Infinite Loop 1: “Speaking the Unspeakable.”

©1-1-2000 David Schultz

[This was the very first article published at]


Of Logos and Myth

It all started in the Garden
of Eden. Well, almost. We all know the story.
Soon after creation God brought Adam and Even
together in Paradise. The only prohibition was
not to eat of the fruit of the “tree of knowledge
of good and evil.” But they were deceived
and ate. Tradition has it that the fruit was an
apple; we really cannot say. It was fruit of some
kind, anyway. The result was expulsion from Paradise
and all the evil we find in the world. A simple,
nice theodicy.

Jean-Louis Gassee,
former President of Apple Products, now CEO of
Be INC, said of the colored Apple logo “You
couldn’t dream of a more appropriate logo: lust,
knowledge, hope and anarchy.” We at
have taken this as our theme. The full quote is
as follows (which you can find in “The Mac
Bathroom Reader”):

“One of the deep mysteries to me is our logo, the symbol
of lust and knowledge, bitten into, all crossed
with the colors of the rainbow in the wrong
order. You couldn’t dream of a more appropriate
logo: lust, knowledge, hope and anarchy.”

This was the original vision of
Apple. Note the almost militant, radical overtones
here. It was perfect, not just for the machines
they wished to produce, but also for the vision
they had of a world with those machines. The vision
was one of liberation (a prominent vision in the
sixties by the way), and the Apple computer and
Mac were the liberators. The founders of Apple
were, or are, the “crazy ones; the misfits;
the square pegs in a round hole” as the “Think
Different” ad explains. Think of the Woz;
think of Steve Jobs. The stories are legendary
now. If one thinks about it, Steve Jobs has much
in common with the Greek philosopher Socrates
(now stay with me!). Note this . . .

When he tried to get capital to
start Apple, venture capitalist Don Valentine
is believed to have called him a “renegade
[or dreg] of humanity,” that is, a worthless
piece of residue of humanity. When he brought
John Sculley, then at Pepsi, to Apple, Jobs asked,
“Do you want to make sugared water for the
rest of your life or do you want a chance to change
the world?” Even Sculley said it was exciting
to work for people who “were part of changing
history.” The contrasts between these stories
could not be sharper. Steve
Jobs, a worthless residue and renegade of humanity
with visions of changing the world
. Sound
familiar? It should. Imagine shopping in your
local mall and a homeless, unkept and elderly
man comes up to you and asks, “What is truth?
What is beauty?” “Worthless dreg”
we might think. Well, that is exactly how
came off in the agora of Athens.
He too was believed to be a dreg of humanity but
he changed the Greek world. They killed him, as
we all know. He was forced to drink hemlock. Sculley
fired Jobs. There are many, many “dregs of
humanity” who have pushed civilization forward.

The label “dreg of humanity”
seems to be a peg upon which we hang those who
do not fit in, those who swim against the currents
of culture. We don’t know what to do with them;
they annoy us yet they inspire us. We praise them,
we fire them and we kill them. “But they
cannot be ignored.” This is what Gassee was
trying to get at; this is what the Apple logo
represents. It is the Macintosh Way. It is what
Apple lost at one time; it is what Steve Jobs
has gone back to since his return. It is what
we at want to articulate and defend.

There are four elements to the
logo Gassee explains: LUST: as in paradise
when lust motivated Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden
fruit; KNOWLEDGE: the fruit of the knowledge
of good and evil, and what lusted after; HOPE:
the rainbow; ANARCHY: the inverted colors
of the rainbow. So we could have called our new
site, or, or But we chose
The reason is simple. Lust is the foundation of
knowledge, hope and anarchy; of the four, it is
the most basic in our nature. We, humanity, that
curious lot, lust after knowledge; we lust after
peace, love and an afterlife (hope), and we lust
after liberation (anarchy). Desire and lust drive
us as a species as much as reason drives us. Besides:
When I look at Wintel boxes I am not inspired.
But when I look at a Mac, I am lustful.

But lust has come to acquire some
rather unfortunate connotations over the centuries.
St. Augustine
said that all evil is grounded
in lust, which he defined as “inordinate
desire,” that is, desire without bounds,
order or rules. Desire, if it is to function as
it should he thought, must be ordered and rule-governed.
The paradoxical nature of the Eden story is that
one of humanity’s strongest traits, curiosity,
the “desire to know” as Aristotle called
it, caused all of humanity’s woes. Where would
we be if we were not curious, if we we did not
seek to know? But curiosity and the desire to
know must be bounded, ordered, if it is not to
lead us astray. This is the truth Victor Frankenstien
symbolizes. Even Apple knows this, for the lust
their products produce is produced by properties
grounded in rationality such as symmetry, proportion
and beauty.


