Sweet Quill, my little friend

So, I’ve had to acknowledge over the past or month or so that the pandemic and lockdown are finally getting to me. My first clue was when I ended up triple-booked with online meetings one Monday evening (note: I did try to maintain presence in both a Google Classroom art class on Understanding Design, and a Zoom online book club – it was not successful, to say the least). Clearly I had gotten very bored and restless sometime in early July…

My second symptom was the purchase of an Oculus Quest. The fitness app Supernatural lured me in (review pending, but the short version is, I love it!). For those who may be unfamiliar with the technology, the Quest is an all-in-one virtual reality gaming headset, with 360 degree capabilities – you draw out your ‘play area’ to protect your self and property, and then engage in a three-dimensional world. A friend told me I should film myself playing it, and I laughed and said, yeah…the dance game. Because…that would be hilarious. Old age and a sedentary lifestyle have certainly impacted my coordination and rhythm (or, I will allow myself to believe those are the culprits).

But the point of my story is a lovely game called Moss, by Polyarc. I’ve described it as a Hobbit-type world, where you’re off on a quest with an adorable little mouse compatriot named Quill, solving puzzles and engaging in minimal violence (nothing worse than the destruction I had to do in Mario Bros).

Quill is very cute. She will squeak at you and give you hints when you’re stuck on what to do (and get quite frustrated if you’re slow to catch on, ha) and once you do figure things out and successfully solve the puzzle, she’ll give you a high five and shake her little body in excited bliss. It’s uplifting.

I loved this game (I accidentally finished it rather quickly). It is beautiful, easy to decipher and navigate, but still challenging enough to keep you active and engaged. Serious gamers who want to blow things up or eviscerate zombies may not find much in it, but I even went back after the last chapter, just to enjoy the scenery and collect more scrolls. It’s pretty and captivating, and I got attached to sweet little Quill.

Then an interesting thing happened in my house. I have a good mouser cat named Circe. She’s a fat cat royal terrorist actually; typical cat personality of supreme privilege and entitlement. Over the past year or so, I’ve learned to check under the table where I sit at the computer, to be sure she hasn’t brought me a ‘tribute’, usually a dead mouse, that I might step on (this did happen once – not a way I enjoyed starting the day).

So about a week after finishing Moss, I see the cutest little grey, round-tummied mouse yet, scurrying across the study floor. Now, I’m not a fan of mice, generally. But I’ve just had this Quill experience, so now there’s an emotional connection. So I warn the mouse -like I always have, by the way- that it would be in his best interest to stay hidden, out of sight. No such luck. Circe did find him, later that day. And I was tormented – should I stop this natural process, the predator and prey, hunter and hunted? Of course I don’t want mice in the house, and well, what would it really accomplish anyway – even if I put him outside, mice have their ways, their secret passages. Death seemed inevitable.

I’m still contemplating the moral dilemma. For all of our adventuring, I essentially let Quill perish at the hands of my own house staff (metaphorically speaking). I don’t regret leaving each to their fates, Circe and the mouse, but the reality is, all life deserves life. And the equal reality is that all life ends, sooner or later. To what lengths should we go to preserve it? Where is the line of our responsibility, our karma, to treasure and protect each individual existence? What is the role of death, destruction and, most importantly, transformation in our universe?

I’d be curious if others would have chosen differently (?). I’ve asked a few friends but no one seemed any more sure than me (probably they were mostly distracted thinking they were never coming to my house again, if there are mice running around in broad daylight, ha!) For now, I am comfortable with letting cats be cats, and mice be mice. But there will be (and have been) times where the decision is much more significant, and the consequences far greater. Death and spirit are mysteries worth pondering in advance of such choices.

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