Now that the autumn term has begun I have had to shuffle my schedule and am no longer able to spend a leisurely Wednesday afternoon teaching Doctor M “German History in English” prior to an extended session of mahjong with him and his parents. However, by shifting his class to a Thursday evening I was able to rush by train from the Red Cross Nursing College up in Ajina to Hiroshima and leg it up to the Doctor’s parents’ place in time for a session of Wednesday afternoon mahjong.
The first thing this tired and dusty teacher received on crossing the threshold was a cold, refreshing beer!
Mrs M informed me that she had been “studying” mahjong and indeed for most of the game she kept a mahjong book close to hand.
In the first game I seemed to be able to do no wrong as attractive hands came together and completed themselves effortlessly. At times like these one is reminded of Bernard Hollander’s observation in his book on hypnosis:
We flatter ourselves that it is we who are thinking;
whereas the thinking is within us and goes on all the time.
Doctor M senior got caught several times discarding a Coin that I was waiting for. I had discarded the 5 and 8-Coins and so he deduced that the 2-Coins might be safe – which it wasn’t! It was especially dangerous because I had declared Riichi and on going out I turned over a 1-Coins under the wall to give me three extra bonus points – a considerable tally for the Oya in the four-player game.
Dr M also came to grief on the 9-Coins, seeing that all the 8-Coins were out he tried his luck with the 9-Coins – but once again, I was ready and waiting! That happened twice in the same game to the Doctor, and then once to me, this time with the roles being reversed!
Anyway, by the end of the game I was the only winner and comfortably ahead with a nice six “Maru” bonuses to my name.
The second game went was going quite well too but then Dr M junior made a stand as “Oya” finishing “Tenpai”
about three times in a row whereas I was reduced to breaking up hands and found my stock of score sticks to be gradually diminishing without anybody winning a hand…
Despite his stand, the junior doc seemed to be having no luck with going out. Several times he declared Riichi and picked up a string of useless tiles while everybody else discarded any tile but the one he needed.
Still, something must have gone right for the doc because he was top in the second game and I was on zero which gave me a single bonus “Maru” while the seniors were both in the red.
However, in the third game Mrs M’s studies seemed to bear fruit as she emerged to win the game convincingly and with a score high enough for her to leap into top place for the evening. I came in second-and-in-the-black and the two doctors were in the red.
I returned the next evening for Doctor M’s history lesson. Tonight’s reading from Steven Ozments A Mighty Fortress was about Beethoven and Goethe, which just happened to coincide with another book that I began reading earlier in the week: Walter Kaufmann, Discovering the Mind – Kant, Goethe, Hegel. Also, that same day I had finished reading George Sorel’s Reflections on Violence. Both volumes were called upon and their insights were stirred into the pot. Kant the static structuralist was contrasted unfavourably against Goethe the dynamic creative genius. At one moment Sorel was found to have quite a lot in common with Goethe since neither was a system builder and both were fine examples of autonomous and often unpredictable but never gratuitous development.
In his brief treatment of Beethoven, Ozment mentions his Ode to Joy as representing a reassertion of the great ideal of the brotherhood of man, but one which is kept firmly in the realm of imagination after the abandonment of Enlightenment ideals by all the post revolutionary European governments beginning with Robespierre’s Terror.
Utopian optimists such as Robespierre marshal the force of the state to bring about the brotherhood of man by force, killing off anybody who does not appear to be sufficiently committed to the project in the process. Sorel, who is misrepresented as a Jacobin over on Wikipedia (unless I get around to editing that page), was a great prophet of tragic pessimism. In Reflections on Violence he writes:
The pessimist regards social conditions as forming a system bound together by an iron law which cannot be evaded, as something in the form of one block, and which can only disappear through a catastrophe which involves the whole. If this theory is admitted, then it becomes absurd to attribute the evils from which society suffers to a few wicked men; the pessimist is not subject to the bloodthirsty follies of the optimist driven mad by the unforeseen obstacles that his projects meet; he does not dream of bringing about the happiness of future generations by slaughtering existing egoists.