Lust really just means a
strong desire
for something. One must be careful
here, careful not to confuse lust with envy, appetite
and raw emotion. Lust is much more refined. Since
it is merely a strong desire for something. We
can say we lust after food, after water and, well,
you know. The experience of being overtaken by
lust is common to all. Intentional action becomes
impulse, drive without thought almost. We fight
it but cannot live without it (literally). Our
mouths water; our hearts race, our mouths become
dry, and our hands shake. Reason is suspended,
at least for a little while. This is not anxiety
but drive, a push toward some desired object.
It is a universal human trait. Of course we must
be careful that we lust after the right kinds
of things and in the right proportions, and this
is what Augustine was getting at. Universal too
are the kinds of things which provoke lust, such
as beauty, parsimony, form and symmetry. So lust
can be inspired on several levels: it is inspired
by colors, names and mental associations, tastes,
textures, and form. This is a truth which Steve
Jobs, it seems, is aware of. Think about it .
. .

For years Mac humanity has toiled
East of Eden, in a beige and plastic unimaginative
wilderness. No lust, just apathy among the Mac
faithful. There is little worse than loosing lust
or having unsatisfied desires. But we kept going.
The clarion call then went out from Jobs and Apple
designers. Jobs asked us to bite into a new fruit,
or at least take a drink of Bondi Blue, enticing
us to go West, back to Paradise. In very subtle
ways Steve Jobs and Apple designers are regaining
the lost Mac vision, and it includes lust. I give
you some examples.

At Macworld Expo, when Jobs introduced
the fruity iMacs, he said, “they are luscious;
you almost want to take a bite out of them . .
you want to lick them” Get it? This is lust.
And think of their names: Blueberry.
. Lime.
Grape (Steve’s favorite,
by the way). He wants people to base a buying
decision on their favorite color even. He is appealing
to those universal properties which invoke lust.
It is found in the colors, but also in shapes,
textures, names and so on, of Apple products.

The same can be said for the wonderful
iBook. The other day at my local CompUSA I was
browsing when a couple saw an iBook on display.
After a few comments one said, “That looks
really nice.” The other responded, “Well,
they did a good job of marketing.” “What,”
I thought, “marketing? Those colors, textures,
shapes and sounds are not just marketing,
but hooks into universal aspects of human nature
designed to inspire lust.” “Commercial
society,” I said to myself, “what a
pox on humanity.” Yes indeed, PC users just
don’t get it. (I’ll have more to say on this in
a moment and in later columns.)

But what of Graphite?
Few normal people want to bite into a stone! But
from comments I have read lust can be expressed
and inspired in many ways. Read the posts or listen
to people who have just received a G4. “I
just wanted to touch it,” is a standard example,
as is, “I can’t take my eyes off it.”
“I have been by its side ever since it arrived.”
These are actual comments I have noticed in forums!
Go to the G4 Forum on MacNN
and read some of the posts and notice how people
talk about the G4 (philosophers are disposed to
pick up on things like how language is used).
Expressions of lust pure and simple. One person
even spoke of “technolust” in a post.
Indeed, the G4s have a high lust factor.

The moral here is simple: The fruity
Mac, the new machines, the colors and textures
which have found their way into so much of culture,
are not merely marketing. They take us back to
the original Apple vision. They produce the kind
of lust in us which Jobs and the Woz must have
felt when they first starting thinking of the
concept of a “personal computer,” when
they and only they realized the potential of Alan
‘s simple machine. In a sense, we are
experiencing those intoxicating first few years
of the computer industry when we experience applelust.

