Apple's iRonic Authenticity

Apple has managed to sell authenticity to a generation suckled on snarkasm.

Though its iDevices get used to trade billions of sarcastic cracks per day, Apple’s product announcements and commercials offer something rarely seen in this cynical age — genuine passion, untrammeled enthusiasm for one’s work, authentic intensity about the meaning of it all.


Perhaps at some level, that’s what draws us to Apple. They — or at least their executives — seem to truly love what they do, find fulfillment in the accomplishment. They continually unveil new layers of the richness of human experience in engineering, art, music, literature, and they love it without reserve or shame. They gush.

It’s become a trope that our entire work existence is just something we do to get money so that (some day) we can do what we really want to do. But Jony Ive (Apple’s Senior VP of Design) waxes eloquent about a phone/computer that is “beautifully, unapologetically plastic,” and he does it with an expression on his countenance that approaches the rapture of a lover finally pouring out his feelings to the woman of his dreams.

No winking. No eye-rolling. No LOL. He means it. He DOES think the iPhone 5c is “an experience” and he means to make that experience transformative for you.

Wait, that’s not quite right.

Jony Ive means to make the experience transformative for its own sake. You get the sense that the job he does from day to day is so deeply personal and rewarding that he would do it for free, just so he could have the experience of doing it, and then of enjoying the fruit of his labors.

This is counter-cultural, and yet it is not altogether new on the human scene. While most Apple execs would not likely describe it this way, there is something of the old “protestant work ethic” in all of this.


“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23) This is not the ethic of the grasper, of the relentlessly driven, nor of the empty heart and the numbed soul trying to feel alive.

The idea is that you have been gifted, and placed by God to do the work you now do, and to do it — not for money or fame — but with a passion that sees your work as a dance before the Creator, who delights in you and rejoices over you with singing. Your work, no matter how menial in the world’s eyes is a “vocation” (from the Latin vox, that means voice) — a calling, from the voice of your maker.

And when you see it this way, the shield of cynicism that you use to guard your heart from feelings of inadequacy, drops to the ground, and you fully engage in life, and work, and relationship…perhaps for the first time, authentically without irony.


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