With the recent passing of Steve Jobs, much has been said about the legacy he leaves behind. What an epic legacy it is, the sheer genius of his creativity having changed the way the world communicates and consumes information, music and books.
There is no argument that Steve Jobs was a modern day genius who changed the world. In the future his name will be mentioned alongside other inventors like Edison, scientists like Einstein and explorers like Columbus and Cook.
The brilliance of Jobs has led me to ponder the contributions of other creative geniuses and the changes they have wrought in the world, in particular writers. Like Jobs, Edison and Einstein, writers (be they authors, playwrights or poets) also leave behind a significant legacy with their words that change the world.
Shakespeare is the most obvious example. So many phrases in the English language were borne out of Shakespeare’s creative genius. This wordsmith gave us “All the world’s a stage” (As You Like It); “If music be the food of love, play on” (Twelfth Night); “The lady doth protest too much” (Hamlet); and most fittingly “Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em” (Twelfth Night). Shakespeare’s prolific and prodigious writing changed the English language forever, his writing so exceptional that we still study it today.
Jane Austen is another writer whose legacy lingers on. Even though Austen was certainly not well respected in her time, regarded as a lowly novelist, the quality of her writing has seen it survive generations. Austen is the master of perfect punctuation and expression, however, it is her characterization and wit that underpin her creative genius. Austen wrote about the everyday, the commonplace and the unremarkable. She largely ignored the world around her, including the Napoleonic wars, preferring instead to concentrate on life within the small towns and villages with which she was familiar. It was this familiarity that brokered her plotlines and gave us such masterpieces as Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Not only have these novels been studied for over a century, they have also spawned a surfeit of Hollywood movies and popular BBC miniseries. Jane Austen’s work has seen the creation of devoted book clubs, zealous fan clubs and websites, and caused generations of women to swoon over Mr. Darcy.
It is not only writers from earlier centuries who leave a legacy. Like Steve Jobs’ influence on the late 20th and 21st century, J.K Rowling has left an indelible mark on the same era. The Harry Potter books have sparked a global phenomenon, spawning movies, a new lexicon and a fresh generation of voracious readers. We Muggles know that Harry Potter is something special.
The gifted writer has the power to change the culture and history of the world in the same way as an inventor, scientist or explorer. Shakespeare, Austen and Rowling are just three examples of such writers amongst a plethora of illustrious others. And on a smaller scale there have been other, less famous writers who have also changed my world. Their legacy is smaller than those mentioned, but to me they are no less pertinent. These authors may not have their names recorded in many history books, nor will their works be made into movies or their words become a part of our lexicon, but the legacy of their work will live on in me. Some of these writers have books already been mentioned in my Top 10 lists or Reviews, others as yet unnamed have moved me in such a way that a little piece of them will remain a part of my persona forever.
The epic legacy of Steve Jobs has clearly changed the world, but the simple act of putting pen to paper and creating exquisite words of beauty, inspiration and wisdom has changed the world many times over – and will continue to do so.