Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Cellist of Sarajevo - A small human act against terror

The exam period apocalypse I currently live in has been involuntarily reflected into the books I read. Cormac McCarthy's The Road followed the journey of a father and son through a destroyed world, but the author never gave a clear indication of what led to this devastation. The Cellist of Sarajevo describes another apocalypse - the siege of the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War. While the first one might have been caused by man, the second one indeed stems from the imperfections of our race.

The Siege of Sarajevo is the longest siege in the history of warfare, spanning for nearly four years. The bombs, artillery, mortars, rifles and other incredible human inventions killed 12,000, injured 56,000, destroyed thousands of homes, and turned a once beautiful capital city into ruins. An average of 329 shells hit the city every day, with a one-day high of 3777. Among the million personal tragedies, an inspirational story stands out. Vedran Smailovic, a cellist, witnessed the murder of 22 people, waiting to buy bread on the street outside of his home. The musician responded to the tragedy by sitting on the tragic square and playing Albinoni’s Adagio on his cello for 22 consecutive days - one for each of the victims. On a larger scale, this act seems irrational, dangerous, and pointless. On a personal level, it is an inspirational story of a human response towards violence and terror. It is exactly this story that inspired Steven Galloway's novel The Cellist of Sarajevo.

The figure of the lonely cellist unifies the stories of three different characters, living in Sarajevo during the siege. Dragan is a 64-year-long baker, who works at the bakery and lives with his sister's family. He managed to send his wife and son to Italy before the war began, but he himself stayed. Dragan avoids his old friends and acquaintances because they remind him too much of what Sarajevo used to be. Instead, he focuses on his daily survival and he dreams of what Sarajevo will be when the war ends. Standing at an intersection and wondering whether it is safe to cross or not, Dragan witnesses all kind of human emotions - fear, bravery, despair, indifference - and evaluates his approach to life and the war.

Kenan lives with his wife and 3 children. Living without electricity, having nothing to eat, and washing with cold water has become a routine to him. Avoiding conflicts and danger as well. However, every four days his bravery is put to the test, when he has to cross the whole town to bring water for his family and an older neighbor. Similarly to Dragan, his days are filled with fear of death, with longing for the past, and with questions about the future.

Contrary to these man, Arrow risks her life everyday. When the war started, the young woman abandoned her old name and her old personality and turned into the perfect weapon - one of the best snipers in the city. Her extraordinary ability and her independence earn her the task to protect the cellist, who as a symbol of hope, has been ordered to die by the attackers. Arrow fiercely fights the change that war is attempting to impose on her. She doesn't kill out of a feeling of revenge, but out of the simple logic that if she doesn't shoot, innocent people will die. She refuses to shoot civilians and she insists on remaining independent and choosing her own targets. However, even though she is not interested in the organized resistance, the organized resistance is interested in her. Arrow will have to decide whether she will allow the defenders in the city to changer her values and attitude.

The lives of these three ordinary people are affected by the unordinary act of the cellist. Dragan and Kenan stop by to listen to his music on the way to their daily survival. Arrow is charged to defend him. All three of them ask the question: "Why does he play? What does he want to accomplish? How does his music make a difference?" And all of them arrive at a similar answer, refracted through the prism of their experiences. They will not let the war change who they were before. They will not let fear prevail over human decency, compassion,and care. They will not give up, escape, or kill. They will stay here, act bravely, and be around for the restoring of their city.

Steven Galloway is as separated from Sarajevo and the Balkan tragedies as one can possibly be. Yet, the Australian author possesses an astonishing talent and a profound understanding for the human soul, when confronted with the brutality and fatuity of war. His fictions characters are not based on real people, yet their emotions, inner struggles, fears, and values cannot seam more real. Galloway creates a compelling and hopeful story about how even a simple act of music does more than honor the death; it gives the living a purpose to live.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Apocalypse in Cormac McCarthy's The Road

In Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic tale The Road a boy and a man walk alone through burned America. They don't have names; they could be anybody and nobody in the same time. The world as we know it is destroyed. The sky is gray, the snow is gray, the whole world has turned gray. McCarthy doesn't give an explanation for what had caused this devastation. We as the readers must accept the result - it has happened and it has destroyed what used to be America.

