As cliché as it sounds, it was love at first sight. The smooth curves of the bi-convex stones, the satin sheen of the board, and the sheer simplicity of the game all attracted me. Go itself is a paradox: there are really only three rules, yet it is an intricate game. Beneath the facade of simplicity lies deep strategy and countless millions of permutations. It is a highly mathematical game, yet mathematical genius does not lend itself to strength. Of course, I did not believe this when I started playing in my junior year. It seemed like just a fling. It's a silly old game, I said. I'll master it in a year, I said. And a year later, here I am, still a middle ranking player: 5 kyu by the American Go Association standards. I failed to reach my goal, but that hardly means I failed completely.
Go was an attempt to connect to my culture, my heritage, my past. It embodies so much of Eastern culture, as well as philosophy. Go is a representation of life, which, at the premise, is simple, yet we derive so many complexities from it. This is similar to Taoist philosophy, which preaches the simplicity of life. Go is rooted in the history and soul of East Asia. Growing up Asian in America, I am caught in a conflict of culture. Of this culture clash arises a persistent and awkward struggle conform to both identities while still assimilating into American culture. In short, I abandoned a part of my heritage for an awkward identity that did not fit. I drew apart from my culture for too long, because in the end, I am Chinese and always will be. I should never have allowed myself to let that go. My parents told me, all the time, to be proud of my five thousand year heritage, but I did not realize its importance until much later on. And now that I do understand, I try to connect back, but its like attaching a severed limb. I can only hope the endings can heal and again become a part of me..
Yet I have learned much more from Go than just cultural lessons. Go teaches life. Beyond the typical lessons about dedication and perseverance, Go has taught invaluable lessons. It punishes greed; a greedy move may result in losing much more. It teaches sacrifice; sometimes one will have to give up something to stay alive. And in the end, it's not about winning, or capturing your opponent; it's about maintaining balance and harmony with your opponent's moves.
However, the most important lesson I learned from Go is humility. After a few winning streaks, I began to think I was “pretty good” but the truth is, I wasn't. I quickly became arrogant and overconfident, but when this happened, I began to lose . And I continued to lose, until I managed to suck up my pride and listen advice from stronger players. This pertains to life as well: sometimes, my pride gets the better of me, but I need to remember that no matter what I do, there will always be someone above me. No matter how well I play, I will never be a match for the masters of old. It's a bittersweet, yet reassuring feeling.
Maybe it started off as a harmless pastime. But it surely isn't that way anymore. Go has allowed me to improve pattern recognition skills as well as combinatorial game theory, but beyond that, it's given me much insight into not only my heritage, but into life itself. Go is life.