Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Dear Charlie:

Okay, so I'm playing mahjong on my computer last night, and I realize exactly how weird my mentality is, how very much I wish I could be part of a true warrior species. *sigh*

The game seems simple enough: match the tiles on the available levels using as few shuffles in as little time as possible. Piece of cake, right?

Geez. I played from like 8:00 last evening until 2:00 in the morning and only cleared all the tiles in the first shuffle twice. Count 'em, twice. I played COUNTLESS rounds, and I only cleared the damn thing on the first shuffle TWICE. *shakes head*

Now, I realize the trick to the game is to plan ahead. To see moves that haven't even developed yet. To strategize until you have every angle worked out and nothing you reveal on the next level throws you. THAT'S the pull for me -- the strategy, the planning, the beating of not the clock or the scoreboard, but the very nature of the game.

What I didn't realize, though, is exactly how much mental discipline it takes to do all that stuff both quickly and right the first time. Sheesh.

I'm fascinated with making my mind do it right the first time EVERY time. It's a battle, like most good, absorbing games are. It requires strategy, quick-thinking, problem-solving, and attention to the finest detail. It requires a certain art. It requires the mental discipline to not take easy matches when you might need that particular tile later on. It requires both patience and speed.

The damn game is a martial artist's playground!

So, I'm fascinated and fully hooked. I mean, I played that game for six hours straight -- forgot to eat, as my stomach reminded me as soon as I went to bed -- and still didn't manage any kind of reliable strategy. I played every different arrangement I didn't have to pay for and managed a certain mastery of a couple, but still didn't clear it the first time more than twice. I mean, sure, the idea is to get rid of the highest stacks first, etc. Nice strategy. Like that, I can always match all the tiles and clear the spread. No problem. But not on the first go!

And that's what keeps me playing. I don't just want to do it RELIABLY. I want to do it RIGHT.

Now, if this tenacity of will were channeled into, say, training in martial arts, I'd have probably managed a black belt by now. As it is, I've never taken a lesson in my life and pretty much rely on the threat of my baseball bat -- which I wield with great accuracy, though I've never hit a homer -- to count as "self-defense". Dammit.

I have a friend who teaches in a dojo, but while my friends are free to ask me for any favor, I feel funny asking in return. I mean, that's his paycheck I'd be tampering with if I asked for even a single free lesson. Just can't do it.

I can, however, train my mind a little. Okay, a LOT. And train it, I will. I can already clear the hardest board on the second shuffle in five minutes flat with no hints. That's gotta be good for something, ne?

*sigh* I'm working on it. One of these days....


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