Life Lessons in the Mahjong Tiles

Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek

Life Lessons in the Mahjong Tiles


Who among frequent computer users does not occasionally play a game or take an anonymous on-line quiz?  Call the practice a diversion, a habit, or an addiction…but one thing is clear, the games and the quizzes are challenges.  And challenging ourselves is a healthy concept. 
When he was being interviewed by Peace Corps staff prior to being accepted as a volunteer scheduled for service in Pakistan, the Footloose Forester was asked what he did in his spare time; and later on during an in-service evaluation, he was queried about whether or not he was getting sufficient mental stimulation as part of his assignment. Those inquiries were pertinent from the standpoint of finding a balance between maintaining enthusiasm and boredom.  Today, the pertinence of balance between enthusiasm for life and boredom with our circumstances has not changed.  Nobody is immune or excluded from a desire to be satisfied with our lives.  At a higher level, many of us want to excel beyond the point where we think we are to where we think we should be. All of that requires mental stimulation, however unstated and personal that may be.  Personal challenges like computer games and quizzes fit the bill because we can access them when we are in the mood and/or when it is convenient in our daily routines.
On-line Mahjong is one pastime that the Footloose Forester has come to realize as a daily session of mental stimulation.  Among the many offers to download Mahjong games from the Internet, the one by Microsoft that is pre-loaded in Windows 10 is perhaps the most challenging. Indeed, one option offered for play is called the Daily Challenge.  In that option, there are games labeled as Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert.  When you bite on that option, you come to realize that not everything is as cut-and-dried as you might think.  Not all of the easy ones are really easy, the first time around; nor are all the hard ones quite as difficult to conquer as he had imagined.


There are plenty of lessons in the games, and plenty of ways of looking at the challenges, in general.   If one approaches life with the attitude that you can do this or that, the odds are that you can. But Nothing Ventured-Nothing Gained is one of the lessons hiding in that decision. If you approach a challenge with trepidation and the secret fear of failure, chances are you may not ever attempt the difficult ones.
If the Mahjong game is labeled Easy and you win without hesitation, the payoff goes beyond the mental stimulation of taking on and meeting the challenge.  Your subconscious tells you that maybe you should strive for a higher challenge.  If you try, you may fail but if you don’t try, failure is guaranteed. On the other hand, you may find that even the games that are labeled Easy are not always winnable the first time around.  Life is like that.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
High school Seniors who are contemplating going to college harbor plenty of misgivings about their chances of getting in, or of getting accepted to the college of their choice.  Except in a few cases where having “connections” may secure acceptance in prestigious colleges, the diffident Senior must rely on pre-qualifying for college admission by virtue of a solid academic record.  That is not to say that even a superior score on entrance exams will guarantee acceptance at any college.  Admission to college is more involved than it appears.  Nothing is as easy as it seems.  But if something is worth having, it is worth working for.
Playing Mahjong to win the Daily Challenge combines at least those three lessons.  If the suite of three games includes Hard, Medium, and Easy the chances are that you may not win the Hard one the first time around.  You may fail but if you don’t try, failure is guaranteed.  If you are determined to win, there is the old standby:   If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Besides, if your session of mental stimulation is meant to be serious and the theory of challenging yourself is truly worthwhile, consider the time well spent.  If something is worth having, it is worth working for.

Mahjong may be a game but it is a stimulating one.  In the final analysis, we have to accept the results of our efforts.  We may win or we may lose, but we should acknowledge that we have accepted the challenges to win the ones we can win, accept defeat about the ones we cannot win; and seek the wisdom to know the difference.  Stating it another way has its etymological roots in the words and life lesson of Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971): God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Things change over time, thus it is prudent to know the current situation and to occasionally check the facts.  Perhaps there were too many complaints that the original Microsoft version of Mahjong was indeed too difficult, hence when Microsoft upgraded its game from three daily challenges to five, all of them became easier.  It is now expected that a diligent player can complete all of the five daily challenges to earn a perfect score at the end of the month, whereas attaining a perfect score with only three daily challenges before the upgrade was pretty rare.  Is there a life lesson here?  Yes, there are more than one.  1) Taking on the current version of five daily Mahjong challenges is easier than the older version of three daily challenges because the game creators made it easier; 2) Five challenges may not be more daunting than three if you discover that the content, although seemingly the same, is not as demanding; 3) aiming high ought to be part of your problem solving approach.  Maybe you can do it and maybe you can't.  One thing is for sure, you miss all of the shots you don't take.    

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