it was time for him to go, I don't think it was because he couldn't work out his conflict.

Steve's impact on the world was a lot bigger than you or me could ever imagine. He has inspired countless entrepreneurs to make the world a better place.

Technology has been misused but it was not meant to be that way. Nobody can help it if humans choose to self-destruct using the power bestowed to them.

Dharmaruci said...

I agree he was a visionary and did a lot of great stuff. But I think it is also clear that in his his later years at Apple there was a huge desire for power and supremacy. Look at what he said he'd like to do to his competitors.

And part of his talent as a businessman was persuading people that he was one of the good guys, a bit of a counter-culture hippy, he wasn't like other businessmen. That was great salesmanship.

I think he came to embody what is worst in our culture - capitalism gone mad, fierce competition which wants to destroy the opposition, persuading people that they need to buy more and more things.

It is interesting how many people are so anti these sorts of things, yet when it comes to Steve Jobs, they let him off the hook.

Bonnie said...

I have been thinking a lot about the contrast of Gates and Jobs. Jobs is sort of a folk hero to a lot of counter culture folks and Microsoft is the evil empire. However, looking more closely, Apple employees were not always happy, they use cheap labor in China and there are some questions about how much information they track via the iphone. Microsoft employees, on the other hand, are generally happy with their company (I am a healthcare provider in the Redmond area with many neighbors, friends and patients who work there and I have always been surprised at the stories of support by this behemoth of a company--personally I'm ready to trade in private practice and work there!) and Gates has gone on to try and give back to the world. It's ironic to me that Jobs and Apple are still considered heroes and the product for those who are inclined towards social equality whereas Microsoft and Gates are looked at as evil.

Philip Levine said...

Something in your comments seems much more condescending and judgmental than I am used to reading here. Perhaps the synastry between you and Jobs would reveal something. Saying someone is too identified with some aspect of their life or personality assumes a superior knowledge that I doubt you have. We are all different, and who can say that someone should be more this way or less that way?

It's interesting also that not only does the US have a Sun - Saturn square reflecting it's daddy issues with King George, but the Soviet Union (11-8-17) had an exact Sun-Saturn square and it's issues of leaving daddy Czar. Both countries would be prone to self-doubt because of their insecurities from rejecting their fathers and their lineages.

Dharmaruci said...

I think with Steve Jobs you've got someone who was clearly after supremacy in a big way. You don't create a hugely wealthy market leader without that. And his well-known attitude to his employees and his competitors was part and parcel of that.

So I think you need to treat that as part of his character and try to understand that. Was he just a Murdoch, or was there more to him? I think there was more to him. But I think the facts speak for themselves, and I don't think that is judgemental or condescending.

Steve Jobs is a difficult person to comment on critically, because he stood for so much to so many people, but I think it's necessary in a way to ignore all that, because he was something apart from that.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article Dharmaruci! Something about Jobs has always given me the creeps. Very negative vibes there. I think that a sign of maturity is that you appreciate people and treat them with respect. Doesn't sound as if he did that, but was arrogant and abusive to others. The way that I see it - so what if we have all these gadgets (which is a bit over-the-top in my opinion)? I don't see Jobs as a very successful human being.

gawd_almighty said...

'And part of his talent as a businessman was persuading people that he was one of the good guys, a bit of a counter-culture hippy, he wasn't like other businessmen. That was great salesmanship.'
Exactly; there was an insistence on the idea of Apple products being 'cool' and Microsoft being for nerds. And that's why Jobs wore the sleek black outfit, to differentiate him from fuddy-duddy old Bill Gates. Jobs was a master of presentation and promotion, and that extended to the shaping of himself into the image of the cool cyber-culture hero. And millions fell for this image, hence the tones of hurt outrage in some of the posts above - people really wanted him to be the good guy he told us that he was. But he wasn't, any more than most voracious business magnates are, or he would have been concerned with things like improving the lot of Apple employees.

Anonymous said...

The dark side of apple is the Foxconn factories in China, of which Steve undoubtedly had full knowledge of. So Dharamaruci, I think you are right about the supremacy aspect -but this blog post supports that assertion poorly. Dismissing Job's creations as gadgets misses the point that Jobs foresaw in a visionary way, the shift of the primary role of computers from desktop\laptop paradigm into smaller mobile devices.

Anonymous said...

Steve Jobs was a petulant narcissist who paid the price of perfecting Capitalism. The New Yorker made an argument to this effect, clarified in multi backup statements and on the money.