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still from the film nativity
The kingdom of Jobs is within you
By Simon Jenkins

Hearing the sad but expected news of Steve Jobs' death yesterday morning, I went to the Guardian website and saw that shrines had started to appear outside Apple stores in Beijing, Tokyo, New York and – of course – San Francisco. Large stores are often referred to as temples to consumerism, but Apple Stores consciously present themselves as quasi-religious spaces, with Zen providing the template for their cool, meditative feel. I always feel like crossing myself when I enter an Apple store.

I grabbed a camera and headed into the West End as soon as I could, because I knew the same thing must be happening outside the Apple stores of London. At the door of the Covent Garden store was a modest few bunches of flowers and messages, with the large portrait picture of Steve Jobs that is currently filling the homepage of Apple websites worldwide. Even so, this small tribute to Steve was surrounded by media camera crews and onlookers.

I went inside the store and was surprised to see no reference at all to Steve's passing on the many video screens. Death and the grave must give way to shopping, even in the kingdom of Jobs.

I talked to a couple of Apple staffers, asking them what the mood was. "It's sad, obviously," said Becky, "but in a way it's another sales day like any other." I told them I'd bought my first Mac in 1988, and we talked for a while, sharing our Apple testimonies. I told them I'd been wondering if anything dramatic might happen the third day after Steve's death, and Jon said that perhaps Siri (the new talk-to-your-iPhone software) stood for Steve Is Really Immortal. "Maybe that's him now."

Over at the Regent Street store, the pavement was heaving with people, standing around a large shrine of flowers, post-its, candles, cards and… of course… apples, most with a single bite taken out of them. Fascinating though the shrine was, the behaviour of the crowd was more so. I quickly learned how you venerate a shrine these days, and that is by taking pictures.

Everyone there was holding up an iPhone or an heretical Android, kneeling reverently to take pictures of the messages, bowing low to get that perfect close-up, and then getting some shots of others in the congregation, also taking pictures, just like you. And then, just a few seconds of furious thumbing on the keypad and they'd posted the pictures to Twitter or Facebook, or texted them on to friends, to say: Look at this, I am here, I am part of this global thing that is happening right now, Isn't this insane? Wasn't Steve an inspiration? Their actions expressed these and the 1001 other reasons why people pause at roadside shrines.

It was an appropriate way of remembering the great Steve Jobs. No liturgy or homily. No conversation with the people there, either. Just you and your iPhone and an invisible moment of communion with those you know over the Net.

First published on the Simon J blog. See Simon's gallery of Steve Jobs shrine photos on Flickr.
Simon Jenkins
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