Among the few living soles are a man and his young son. They don't have anyone but each other. They travel through burned America with their destination the coast. They don't know what, if anything, awaits them there, but it gives them hope and strength to continue. The road ahead of them is dangerous. The only remaining people have turned into beasts. Humanity has been destroyed along with the world. Compassion, feeling, and sentiments have disappeared. Man has returned to his animal nature. People kill people. People eat people. People steal from other people in order to make it through the day.

In this post-apocalyptic world, it is difficult to feel sentiment. In fact, McCarthy's novel is the last thing but hopeful and sentimental. The details with which he describes the setting and the insanity are at times brutal and disturbing. And yet, the man shepherds his son with such gentleness and such love, which becomes even greater in the absence of food, shelter, and safeness. However difficult it must be for the man to understand how and why this is happening, it is million times much harder for a young and innocent boy to do so. The rare and short conversations between the two alleviate the rather depressing setting McCarthy has build. The man has abandoned his humanity when it comes to daily survival. He is prepared to kill, if he has to, but to provide himself and his boy with yet another day to live. However, he absolutely transforms when he talks to his son. The little boy is still taught to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys and he still believes they carry the fire. This tender relationship between father and son is the only nice thing left in the world. And the man is set to keep both of them alive and in the same time keep his son a human.

Not much happens throughout the novel. The Road is much less about action and much more about feeling. When the world comes to its end, it becomes difficult to even remember the past. It seems rather remote in the dangerous day-to-day hunt for survival. Yet, the man keeps alive the memory of his wife, who chose death over battle. Giving birth to their son just days after the world collapsed, she couldn't face the battle and chose the easy way around. Daily, the man is faced with the absurdity and hopelessness of a destroyed world, but at night his dreams turn to happier times, which for him is difficult to imagine that ever existed. However, the future is scarier than reality. What if the world never recovers? What if it stays gray always? What if the hunt of survival never ends? What if whatever awaits them at the coast is not there?

Throughout this journey, the man and the boy are each other's pillar. The man provides for the body survival; the boy for the mind survival. The man would have given a million of times if it wasn't for the little creature which he was set to protect. In that sense, McCarthy's disturbing world is opposed to a small world of love, compassion, and sacrifice.

The Road offers no escape or comfort in the hope for the better future. However, its brutal wisdom about human nature faced with apocalypse is more powerful and infatuating than any reassurance can ever be.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Theology, Philosophy, and Physics explain the world we live in in The Black Book by Ivomir

Nobody ever sees anything. Nobody every hears anything. Nobody ever tastes anything. Nobody ever smells anything. The material world as we know it doesn't exist. Merely, it is a hologram created in our mind. Yes, you heard right. I am not touching or seeing my laptop while I am writing this. I am not seeing the words on the screen. I am merely in touch with the computer's energy field. You can shape the world any way you want it because this world exists only in your mind.

Basing his research on philosophy, theology, and physics, Ivomir carefully proves that all of our senses are biased. Quantum theory itself states that electrons have both wave-like and particle-like characteristics and they behave as particles only when we observe them. The common idea that we see the world because it exists turns to the world exists because we look at it. In fact electrical signals are sent to our eyes, nose, ears, fingers. These signals then interact with the mind to produce images, smells, sounds, and feelings. According to this theory, one is perfectly capable of controlling his world, because it only exists in his/her mind. As Salman Rushdie himself said it: "Memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogenous but usually coherent version of events; and no same human being ever trusts someone else's version more than his own." In other words, I can't complain the world is like this; the world is like this because I myself created it in my mind.

One of the questions that has tormented human kind for centuries is where we came from. Stephen Hawking, the brilliant scientist and Cambridge professor gives a plausible answer in A Brief History of Time, a book I highly recommend. Similarly, Ivomir draws on physics and religion to explain our existence. The author places cogitality at the center of the world (rather than logic). According to the laws of physics (and most specifically quantum physics) even in vacuum there must be something. Ivomir assumes that at the beginning the vacuum was filled with still cognitive (thinking) particles. Since they were not in motion, time for them was moving with infinite speed and they possessed all the knowledge in the world. Hence, they didn't feel any emotion. Intuitively, since these cognitive particles hadn't felt emotion, they didn't know everything. So they moved. And what is the primary reason to move - to accomplish something. Through this movement energy was released and BOOM (or in other words The Big Bang).

