Mah Jongg – The Gelatin of Life
In the same way gelatin, cornstarch, eggs or breadcrumbs help a mixture hold its shape or remain bound together, Mah Jongg is a binding agent for people.
In today’s world of electronic devices, we spend less and less time interacting with each other and more time alone with our devices. Mah Jongg cuts through the distance the digital age has created, and brings us together, cementing old friendships and creating new ones.
The Maj group that’s played together for 20 years—would these people have remained friends if they didn’t meet weekly for Maj? Possibly not. This particular foursome didn’t know each other too well when they started out, but over the years they developed personal bonds through their shared love of Mah Jongg. They may not even see each other outside their weekly game, but they sure look forward to their Wednesday morning Maj.
We’ve all been in social situations where we have to strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know and this can be awkward. We’ve all asked and been asked: “What do you do?” “Where do you live?” “How many children do you have?” Often, these opening lines don’t lead to further conversation. I’d rather start the conversation with, “Do you play Mah Jongg?” If they say yes, the flood gates are opened. If they say no, I’d say, “oh, you should learn, it’s a great game,” and voila, a connection is made. All sorts of possibilities lie ahead, from good conversation about the game to giving lessons to a Maj newbie, to the creation of a new Maj foursome.
Have you ever played in a public place and someone walked by and made a friendly comment or a knowing glance? They felt connected to you at that moment, for they too, were Maj players.
A few years ago I took a 4-day cruise with my Maj group. We were in one of the public areas playing Maj (on a table a bit too small but we didn’t have a choice). People were walking by right and left, with perplexed looks on their faces – they didn’t have a clue what this game was. Then a group of Chinese people walked by. They started smiling and pointing, and said, Mah Jongg! We smiled and chatted for a few minutes. Would that group of Chinese people have stopped to talk with us if we hadn’t been playing Maj? Chances are we would have gone the entire cruise without noticing them, or if we had noticed them, we probably wouldn’t have felt compelled to strike up a conversation.
We love our yogurt and ice cream to be smooth and creamy (think gelatin); we prefer our meatloaf to be firm (think egg); we need our salmon and crab cakes to not fall apart (think breadcrumbs); can you even imagine making gravy for your turkey without adding a little cornstarch?
As gelatin, cornstarch, eggs and breadcrumbs are examples of binding agents that also add texture to our favorite foods, Mah Jongg binds people together, creating texture, richness, friendship and fun to our lives.
I think if more people played Mah Jongg, the world would be a sweeter and more peaceful place. Don’t you?