Speaking the Unspeakable

When I took a Blueberry iBook
to the philosophy department I teach at, the first
comments were not, “How fast is it?,”
or “It looks like a toy,” let alone
“It’s a girlie machine.” No, they were
all expressions of lust: “it’s beautiful,”
was standard, but lust, a certain kind of ineffable
lust, something these academics could not put
into words, was also expressed. “Ooohh,”
“Aaah,” “Wow,” and other primitive
responses were also common. There was also an
almost reflexive kind of touching, as though it
was satin. All expressions of lust. When we bought
an original iMac for my parents, my father’s first
comment was revealing; “It’s the best looking
computer I’ve seen.” Lust. Now go to any
CompUSA or Apple reseller and watch people as
they first come upon a Mac (besides PC-herd-following-lemmings).
I saw this over and over when I did Apple Demo
Days. The first utterances are not linguistic,
but primitive ones like those just mentioned.
Not really grunts, but more signs of satisfaction.
There is something primitive about our response
to these things, these machines. Only then
do we get around to asking “technical questions.”
People first say “Oh . . wow,” and reach
out to touch them, and only then ask, “How
much RAM does it comes with?” When true lust
is inspired, when form, beauty, texture and color
attaches itself to our nature, our first response
is nonlinguistic. That is what we at
are about. It is what Apple is about and Steve
Jobs knows it.

In a sense this article is very
paradoxical, but philosophers love paradox! I
am trying to talk about what cannot be put into
words; I am using language to describe what transcends
language; I am speaking about the unspeakable:
Lust. But we have no choice, even if it means
we retreat to analogy and images because mere
words fail us. This is a very deep and profound
thing, and perhaps why Gassee said the Apple logo
was a mystery: Our response outruns our language
capacities, even if it only lasts the first few
seconds in the encounter. This is why music has
such meaning for us, for it expresses the linguistically
inexpressible. And is it any wonder that Macs
are the choice of creative professionals? After
all, creativity is a kind of primitive impulse
as well. These things touch our souls in ways
other plastic boxes cannot. So when you see someone
unable to put into words his response to the iMac,
take note–that is just what Apple wants.

Lust: What Many PC Users Lack

The iBook story
above illustrates something else: many PC users
lack lust. For meanwhile, as I demoed Macs, I
overheard those in the PC section. “What
software does it comes with?” “Does
the monitor come with it?” “Does it
have a PIII inside?” And this gem: “Can
this one run Windows?” Pure functionality.
Indeed, no enthusiasm; no excitement; no product
loyalty; no life; no love. No ineffable utterances
of lust. Lifelessness. I feel sorry for them.
In fact, slavishness is the rule. I have noticed
that many buy PCs not because they want
to because they feel they have to: “It’s
what we use at work so I have to get one.”
Or, “Everything requires Windows, so I have
no choice.” But this goes against human nature,
against the lust for freedom expressed in anarchy.
This is what separates Apple from other companies:
Those other guys want to force something on you,
to create an artificial kind of lust in us; indeed,
they want dependents not consumers. But Apple
looks to human nature and aims for what is already
there without trying to produce it artificially.
And it does it by producing products that enmatter
those universal attractors in us, such as form,
beauty, color and texture. When these new iMacs
came out, and the iBook and the G4s, I felt as
though I had just received the perfect present
from a loved one; I almost wanted to say, “I
love it! How did you know!” Apple does not
just produce products that give us what we want,
or force things on us, but they give us what we
are. This is the basis of the Apple mystique.
If there was excitement in the PC section it was
not lust, but envy, simple emotion, or appetite.
But no lust.

Let me make an
analogy. There is a debate about whether a true
philosopher is born or made. That is, philosophizing
requires a certain kind of temperament
which it seems one must be born with. I see philosophy
majors who cannot be made into philosophers,
try as we might to make them one. No, the
impulse to philosophizing is something one is
born with. Likewise, I do not think Mac users
are made but born, just like the creative professionals
which inhabit their ranks. This is why some say,
myself among them, that “PC users just don’t
get it.” (In a future article I will talk
about what the “it” is and more on why
they don’t.) But this is not really accurate;
it is not “don’t get it,” but rather
“can not get it.” Try teaching a non-artist
to produce art, or a non-mathematician to love
of proofs. It is hard if not impossible. Think
of the amazement you feel when someone says “I
don’t see what’s so great about a Van Gogh painting.”
It is a question of human nature and the forces
that shape it. Now try teaching a born non-Mac
person to love Macs. Same thing. Much of our Mac
evangelism will therefore fall on deaf ears.

Yet many students
do not realize they are mathematicians, artists
or philosophers by birth until they have been
exposed to these disciplines. They try a class
here and try a class there until they find their
“fit.” This is not to say that stories
of Mac conversion cannot be true. This only tells
us that before their conversion, before being
exposed to Macs, they were not truly happy (though
many say they are). But after conversion, in Danish
philosopher Soren
words, they are “in the
truth.” But since we don’t know who the true
believers are, we try to convert all. Let me put
this another way: It will never be talk of megahertz
or color or texture which will convert our friends
to the Mac, it is the Mac which will do that.
Our job is to get them in a position where they
will see it for themselves. The best way to convert
someone to the Mac is NOT to talk about the Mac
but to talk to him or her as a real person, to
befriend him and show him in the flesh the Macintosh
Way. (In the wonderful movie “The Matrix”
Morpheus says to Neo, “One cannot be told
what the Matrix is. He has to see it for himself.”
The same with the Mac.) It is not the Mac PC users
fight against, but themselves and the chains Bill
Gates and Michael Dell have locked on them.