I have got to say, even though it took me a lot of time to grasp the theory, I actually really liked it. My logical mind (which even now refuses the accept that the material world doesn't exist) was extremely satisfied with this explanation. Until God came along. Hawking also incorporates religion and God in his theory but to a rather minimal and acceptable level. Ivomir goes way too far. He draws on physics and philosophy to explain the beginning of the world but at times he gives examples from the Bible. To be honest, I am not sure how the fact that God himself said let there be light proves that we came from cognitive particles that started moving. I was rather annoyed at that point, which in fact ruined my opinion for the rest of the book.

Going back to the idea that the material world doesn't exist, Ivomir comes to the conclusion that our physical body doesn't exist either and that we can change it anyway we want. Philosophically, I embraced that idea and I prepared myself for something very good to come. Indeed it did. Fortunetellers. People who don't eat for more than 30 years and don't die. Psychics who help solve crimes or see that your heart is bad. Moreover, psychics who tell you to be gentle to your heart and tell IT nice stories so that it feels better. People that see other people's aura (i.e the energy field) and are able to predict their future. Don't get me wrong. I am one for positive thinking and I am one that believes that stress is the cause for all illnesses. However, 1)believing that by talking positively to my heart I am going to cure it and 2) believing in psychics, fortunetellers, etc is simply something I don't do. I would be a perfect victim for Ivomir, who challenges us to let go of the logic, that in his opinion, only obstructs us from seeing the world. However, basing one's theory on such stories merely ruins the good impression from the extensive philosophical and scientific research.

If you manage to disregard God and the psychics (who occupy one good 50% of the novel) you can get some valuable ideas from it. Mostly I was impressed by the theory of negative and positive feelings. When we feel said, depressed, or pessimistic, our brain cells create a very strong connection to these negative thoughts. The more we thing that way, the stronger these links become. Think about it as a habit. It becomes much easier to go to the gym if you have been doing it for a couple of months, than if you started yesterday. In the same way, negative feelings tend to stick and more and more energy is required to break these links and turn them to positive thoughts. In fact, the more we train that, the weaker the negative links will be and the stronger the positive. A rather simple explanation for depression and how easily one falls in the trap of pessimistic thinking.

At some point, Ivomir resembles Jorge Bucay and Andy Andrews, especially when he starts giving advice on how to be happy, nice, and thankful for the little things. By now you should know my great hatred towards the shallow so called self-help books so I was rather annoyed when Ivomir began giving to-do lists on how to change your life for good.

Overall, The Black Book started very promising. Impressive theories, backed up by extensive research, paradoxes explained and proven, and plausible explanations about how and why we came to life. However, the frequent use of God's words, the implausible stories about psychics, fortunetellers, aura-feelers, or crazy people who don't eat or drink for 30 years and are still alive, made Ivomir look more like a fraud rather than like an inspirational writer, who is here to free us from all our logical biases.

Monday, 14 May 2012

The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is what I might have looked like if I was a book. It encompasses fully the storm of thoughts about live, existence, love, and purpose that constantly leaves me sleepless during the night. While reading, I felt that these were the thoughts I was trying to convene to people but I was never able to formulate properly. The Unbearable Lightness of Being was more than words for me; it was a feeling of belonging to something; a feeling that finally I understand why, how, and what. I read it twice - first on a Caribbean cruise, where I felt I wasn't in a philosophical mood to appreciate it. Second time, I bore the benefits of re-reading a novel and I reassessed my own beliefs, feelings, and attitude.

It took 4 chance happenings for The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera to come into my hands. I happened to have to do numerical tests for a job interview. I happened to go to my friend's house so that she can help me out. I happened not to have any book to read at the moment and she randomly gave me Kundera's novel. She happened not to be able to finish it as it was too philosophical for her so I took that as a challenge.

