Oculus, virtual reality, fragility, reality / by Mara Zepeda

Today is one of those days when the brain is firing on all cylinders. You know those days? You know.

I read about Facebook buying Oculus. I was going to Tweet something like, "The end of times." But then I decided to share this story instead.

Today I had a morning meeting at Pearl Bakery. I walked over from my office which is five blocks away. Let me give you a sensory account of that journey: it was drizzling out and after a few steps I opened my leopard print umbrella I had borrowed from a friend. I was wearing taffeta pants and they made a swishing sound as I walked. I passed two delivery men dropping off kegs at the brewery on the corner. I made way for their dolly barreling up the sidewalk. I noticed the art gallery next door has a new display of glasswork. I turned right on 9th Avenue. I stopped to inhale the smell of pancakes and bacon as I passed Fuller's diner. A mother and daughter dipped hash browns in ketchup. I made note of the "Cash only" sign on the register and resolved to have more meetings at those nostalgic bakelite counters. I noticed a Cretan restaurant I'd never seen before and browsed the menu. It brought to mind my dear Greek friends in Philadelphia, and my husband who is teaching himself Greek with the help of a native speaking conversation partner. They meet in the social hall of an Orthodox church in South Carolina.  I arrived at my destination. The bakery was bustling and humid with the smells of coffee and croissants. I admired their packaging: royal blue ink on butcher paper bags.

I ran into my friend Lennon. We chatted for a few minutes. He told me that his company recently hired a young Reed graduate named Connor. I was elated. Connor was one of the first kids Switchboard supported. And now he'd landed a job with a fantastic local tech company. I admired Lennon's cozy looking gray sweater. I forgot to ask him what book he was reading. The foam left over from his cappuccino looked delicious. 

My coffee date arrived. Katherine walked over from Portland's Development Commission. She was wearing a wonderful necklace that resembled an arrowhead. Her freckles caught in the light of the sun. I have a special fondness for people with freckles. We chatted about diversity in entrepreneurship. It was one of those conversations with a few elbow touches. I went on my way, without need for the umbrella on the walk home. I was energized by the smells, Connor's news, the small town-ness of Portland, my conversation with Katherine. 

This is a partial index of all that the Oculus would miss: the kegs, rain, arrowhead, pancakes, art, bacon, blue ink, croissants, sweater, church basement, ketchup, elbows, Connor, freckles, swishing, Cretan appetizers, serendipity of running into Lennon, foam. These are the moments that will never be captured by virtual reality.

An e.e. cummings poem popped into my mind after reading about the Oculus sale. It must have been the rain. I've always read it as a love poem to a lover, but this time I read it as a love poem to the world: "nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals / the power of your intense fragility."  The price tag for that fragility exceeds $2 billion. Days like these remind me that it's priceless. 

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands