In Mah Jongg As In Life
"In life we start with a set number of random chromosomes.
The tiles line up on the rack before us, like DNA sequences and chance circumstance. We begin to make sense of the randomness, to arrange bams together or notice number sequences. We make sense of what we’ve been given to start with. We form our core “identity” and try to make sense of it.
This is, in Mah Jongg, as in Life, an element of destiny or inevitability. Some might call it FATE. Some people are born with more “jokers” – more good fortune, if you will – than others. Some people an obvious life path, based on given talent of proclivity.
But in Mah Jongg, as in Life, we have free will. From the tiles before us, we have a choice as to which hand to play, which path to take. There are often several possible directions open to us. The decisions we make early on affect the direction our hand will take. The skill we bring to the play once that path is chosen affects our outcome as well. So Life, as in Mah Jongg, is a combination of chance, choice and skill.
The beauty of Mah Jongg and Life is that even with the worst opening set of tiles, or enduring harsh childhoods, there are several directions open to us. But with practice and hard-won wisdom of many games played (read “years lived”), we get better at spotting the best choices to make, the most optimal paths to follow, given what we have to work with. Even the tiles themselves, with their lovely imagery, speak of Life to me: the “wind” of change, the “dragons” we must slay, the “flowers” that beautify our world, the circle of “dots” of Life itself and the “cracks” we sometimes trip on or fall into.
Like Life, Mah Jongg is never “fair”. The random distribution of tiles favors one player over the other. Some are gifted from the very outset with clear patterns, the blessing of numerous Jokers, making their game much easier, and their chance of winning much higher. But again, as in Life, skill and judgement, patience and effort, can allow even the most mediocre of initial hands to prevail: just as with carelessness, lack of focus, or poor decision-making, the best initial hands can fail.
Mah Jongg has taught me that as in Life, decisiveness is key. One must be able to spot a direction early on and have the “leap of faith” courage to fearlessly commit to it, letting all tempting by-paths go. One must let seemingly “good tiles” (i.e., clinging to two flowers or those alluring dragons) go to commit to the best potential outcome. But even then, there have been times where a chosen path hits a dead end. Chance fails to favor it (i.e., you’ve committed to a hand with a pair you don’t have and realize the last tile you need now lies in the discard heap.). Then, as in Life, you do not panic, but go back to the card, dig deep and find a new path, knowing that even though your chances of “winning” have been greatly reduced, you don’t lose hope, you don’t give up, you fight to the end.
Mah Jongg requires alertness and vigilance. Get too distracted and you’ll miss picking up that joker on someone else’s rack when the opportunity arises. Hesitate and you’ll miss “calling” for just the right tile, losing a critical chance to succeed. In Life, too, opportunity comes by just once sometimes – if we’re “asleep at the wheel” it passes us by forever.
In Mah Jongg, as in Life, the anticipation of a win – the possibility of your choices working out, the suspense of not knowing what will turn up next, the patience required as you wait and hope the tile you need will be the next one discarded or the next one drawn – is the key to its enjoyment. It truly is “the journey” as the cliché reminds us which allows us to feel enjoyment in just playing, even if we don’t win.
My rare victories in Mah Jongg, while thrilling, have reminded me that triumph is fleeting. You start again each time with a new hand, new circumstances. One win does not guarantee another. But, you keep playing, keep risking, keep striving, knowing that in Mah Jongg, as in Life, each game, each win and loss, makes you a bit better player. "
Anne, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful words of wisdom with Pat, Bette, Kathy, Judy, Marianne, Carol, and me in our Mah Jongg group. It's a pleasure to share it with my Energize and Organize professional organizing blog readers around the world!
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