It took 6 chance happenings for Tereza to come into Tomas's life and to stay there indefinitely.Tomas is a surgeon living in Prague just before the famous Spring Uprising of 1968. An incorrigible womanizer, he cannot resist his infatuation with sexual flings. Kundera explains:

What is unique about the "I" hides itself exactly in what is unimaginable about a person. All we are able to imagine is what makes everyone like everyone else, what people have in common. The individual "I" is what differs from the common stock, that is, what cannot be guessed at or calculated, what must be unveiled, uncovered, conquered.

In that sense, he is infatuated with the unique in a woman and his conquest satisfy his search for that one thing that differentiates one from another. Until Tereza is brought to him by chance. She appears on his door with her luggage after they have only met once. Particularly important about Tereza is her desire to separate her soul from her body. During her childhood her mother constantly embarrassed her trying to show that Tereza's body was like anyone else's and she shouldn't be ashamed of it. Tereza, on the other hand, has been trying to identify through her soul; she was looking at her body trying to prove there is something more to it; that Tereza would still be Tereza even her body is completely different.

In Tereza's eyes, books were the emblems of a secret brotherhood. For she had but a single weapon against the world of crudity surrounding her: the books she took out of the municipal library, and above all, the novels. She had read any number of them from Fielding to Thomas Mann. They not only offered the possibility of an imaginary escape from a life she found unsatisfying; they also had a meaning for her as physical objects. She loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It had the same significance for her as an elegant cane for the dandy a century ago. It differentiated her from others.

At that particular moment I stopped to breath. I felt someone was speaking through my voice and reciprocating my thoughts on the white paper in front of me. I have been thinking about my infatuation with books but I never could actually formulate it. Tereza quite actually resembles me. Realizing she is weak, she leans on Tomas, who is the only one to whom she can finally unveil her soul and separate it from her body.

"Pick me up" - is the message of a person who keeps falling.

"Pick me up" is what Tereza keeps telling Tomas. And he always does. He holds her hands until they stop trembling from her latest nightmare. He moves from Prague to Zurich back to Prague and then to the countryside to make her happy. Despite his infidelities, Tomas loves and needs to protect Tereza. Most importantly, he feels a strong sense of compassion for her:

For there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one's own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.

The other women satisfy his urge for conquest; Tereza, on the other hand, has occupied his soul and heart and no other woman is admitted any more there.

The novel takes place during the famous Spring Uprising in Prague in 1968 and the subsequent Russian invasion. The situation under communist rule is unbearable - people have no right to speak, think, or act against the regime. Many of the intellectuals lose their job (including Tomas). The artists are forbidden to express anything beside the crude, real image of Communism. Amongst them is Sabina, one of Tomas's closest lovers. She is an artist fascinated with aspects of incomparable images in which the interface of the images betray one another. In her own life she is the eternal betrayer, not unlike the tensions in her own paintings. She has betrayed her parents, her home, her relationship with Tomas and her subsequent lover Franz. For her betrayal is a search for boundaries. She keeps betraying everyone and everything hoping to reach a time and place, which she wouldn't want to betray.

Franz is the idealist of the story. Before meeting Sabina he lives a lonely and sad life as a prominent professor trapped in an unhappy marriage. His soul longs for marches, for uprisings, for change. He sees the world as a Grand March towards progress, towards a better and brighter future. Kundera mocks this illusion, as there is no basis for it and as history has numerously disproved it. People no longer believe in the grand march as they realize the meaningless of human action. Franz, who always longed for adventures, finds a rather trivial death.

One of Kundera's central themes is the being that has weight. We have been raised to believe that lightness is positive and weight negative. However, burden is what gives the being value. Only necessity is heavy and only what is heavy has value. In that sense, the greatness of man comes from the fact that he bears his fate in a much similar way Atlas bore the world on his hand. I was greatly attracted to that idea. Throughout my life I have rejected lightness and I have welcomed burden. Burden (and weight) makes me feel alive, as if I am battling some inner demons and only through defeating them would I really have value.

