Mah Jongg, Do You Play?

Mah Jongg, Do You Play?

Building brain cells occupies my mind these days. As the years take their toll, it behooves us to find exercises for our mind, body, and spirit. I love a challenge, but I know my limits to some degree. For instance, learning a new language is far down my list, as I have never had much luck with that.

Now, I have discovered Mah Jongg. And it is exactly like learning a new language! But it’s more fun for me because you can play a game while learning the game. A group of people are taking lessons at the Center at Belvedere, here in Charlottesville. Our teacher, Joyce, is magnificent. She showed us just enough on the first evening to allow us actually to make some pungs and some kongs. Then she showed us a bit more and then more. Last night, entirely by accident and maybe a small miracle, I had my first Mah Jongg! Victory!

Me winning at Mah Jongg

This game is complicated. It makes my mind feel fuzzy after a couple of hours of concentration. It seems impossible to learn the different suits and meanings of the tiles because there are so many of them. Each one was entirely new for me. I was a virgin player. For some reason, my curiosity had never extended to this game, and each component was a mystery.

As they begin to make sense, I feel triumph. Suddenly, the idea of pungs and kongs makes sense, and the suits begin to be recognizable. Slowly, slowly, the jokers, dragons, flowers, and the NEWS (north, east, west, and south tiles) begin to “pop” when I see them discarded by an opponent. Gradually, I begin to understand the purpose of “The Card,” which shows the different combinations it is possible to use to win. I can almost feel my brain growing new cells!

What a great way to completely clear one’s mind of worrying about the future. It is impossible to think of anything of consequence while playing Mah Jongg. You must continue paying attention, or you will be lost. And that is a wonderful rest for the brain. Any worldly concerns just melt away while the energy of the game fills your mind. There is tension and conflict, hope and exhilaration. It is all baked into the game. However, when it is over, the cares of the world have been held at bay for however many hours the game lasts. It is restful in a strange way, even though it is a mental effort that drains the brain temporarily. It is fun!!!

One thing that sets this game apart is the beauty of the mah jongg tiles. It is possible to collect the sets as one would any collectible. That may be a temptation later. I must discover whether my interest will develop into a real compulsion to play organized games for the rest of my life. Or perhaps this is just a temporary learning experience. I think not. Winning that game last night was such a “high,” even though it was more by accident than any skill on my part. I want to feel that little twist of pleasure again soon.

The taste of victory is sweet.

Copyright©. 2024 Bonnie B. Matheson

2 thoughts on “Mah Jongg, Do You Play?

  1. You sound like me with bridge. ENJOY!!! One thing that makes me curious. In Western groups, at least, I mainly see women playing. Do you see this as well? If so, is it happenstance? Cultural? Something hardwired in our brains? I don’t know and am not sure it matters. But I am curious

  2. Well done, Bonnie! Many years ago, some of my friends in Taipei taught me a bit, but I did not keep up with it and am, no doubt, totally rusty by now! I prefer it to bridge!
    Enjoy it!

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