Thursday, October 18, 2018

Juggling Baby Dragons

I was in a virtual reality last night, juggling baby dragons. An apt metaphor for life, that.

I'm helping them learn to fly, goes the narrative, conveniently calming any concerns I might have about the consent of small, adorable critters to being tossed around.

My VR-related fiction and non-fiction has made it into publication, and might well again, so I keep up on the industry, which is why I am at this showcase of VR Hackathon winners, waiting to go in to the dragon-juggling demo.

Goggles on, handsets ... handy. And: go!

I'm on a stone platform, staring out across a rock-strewn table, into an open, cloud-spotted sky. At the other end of the rock table is a amiable-looking dragon, staring off into space. The mom, I presume, since there's a line of baby dragons between me and her.

One by one they launch themselves into the air at me. I grab. I miss. I drop. I try again. The ones that go down, or get thrown clear of the platform, fade or fly away, seemingly none the worse for wear.

When I do catch them, they make the most adorable little sounds. Sort of an "oh!" of delight. Catch two at once, and they do it harmony. "ooohh!"

The juggling part is not quite as easy as I imagined. Yes, I know how to juggle. Not well, mind you, but I've managed it a time or two. For a moment.

Part of the problem is that I'm distracted, by, well, everything. The clouds. The scenery. The tree. What happens to the ones who go over the side.

They could tune this to make me seem a better juggler than I am.("Virtual" reality, after all. Not "you-suck" reality. Which I do.)

Ah, but I can slow down time! Now the babies launch slooow. But now it's also a little dull. There is something delicious about seeing them soar, and a slow float just isn't the same.

So they're coming at me -- whoosh! -- one after another, and despite my heroic agility, I'm dropping them, then looking down to see where they went, and missing more of them.

It's immersive, so I want to look around and try other things. Can I hit that far tree? Can I throw a baby dragon through the rock circle? Or two into each other? (Oooo, they make a new sound!)

I toss one high into the air, watching it flap in the sun. I'm missing more and more of them, but I'm having fun, and isn't that what it's about?

Well, it's also about sharing. I can't see it, but I'm aware that there's a line forming behind me, back in the not-so-virtual. I reluctantly take off the goggles and hand the controls to the woman next in line. I sit down to watch.

The moment she gets in to the VR, she starts hurling the dragons at the rock-strewn table. Rock by rock, she cleans the platform of debris. With baby dragons.

"No one's ever done that before," says one of the creators with a bemused look.

She wasn't there to juggle. She was there to do something else. Clean up. And she did.

When she was done, she took off the controls, and smiled at those of us watching. "I failed juggling in middle school."

What I learned last night, juggling baby dragons:

  • Life is full of baby dragons. They just keep coming. I don't have to catch them all. Let some drop, and others sail on by. They can take care of themselves.
  • Some people make their own rules and still win.

My muse added this: "Wait until they grow up to full-size, still thinking they're small enough for you to juggle. Then, when they launch themselves at you, you're really in trouble."

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