From this idea stems the concept of recurrence:

Human life occurs only once and the reason we cannot determine which of our decisions are good and which bad is that in a given situation we can make only one decision; we are not granted a second, third or fourth life in which to compare various decisions.

I spent enormous time going over my past decisions and wondering what would have happened if I made a different move. Kundera gave me a realistic view of the subject - man lives only one life. There is no recurrence and thus no way for us to test our decisions in a laboratory and see which one was right and which one - wrong. We get only one chance and we must bear the consequences. The notion of fate, or what Nietzsche refers to as "amor fati" (love of fate) is the notion that nature presents us with situations which we cannot escape and we simply have to bear them. Tomas must accept and bear his love for Tereza no matter how painful and hopeless.Yet, even this acceptance cannot escape the ultimate "unbearable lightness of being," the meaninglessness of all our acts in a world in which our acts simply don't live forever:

And therein lies the whole of man's plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition.

Thus Kundera seems to accept Nietzsche's argument that only an eternal recurrence allows one to survive meaninglessness, but then the survival itself is impossible since the eternal recurrence does not and cannot happen.

My personally favorite (maybe because I greatly identify with it) was the concept of vertigo

We might call vertigo the intoxication of the weak. Aware of his weakness a man decides to give in rather than stand up to it. He is drunk with weakness, wishes to grow even weaker, wishes to fall down in the middle of the main square in front of everybody, wishes to be down, lower than down.

No, vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us, which tempts and lures us; it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified we defend ourselves.

I have felt this utter urge to fall, but I never found the words to describe it. It's a feeling born out of a moment without any particular cause. It, however, encompasses me fully, forcing me to test the boundaries of falling. I had fallen before but now I want to fall harder, deeper, better. This urge to do something that will eventually hurt only myself, this desire to experience pain and to be weaker than ever, has been haunting me without explanation. I have tried to fight it; now I am beginning to accept it. This intoxication is what I (and Kundera's characters) need to overcome the meaningless of our actions in a world where nothing recurs, where whatever happens is subject to fate and random occurrences, of which we make important (but often false) conclusions. Like a dog, we want repetition. Unlike a dog, we only get a straight line, which can take us anywhere. And there is no way we can determine whether this was right or wrong; moreover, our life will have been meaningless because repetition and recurrence give rise to meaning. And man is deprived of that.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a comedy and a tragedy; it is about understanding and accepting the fallacies of human life; it is about enduring the burden and pain and realizing we must accept that weight no matter how painful it might be. It is a philosophical masterpiece with striking ideas on the problem of existence, purpose, fate, life, and LOVE:

Perhaps all the questions asked of love, to measure, test, prove and save it, have the additional effect of cutting it short. Perhaps the reason we are unable to love is that we yearn to be loved, that is, we demand something (love) from our partner instead of delivering ourselves up to him demand-free and asking for nothing but his company.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Shadows in Paradise - Erich Maria Remarque

Remarque is comparable to no one when it comes to the immigrant's soul. Being himself an immigrant from Germany and having been persecuted numerous times for his writings, he understands the immigrant's dilemma - a longing towards your country, whose people have turned into murderers, and a clear understanding that in order to live you have to flee this country.

Shadows in Paradise follows the life of several German immigrants in the US, who are trying to balance between the American dream and the German nightmare. They are Jews and Germans; they have been persecuted or they voluntarily left Germany; they love and hate their own country; they dream of coming back and they use every resource to blend in the US. They are Americans (or trying to become) and yet they are still Germans. They are in the US and in the same time their past haunts them and obstructs any chance of starting a normal life.

Among these shadows arrives Ros, a German who escaped the persecutions and travelled all around Europe to find a shelter in the US. His real name is unknown or long forgotten. In fact, names are among the few things that escape time, war, and the Nazis. They are like a legacy, a saving will making death look like a rescue - for the dead and for the living.

