Reissued with a cool new jacket as part of the Flamingo 1970s promotion: the cult bestseller that can change your life. If you dare try it...The rules are down to you. The rules that stop you seducing your neighbour downstairs, that stop you hitting your boss, that stop you leaving your family and leaving the country. The rules that stop you living. The dice don't do rules; the dice do life. Luke Rhinehart is a psychiatrist, a husband and a father, his life locked down by routine and order -- until he picks up the dice. The dice govern his every decision and each throw takes him further into a world of risk, discovery and freedom. As the cult of the dice grows around him the old order fades: chance becomes his religion, the dice his god. If you haven't lived the life of the dice, you haven't lived at all. Let the dice decide. And roll with it.
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Since The Dice Man, Luke Rhinehart has written four other acclaimed novels, Matari, Long Voyage Back, Adventures of Wim and the long-awaited sequel to The Dice Man, The Search for the Dice Man. His latest work is The Book of the Die. Luke Rhinehart lives in the United States.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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Copyright © 1971 by George Cockcroft
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or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The dice man / Luke Rhinehart.
PR3568.H5D54 1998 98-10741
9 11 13 15 17 18 16 14 12 10
without any of whom,
There was a man sent by Chance, whose name was Luke. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of Whim, that all men through him might believe. He was not Chance, but was sent to bear witness of Chance. That was the true Accident, that randomizes every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of Chance, even to them that believe accidentally, they which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of Chance. And Chance was made flesh (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Great Fickle Father), and he dwelt among us, full of chaos and falsehood and whim.
—from The Book of the Die
“The style is the man,” once said Richard Nixon and devoted his life to boring his readers.
What to do if there is no single man? Should the style vary as the man writing the autobiography varies, or as the past man he writes about varied? Literary critics would declare that the style of a chapter should correspond to the man whose life is being dramatized: a quite rational injunction, one that ought therefore to be repeatedly disobeyed. The comic life portrayed by Hamlet, everyday kitchen events being described by Churchill, the man in love described by an Einstein. Thus it will have to be. Let us have no more quibbles about style. If style and subject matter happen to congeal in any of these chapters it is a lucky accident, not, we may hope, soon to be repeated.
A cunning chaos: that is what my autobiography shall be. I shall make my order chronological, an innovation dared these days by few. But my style shall be random, with the wisdom of the Die. I shall sulk and soar, extol and sneer. I shall shift from first person to third person: I shall use first-person omniscient, a mode of narrative generally reserved for Another. When distortions and digressions occur to me in my life’s history I shall embrace them, for a well-told lie is a gift of the gods. But the realities of the Dice Man’s life are more entertaining than my most inspired fictions: reality will dominate—for its entertainment value.
I tell my life’s story for that humble reason which has inspired every user of the form: to prove to the world I am a great man. I shall fail, of course, like the others. “To be great is to be misunderstood,” Elvis Presley once said, and no one can refute him. I tell of a man’s instinctive attempt to fulfill himself in a new way and I will be judged insane. So be it. Were it otherwise, I would fear I had failed.
—J. H. van den Berg
My aim is to bring about a psychic state in which my patient begins to experiment with his own nature—a state of fluidity, change and growth, in which there is no longer anything eternally fixed and hopelessly petrified.
The torch of chaos and doubt—this is what the sage steers by.
I am Zarathustra the godless: I still cook every chance in my pot.
Anybody can be anybody.
—The Dice Man
I am a large man, with big butcher’s hands, great oak thighs, rock-jawed head, and massive, thick-lens glasses. I’m six foot four and weigh close to two hundred and thirty pounds; I look a little like Clark Kent, except that when I take off my business suit I am barely faster than my wife, only slightly more powerful than men half my size, and leap buildings not at all, no matter how many leaps I’m given.
As an athlete I am exceptionally mediocre in all major sports and in several minor ones. I play daring and disastrous poker and cautious and competent stock market. I married a pretty former cheerleader and rock-and-roll singer and have two lovely, nonneurotic and abnormal children. I am deeply religious, have written the lovely first-rate pornographic novel, The Dance of Maya, and am not now nor have I ever been Jewish.
