Apples, Kids, & Attitude
Faith, Hope, & Love
In 1802, in the catacombs of St. Priscilla outside of Rome, the remains of a child-martyr were discovered. Her name, as written on the stone slabs which sealed her tomb, was Filumena, or "daughter of light."
Philomena, as her name was later written, suffered a martyr's death because she believed in something that the emperor Dioclesian didn't want to hear. She believed in a love that transcends the known physical reality and she consecrated herself to a king who reigned not on earth, but in Heaven. The emperor was incensed that anyone would turn down the riches of Rome for the love of someone who, in his view, had been disgraced, mocked, tortured and put to a very painful death by the very people he was supposed to lead. Instead of listening to Philomena, the emperor had her put to death, too.
In 1805, a lowly clergyman asked to be given Philomena's remains for his humble chapel. Like Dioclesian, he was captivated by Philomena. However, instead of ignoring what she had to say, he respected her belief. So many miracles happened at this chapel through her intercession that she was declared a Saint. It was a time when people believed.
Belief is a funny thing. In 1984, Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh. The premise behind the computer was that the people who designed it believed more in the creative talents, skills and ideas of the people who would use it than in the computer itself. They created less of a monument to modern technology and more of an ever-changing computer platform that would help its users discover, develop, and enhance their inherent talents and skills. These people have seldom been disappointed. Those who choose not to use a Macintosh quite often mock, ridicule or simply ignore those of us who do.
When one chooses, for whatever reason or circumstance, to believe in or use something that many others do not, it can be a lonely and frustrating experience. You are perceived by others as "different." Many times other people are uncomfortable because your belief in or use of something different challenges what is perceived to be a safe, comfortable, established norm. Without saying a word, your choice makes them reevaluate who they say they are, what they think they believe, and why they do what they do. Quite frequently, people who wouldn't normally buy a dog, a car or even a coffee maker because it's the one most people own use this silly explanation for choosing a computer operating system.
In early 1996, as we all know, Apple Computer began a very difficult transition. It seemed as if people who never liked the Macintosh became quite vocal in their criticism of what went wrong with the company, why it was never really going to work from the beginning, and why the company and the computer platform should simply be allowed to die.
What these naysayers have never understood is that the Macintosh experience is more than computer hardware, very nice graphics software, and other cool applications. It's about you, me, my children, your creative skills, our ideas and much, much more. In short, it's less about the computer and more about the user. That's why it's no surprise that the Macintosh did not die. In fact, as a group, Macintosh users have become even more resolute in their decision to believe in themselves and their choice of computer platform.
Over the past year Apple Computer has made many significant changes, not the least of which being the purchase of NeXT Software and the integration of NeXTstep with the Macintosh OS. In many ways, Apple Computer is not the same company it was a year ago. In just as many ways, it's now a better one. The acquisition of NeXT Software will allow Apple Computer to make greater inroads into the enterprise, or business, market. The decision to rewrite the Macintosh OS using the Mach kernel as a foundation is a major milestone in Apple Computer's history. Once again, the company has stood at a crossroads and chosen a more scenic, less traveled path.
Despite the company's recent problems, they've increased the gross profit margin on each hardware unit sold, which indicates that they are being more efficient in designing and manufacturing their products. This is by no means the only indicator of a company's financial and operational health, but it is a big step forward in Apple's efforts to return to a performance level that consistently yields a profit. One thing that amazes me about Apple Computer (apart from the really cool technology and how much fun I have with my Mac) is that over the years, it has been able to survive through periods of high profits, low profits, different economic cycles, product cycles and varying levels of competition.
In our world, there are many different scientific and physical "laws" which govern actions and behaviors. These laws are formal statements of facts either deduced from practice or observed in natural phenomena. A pronounced and inexplicable deviation from these laws is called an anomaly. I believe anomalies occur. I also believe Apple Computer's success and its continued survival has come about through a series of anomalies.