Upon arrival Ros attempts to blend into the American life. He finds a job as a consultant to a seller of paintings, he finds a home in a shady hotel, he meets old friends from Europe, and of course, he tragically falls in love. It seems that everything is in place to live like in a paradise in the US - a country that participates in the war but doesn't feel it in any way. Trading is flourishing and morals are inexistent, making it a perfect atmosphere to exploit, lie, deceit, and make money. Somewhere far away people are dying but in Hollywood the Americans are making a movie about Nazi Germany. Ros, being among the few who has been in a concentration camp, becomes a consultant. He is shocked by the difference between image and reality. American movies back then were not very much different than what they are now. They portrayed the bad guys as ultimately bad with no soul or compassion and the good guys as beautiful and perfect saints.

A traitor, a spy, and a victim, Ros tries to live normally but is constantly haunted by memories from the past. The persecutions, the hidings, the fear, and the deaths have left an eternal mark on his personality, one that cannot be erased by the normality the US offers. As the war approaches its end, similar feelings evoke in the other immigrants. The immigrant dilemma becomes unbearable. On one side lies the perfect American life with its security and endless possibilites. On the other hand, many of them feel like shadows of living beings - their history and life has been and will be Germany. Even the Jews feel nostalgic. Yet, going back to the old Germany is impossible. It is still a country dominated by Nazism, it is largely destroyed, and the immigrants are mostly seen as traitors. More importantly, however, these pour souls feel that they will come back but to nothing. And yet staying is impossible because the feeling they have something missing will stay forever.

Love. Despite the difficult to bear topic of war, Remarque always finds a place and a time for love. In the face of Natasha, a Russian immigrant from France, Ros finds the shelter his soul needs. Yet, when you are incomplete and when you are a shadow of a human being, even love is not able to complete you. In Remarque's style, it is philosophical, passionate, and controversial. Natasha and Ros attempt to build something on top of ruins that haven't been completely destroyed yet. The result (as many of us have felt it I am sure) is a fleeting feeling that both sides understand needs to end.

Overall, no surprises from Remarque, which, however, doesn't mean that the author doesn't live up to his standards. The more I read, the more I understand and love Remarque's world of war and destruction. I will not exaggerate if I say, one of the greatest authors to ever live and write.

Further by Remarque: Three Comrades, The Night in Lisbon, The Black Obelisk, A Time to Love and a Time to Die

Friday, 4 May 2012

iLove Jobs

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.
Steve Jobs

Usually I am against quotes that are so overused that even hearing them makes my stomach turn upside down. However, Steve Jobs' famous quote is not only inspirational for many people; it is a sentence, which summarizes in 19 words the amazing, controversial, turbulent, and eventful life of one of the most important people of the 20th (and 21st so far) century. And I am not exaggerating even a bit.

The madness around Jobs' biography by Walter Isaacson stroke Bulgaria around Christmas. I wouldn't lie if say that each and everyone of my acquaintances bought this book as a gift to someone. Our family, being traditional (and rather unoriginal) followed this trend and gave the biography to my grandparents. Months later, as I come back home, I saw it standing in our own library. Whether or not (NOT) anyone read it, I am not to judge. But after the hustle and the obsession was gone, I felt it was time for me to read this "so-good" book.

I was skeptical, to be honest. I expected a sugar-coated over-exaggerated and unrealistic image of Steve Jobs, where he was more or less a saint. Instead, I was presented with what I thought to be a rather objective, comprehensive, and thorough image of Jobs, with his flaws and qualities, with his mistakes and successes, with his arrogance and gentleness, with his absurdity and logic. I must say I like Jobs even more now, because Isaacson gives a portrait of a human being - so controversial, so rude and harsh, so insensitive and brutal at times, but a human genius.

Abandoned and chosen. That's how little Steve's life starts when his Catholic mother is forced to give him for adoption. Getting pregnant from a Syrian muslim and living in a conservative society rules out abortion. The only condition Jobs' mum had was that he is to be adopted by people with a degree. Unfortunately, her wish is not fulfilled and Jobs' parents are regular working people from the Sicilian valley. His father, a mechanic, gaves Jobs his first lessons in the importance of perfection and completeness, a lesson Steve is going to remember all life and apply to all of the products of Apple. Being adopted is a complex of Jobs throughout all of his life; ironically he also abandons his first child and for years refuses to take responsibility as a father.