I realize that it’s your job as a reader to try to create a credible consistent pattern out of all this, but I’m afraid I must add that I am normally atheistic, have given away at random thousands of dollars, have been a sporadic revolutionary against the governments of the United States, New York City, the Bronx and Scarsdale, and am still a card-carrying member of the Republican Party. I am the creator, as most of you know, of those nefarious Dice Centers for experiments in human behavior which have been described by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology as “outrageous,” “unethical,” and “informative”; by The New York Times as “incredibly misguided and corrupt”; by Time magazine as “sewers”; and by the Evergreen Review as “brilliant and fun.” I have been a devoted husband, multiple adulterer and experimental homosexual; an able, highly praised analyst, and the only one ever dismissed from both the Psychiatrists Association of New York (PANY) and from the American Medical Association (for “ill-considered activities” and “probable incompetence”). I am admired and praised by thousands of dicepeople throughout the nation but have twice been a patient in a mental institution, once been in jail, and am currently a fugitive, which I hope to remain, Die willing, at least until I have completed this 305-page autobiography.
My primary profession has been psychiatry. My passion, both as psychiatrist and as Dice Man, has been to change human personality. Mine. Others’. Everyone’s. To give to men a sense of freedom, exhilaration, joy. To restore to life the same shock of experience we have when bare toes first feel the earth at dawn and we see the sun split through the mountain trees like horizontal lightning; when a girl first lifts her lips to be kissed; when an idea suddenly springs full-blown into the mind, reorganizing in an instant the experience of a lifetime.
Life is islands of ecstasy in an ocean of ennui, and after the age of thirty land is seldom seen. At best we wander from one much-worn sandbar to the next, soon familiar with each grain of sand we see.
When I raised the “problem” with my colleagues, I was assured that the withering away of joy was as natural to normal man as the decaying of his flesh and based on much the same physiological changes. The purpose of psychology, they reminded me, was to decrease misery, increase productivity, relate the individual to his society, and help him to see and accept his self. Not to alter necessarily the habits, values and interests of the self, but to see them without idealization and to accept them as they are.
It had always seemed to me a quite obvious and desirable goal for therapy but, after having been “successfully” analyzed, and after having lived in moderate happiness with moderate success with an average wife and family for seven years, I found suddenly, around my thirty-second birthday, that I wanted to kill myself. And to kill several other people too.
I took long walks over the Queensborough Bridge and brooded down at the water. I reread Camus on suicide as the logical choice in an absurd world. On subway platforms I always stood three inches from the edge, and swayed. On Monday mornings I would stare at the bottle of strychnine on my cabinet shelf. I would daydream for hours of nuclear holocausts searing the streets of Manhattan clean, of steamrollers accidentally flattening my wife, of taxis taking my rival Dr. Ecstein off into the East River, of a teenage babysitter of ours shrieking in agony as I plowed away at her virgin soil.
Now the desire to kill oneself and to assassinate, poison, obliterate or rape others is generally considered in the psychiatric profession as “unhealthy.” Bad. Evil. More accurately, sin. When you have the desire to kill yourself, you are supposed to see and “accept it,” but not, for Christ’s sake, to kill yourself. If you desire to have carnal knowledge of helpless preteeners, you are supposed to accept your lust, and not lay a finger on even her big toe. If you hate your father, fine—but don’t slug the bastard with a bat. Understand yourself, accept yourself, but do not be yourself.
It is a conservative doctrine, guaranteed to help the patient avoid violent, passionate and unusual acts and to permit him a prolonged, respectable life of moderate misery. In fact, it is a doctrine aimed at making everyone live like psychotherapists. The thought nauseated me.
These trivial insights actually began to form in the weeks following my first unexplained plunge into depression, a depression ostensibly produced by a long writing block on my “book,” but actually part of a general constipation of the soul that had been a long time building up. I remember sitting at my big oak desk after breakfast each morning before my first appointment reviewing my past accomplishments and future hopes with a feeling of scorn. I would take off my glasses and, reacting to both my thoughts and the surrealistic haze which became my visual world without my glasses, I would intone dramatically, “Blind! Blind! Blind!” and bang my boxing-glove-sized fist down on the desk with a dramatic crash.