I'm not saying that all things about Apple are anomalies. What I am saying is that the continued healthy development of the Mac OS and Apple's survival, despite intense pressure, heated competition and a genuine anti-Mac bias shared by the media and many of the millions of people who have never used the Mac OS, are anomalies. I believe there is a greater power at work — a power that created the world and governs all of creation, including the scientific and physical "laws." When these laws are set aside, or a series of seemingly random events that achieve a particular outcome is set in motion through the direct intervention of a greater power, it's called a miracle. Simply put, I believe that the history and survival of Apple Computer and many of the technological advancements it has made have had a miraculous component. I think these events happened because people who believe in the Macintosh simply asked. These requests were made in a variety of ways and forms.
I believe these many and varied voices were heard because much of what the Macintosh represents — ease-of-use and a better opportunity for creative expression — constitutes a greater respect for human dignity and an appreciation for the inherent strengths, weaknesses, talents and skills in each of us as unique individuals. This is one reason that Apple's success doesn't make sense to many people. Macintosh users don't limit their outlook, ideas and dreams to what the "laws" dictate or what society says should happen. That's OK. Problems start only when we stop believing.
As for St. Philomena, so many miracles were attributed to her intercession by the late 1830's that she was declared "The Thaumaturga" or "wonder worker" of the 19th Century. It was a time when people believed. During the 20th Century, we've had enormous advancements in technology and the world is changing much more rapidly. Our lives tend to be busier than they were a century ago. Our societies seem to have far less time to pause, reflect and believe in inexplicable things and the supernatural powers that can accomplish them.
In 1961, St. Philomena was removed from the calendar of saints despite the many documented miracles that were attributed to her intercession. It was a sad day for those who believe in the love to which St. Philomena's life and death was testimony — a love that transcends the known physical reality.
St. Philomena's formerly designated feast day (the special day each year when her life and testimony are commemorated) is August 11th. Last summer, on the eve of August 11th, I was in my son's room where I keep an image of St. Philomena along with a little statuette of this "dear little saint" (my kids think she's pretty cool, too!). To celebrate her special day I was planning to make cupcakes, put a candle on one of them and sing a special song. So I went to the store and bought cupcake mix.
I had been asking St. Philomena for help with a particular request. When I came home I felt moved to do something relative to that request (but more on this in a future column). I went to the kitchen and made the cupcakes. I put the remaining cupcakes in the refrigerator so that the kids and I could light candles and sing St. Philomena a special song again the following night when we were together. I call it interactive spirituality. They call it fun. In my view, when you love someone you do things for them.
My former wife had at least two big concerns about me. She thought I drank far too much coffee and smoked too many cigarettes. Her concerns had merit, but it's very difficult to break addictions. About a week after August 11th I stopped drinking coffee. A week after that I stopped smoking cigarettes. I don't know what the "dear little saint" whispered in God's ear, but I haven't had a cigarette since. I keep myself busy by jogging everyday and using my home fitness equipment I recently purchased at Sears. Some people might call the sudden and inexplicable change in my behavior an anomaly. Other people might use a different term and are perhaps a little more aware.
When I look at the new Apple Computer, it's a much different company then what I imagined it would be when I purchased my Macintosh 7500 eighteen months ago. I like the company's new hardware offerings and I'm excited about the direction of the Mac OS.
Apple Computer will continue to innovate its products and develop the Mac OS at a seemingly amazing rate. It has to do that because there are many people who would like to buy a Mac, but who can't justify the purchase in a Windows-dominated world. It's not that people don't consider the Mac OS a better operating system, it's just that that the advantages of the Mac OS are no longer as immediately obvious as they used to be. Soon, the difference between the Mac OS and its chief competitor will again be obvious to most computer users. Apple is now a smaller company and a bit more nimble. Changes will become easier as the company moves forward.
The development of a healthy Macintosh clone market is putting a lot of pressure on Apple Computer to expand the market for the Mac OS and Mac-compatible hardware. That's because unless the market grows, the clone makers will only be taking sales away from Apple. The company's more competitive approach to the market will help keep prices down, but we need to keep asking for what we want - on earth and from Heaven. Like I've said, problems start only when we stop believing. Don't take my word for it. Ask St. Philomena yourself. Like I've also said, when you love someone you do things for them.