Growing up in the peak of the Sexual revolution, Jobs is hardly a saint. For years he takes LCD, claiming that the drug helped him open his senses to a lot of possibilities and unleashing his imagination. He lives in a closed community based on the idea "sharing is caring" (in every sense of the world), he is a huge fan of Dylan and the Beatles, he gets crazy about Buddhism and even visits India in search of spirituality, he rejects conformism and control; he is a hippie and a rebel in every sense of the word. At about this time, Jobs also becomes a strict vegetarian, a mania that is going to follow him all his life. In fact, he was so obsessed that he showered only once a week, claiming that if one doesn't eat meat, one doesn't smell. The result was a dirty and smelly hippie, who people found it hard to trust until of course he spoke and his passion won them over.

Among the drugs, the sex, the music, and the spirituality, Jobs is fascinated by the advancement of technology. Born in the Sicilian valley, the center of technological companies, he witnesses the birth of HP, Microsoft, Dell, etc. and is excited about the possibilities these developments could offer. You all know the story of how Apple was found in his father's garage. Well, it's true. Along with his best friend, also Steve, Jobs puts the beginning of what is to become one of the most successful companies in the world. You've also heard criticisms that he wasn't the one who invented the first computer. Well, that's also true. However, without Jobs' business mind, without his ability to sell things at high profit margines, without his persistance, arrogance, and brutality, this computer would be still standing in a small garage and I would never expect my dad to give me an iPad for my birthday in 15 days.

The biography follows the agony and the ecstasy of the controversial Jobs. His first years in Apple, his release, the foundation of NeXT and Pixar, everything that Steve touches is predestined to become a great company. So what does Jobs have that many of his opponents don't? I would say passion and perfection. Throughout his career he was always passionate for the products he was making and he strongly believed that these products are going to change the world and the way we perceive it. Interestingly, he hated marketing studies. One of his famous thoughts goes something like: "Why would we ask the customers what they want? They don't know what they want. They will know they want it when we give it to them." A rather controversial approach to the theory of marketing, but if you think about it, we never knew we wanted an iPod, an iPad, or an iPhone before Jobs showed us we wanted it.

Nevertheless, he was an arrogant bastard. He constantly rejected people's ideas before they even got the chance to justify them. If they were good, later he would claim them as his own. His employees lived in Jobs'distorted reality where "impossible" was not acceptable. Even though Steve was brutal and insensitive, he managed to ignite people with his passion, to motivate them to do what seemed impossible at first sight, and to get them on board to make "the best products". And even though his means were rather harsh, he mostly succeeded. I am one who believes that the means justify the end. And indeed, all of the people that worked beneath him admitted that even though at the times it was stressful and impossible to work with him, whenever a product was finished, they all felt a part of something great. Another one of Jobs's strengths.

If you own any of Apple's products, you must have noticed that they Xtimes better looking (and better working!) than most of the others. Throughout his career, Jobs was obsessed with perfection, a quality he inherited from his father. Even the bolts inside the computer, which no consumer would ever see, needed to be perfect. He spent hours and days choosing among colors, configurations, and models to make sure he took the best decision. Jobs was such a perfectionist that for years he didn't furnish his home. He simply couldn't find anything he liked. From the products to the shops, everything Steve touched needed to be perfect.

On top of that perfection, he was the first one to combine hardware and software. One of Apple's strengths, undoubtedly, is that all of the departments worked together to produce the products. In contrast, most other companies had separated their functions, which didn't communicate effectively between each other. Jobs, on the other hand, insisted that designers, engineers, and marketers work closely together. In fact, however, sometimes the designers had the final word, since for Jobs the outlook of the product was certainly very important. Then, engineers had to invent the technology, which sometimes was much more expensive. Nevertheless, Jobs believed this was the right way to go. And he certainly was right.

Yes, he was a human being and he had his flaws. He abandoned his first daughter, he didn't spend enough time with his family, he treated badly his employees, and he was always right. However, to be a genius and to leave a mark after you're gone, you have to be all of this. You have to be even more. Jobs was abandoned and chosen, criticized and praised, hated and loved, but everyone agrees he is one of the greatest business minds of our century. And his legacy will be remembered. He changed the world, something he was crazy enough to do.