I had been a brilliant student throughout my educational career, piling up academic honors like my son Larry collects bubble-gum baseball cards. While still in medical school I published my first article on therapy, a well-received trifle called “The Physiology of Neurotic Tension.” As I sat at my desk, all articles I had ever published seemed absolutely as good as other men’s articles: blah. My successes with patients seemed identical to those of my colleagues: insignificant. The most I had come to hope for was to free a patient from anxiety and conflict: to alter him from a life of tormented stagnation to one of complacent stagnation. If my patients had untapped creativity or inventiveness or drive, my methods of analysis had failed to dig them out. Psychoanalysis seemed an expensive, slow-working, unreliable tranquilizer. If LSD were really to do what Alpert and Leary claimed for it, all psychiatrists would be out of jobs overnight. The thought pleased me.
In the midst of my cynicism I would occasionally daydream of the future. My hopes? To excel in all that I had been doing in the past: to write widely acclaimed articles and books; to raise my children so they might avoid the mistakes I had made; to meet some technicolor woman with whom I would become soulmate for life. Unfortunately, the thought that these dreams might all be fulfilled plunged me into despair.
I was caught in a bind. No matter how I twisted or turned there seemed to be an anchor in my chest which held me fast, the long line leaning out against the slant of sea taut and trim, as if it were cleated fast into the rock of the earth’s vast core. It held me locked, and when a storm of boredom and bitterness blew in I would plunge and leap against the line’s rough-clutching knot to be away, to fly before the wind, but the knot grew tight, the anchor only dug the deeper in my chest; I stayed. The burden of my self seemed inevitable and eternal.
However, after a few months of wallowing in depression (I furtively had purchased a .38 revolver and nine cartridges), Karen Horney led me to discover D. T. Suzuki, Alan Watts and Zen, and the world of the rat race, which I had assumed to be normal and healthy for an ambitious young man, seemed suddenly like the world of a rat race.
I was stunned and converted—as only the utterly bored can be. Seeing drive, greed and intellectual aspiration as meaningless and sick in my colleagues, I was able to make the unusual generalization to myself; I too had the same symptoms of grasping after illusions. The secret, I seemed to learn, was in not caring, in accepting the limitations, conflicts and ambiguities of life with joy and satisfaction, in effortless drifting with the flow of impulse. So life was meaningless? Who cares. So my ambitions are trivial? Pursue them anyway. Life seems boring? Yawn.
I followed impulse. I drifted. I didn’t care.
Unfortunately, life seemed to get more boring. Admittedly I was cheerfully, sometimes even gaily bored, where before I had been depressedly bored, but life remained essentially uninteresting. My mood of happy boredom was theoretically preferable to my desire to rape and kill, but personally speaking, not much. It was along about this stage of my somewhat sordid road to truth that I discovered the Dice Man.
My life before D-Day was routine, humdrum, repetitious, trivial, compulsive, disordered, irritable—the life of a typical successful married man. My new life began on a hot day in early July, 1968.
I awoke a little before seven, cuddled up to my wife Lillian, who was accordioned up into a Z in the bed beside me, and began pleasantly caressing her breasts, thighs and buttocks with my big gentle paws. I liked to begin the day this way: it set a standard by which to measure the gradual deterioration that succeeded from then on. After about four or five minutes we both rolled over and she began caressing me with her hands, and then with her lips, tongue and mouth.
“Nnn morning, sweetheart,” one of us would eventually say.
“Nnnn,” would say the other.
From that point on the day’s dialogue would all be downhill, but with warm, languid hands and lips floating over the body’s most sensitive surfaces, the world was as near perfection as it ever gets. Freud called it a state of ego-less polymorphous perversity and frowned upon it, but I have little doubt that he never had Lil’s hands gliding over him. Or his own wife’s either for that matter. Freud was a very great man, but I never get the impression that anyone ever effectively stroked his penis.
Lil and I were slowly advancing to the stage where play is replaced by passion when two, three, four thumps resounded from the hall, our bedroom door opened, and sixty pounds of boy-energy exploded onto our bed in a graceless...
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