As they are wont to do with just about everything, Apple is being incredibly secretive about how they're paying tribute to Steve Jobs. On Tuesday, an Apple employee leaked the news to Reuters that the stores would be closing for three hours during a worldwide "celebration of Steve Jobs' life" at their Cupertino, California, headquarters. The company did release any official word about what was going on, but ABC News reports that "employees will be able to watch video of it on a live webcast" and "the event is closed to the public and the news media." For the non-Apple employees, there's a stream of comments from around the world that's taken over the company's website under the bold headline: "Remembering Steve." So if Apple is celebrating and the public is remembering, isn't anybody actually mourning--you know, the normal thing to do when someone dies?
The verbiage of death is both simple and complex. Quite simply, Mirriam-Webster defines "mourn" as "to feel or express grief or sorrow; to show the customary signs of grief for a death." Thinking back on the events following Jobs death a couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of traditional grieving. Apple fans held iPhones displaying candles burning. People laid flowers at the end of Jobs's driveway. One guy played the bagpipes outside of Apple's headquarters. Many of the messages that Apple is now streaming on their website take on a similarly sad tone. "RIP my inspiration," reads one. "I'm very very sorry," reads another. "What a loss," reads another. Among the messages is the now familiar meme that popped up moments after Jobs's death was announced: iSad. It would seem that in remembering Steve Jobs, the public is really mourning.
The definition for "celebrate" suggests a different: "to perform (a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites; to honor (as a holiday) especially by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business." This is the message that was communicated in the leak to Reuters, which used the word "celebration" six times in its brief report, and in a way, it's the perfect word to describe what Apple employees are doing. They've shut down the business, if only for a few hours. Though we have no idea what's actually happening--they've even installed curtains and come-back-later placards at the stores--the silence and solemnity is kind of contradictory with a typical celebration.
The useful thing about the word celebration, though, is that these events tend to have a beginning and an end. Anxiety over Apple's future in the absence of Steve Jobs has been mounting since he was diagnosed with cancer in 2003. When Jobs died, the company's stock didn't tank, and despite all their mourning, Apple's customers still managed to buy a record-breaking number of iPhones last weekend. But as yesterday's shaky quarterly earnings report suggests, the company's future success is hardly guaranteed. At the end of the day--or in this case, the "celebration"--Apple's employees will need to get back to work and keep inventing and selling more shiny things and leave mourning to their fans.