I love this chain of anecdotes. They make my brain tingle. This is the story I didn’t get around to telling when I wrote about the Stewart Brand profile.
It starts with Steve Jobs’s Stanford commencement address where he talks admiringly of Stewart Brand and quotes that slogan that has since come to be associated with Jobs:
“Stewart and his team put out several issues of the Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: ‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’ It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.”
When asked if he was surprised that Jobs loved that phrase, Stewart Brand says:
“I was, yes, though I’d known it meant something to him as I’d been told that he wanted a copy of the cover of ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’ signed by me. And I signed one and sent it off to him. That was the first inkling I had that it mattered to him.”
Imagine that. Steve Jobs asking for your autograph. A hero’s hero indeed.
It gets even better.
What does that quote mean, really? Stewart Brand describes the inspiration for that quote and the design of that last page:
“Oh I know, it’s because of my campaign to get photographs of the whole Earth which I did in 1966 and after which the Whole Earth Catalog is named.”
1966. Brand started a campaign to get NASA to release photographs of the earth. He created buttons that said, “Why haven’t we seen an image of the whole earth yet?” Imagine that. 1966. A time of first trips to space. A world that had never seen a photograph of the entire planet.
But back to the story about the quote. Brand goes on:
“We were just starting to get files of photographs of the Earth, and there was a sequence from a satellite of basically a day in the life of Earth from sunrise to sunset, and I wanted that sequence and to make the connection between the view from space of the shadow moving across the Earth, and the experience of being on Earth and seeing dawn. And for some reason the image I had in my mind was of a hitchhiker at dawn on a road somewhere and the sun comes up and there are trains going by. The frame of mind of the young hitchhiker is one of the freest frames of mind there is. You’re always a little bit hungry and you know you are being completely foolish.”
If you are like me, you think, I wish I had a copy of that. I wish I knew what that looked like.
Because the internet is a wonderful place, you can actually look up what that page looks like.
It’s kind of an odd mash up. If you looked at it without context, it doesn’t really make sense. But when you know the story and you connect the dots, then you see it, you understand why it inspired a visionary.
Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
Hoping someone revives all of the whole earth catalogs for iPad.