The perceptive
reader will have noticed a tension in what I have
said. I said that Macs appeal to universal
aspects of humanity. Yet at the same time
I say that not everyone responds. Is this
a contradiction? Not at all. We must keep the
distinction between being and knowing
before us. The simple, but dismal, fact of human
nature is that not all are true to its higher
aspects. It is what the French philosopher Jean-Paul
called “bad faith”: Ignoring
certain psychological and ontological states by
seeking diversions and distractions of all kinds.
If we keep busy enough we do not have to face
our true situation in the universe (and this why
boredom is so terrible). The same goes for some
(though not all) PC users. The Mac attraction
would lay claim if they paused to notice it and
forget the crowd. And as I said, many perhaps
in fact notice it, but feel they can do nothing
about it since it is after all a Wintel world.
What I am saying is that the Mac form factor appeals
to universal traits in human nature in a perfect
world, but we are not living in such a world.
If the Mac ever fails (and it won’t I hope), it
will not be because of Apple (as long as Apple
remains true to it original vision of lust, knowledge,
hope and anarchy) but because of a society which
prizes mini vans, conformity and staying busy.
It is a powerful force we swim against. We did
kill Socrates after all. And if Socrates was alive
today, he’d own a Mac. The implication to this
is clear: In a perfect world, a world in which
all were true to their higher nature, where bad
faith was put to rest, everyone would own a Mac.
I am not saying Mac users are perfect or that
all PC users are living in sin. Many PC users
don’t want to be PC users; some buy Macs for all
the wrong reasons. What I mean is . . . keep reading.

I can hear the
PC users out there now: “Oh c’mon! It is
just a machine! Aren’t you taking this a little
too seriously? This is absurd.” To which
I answer: “I am very serious, you just didn’t
hear what I said.” I am just as serious as
saying that in a perfect world everyone
would freely seek the good, the true and the beautiful
(the three things philosophers study). And yet
while not perfect, we still appreciate them, some
more than others, no matter where they are found,
e.g., in a Mahler symphony, a beautiful sunset,
a Dante poem, or an Impressionist painting, in
a word, where ever we see truly beautiful design
and symmetry, be it in nature or in a human artifact
like a computer. This is what PC users don’t get,
and why “it’s just a machine” is myopic.

Lusting is an art-form practiced
by those who have mastered their natures, those
who know themselves. It is primitive and primordial,
yet at the same time makes no sense without proportion,
beauty and rationality. The perfect human (and
there are none), lusts after the right things,
at the right time in the right proportions. (The
famous Doctrine of the Mean.) Macs make us sometimes
forget they are machines (and thus many Mac users
give their Macs human names). Steve Jobs knows
this. He knows that computers should appeal to
our emotive side as well as our cognitive side.
He says Apple is here to “make the best computers
in the world.” He knows that this involves
lust. We won’t buy because we have to, or because
we are swept along in a consumer society. We will
buy because the Mac embodies who we are. All the
functionality, ease of use and power turn inordinate
desire to ordinate desire, ensuring that our lust
is not misplaced, that in fact we are lusting
after something worthwhile. Jobs knows that form
without function is empty, and function without
form is dead. Both are what attracts us, and when
both are in the right proportions in one thing
(like the MacOS in an iMac), we respond with lust
because that is who we are. This is the original
vision of the Mac. For the
Mac is not just a machine: The Mac is an idea,
a way of life
. That is why we have started We want to articulate that idea
and way of life. We want to be the Mac philosophers
and apologists, if you will. No one else is doing
this. We are not here to compete with other sites
but to complement them by articulating the Mac
community’s philosophical foundations (among other
things). We will in the weeks and years ahead
document, comment and analyze certain exemplifications
of applelust. We will observe and comment on “Maccing”
(a verb mind you), the Mac community and all it
stands for, and all that stands against it (like
Microsoft and Michael Dell). If we at
can articulate the vision thing clearly to enrich
the Mac community, then we will be happy. So say
hello to . . .


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