Monday, 18 January 2010

Surrendering your will

I am currently rereading the Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart - essential reading for anyone under the age of 25 but not so popular amongst the middle-aged! I first read it as a student, many years ago and remember being very taken with the idea of living your life according to the throw of the dice. The protagonist in the book does just that and gradually all his major and minor life decisions are guided by the dice. He assigns certain alternatives to each number of the die, or if it is a choice between two options, then he will select option A if it's even or B if it's odd.

Obviously a certain amount of personal choice comes into it as you have to choose the options in the first place - only the selection process is random. Humans will be humans and when he explains the game to his young son, the boy naturally selects only pleasant alternatives which he wants to do. The Dice Man has to set out the rules for him:

"...I finally told him that the dice man game always had to provide risk, that slightly bad choices had to be there too...out of every 6 alternatives, one had to be surprisingly unpleasant."

This gradually leads the Dice Man to bet on ever more shocking stakes, eventually leading to murder. I am definitely not suggesting that I open myself up to the possibility of committing murder or any other crime, but this did lead me to consider how far I would be prepared to go. Did I really want to give myself the option of doing things I didn't want to do? Or was I going to opt for the comfortable course of action? And could I be trusted to follow the dice or would I be tempted to cheat?

I have been thinking a lot over the past few weeks of different methods of random selection - allowing each journey to be under the influence of a certain phenomenon or theme. And as I think of them, I find myself already beginning to meddle in the selection process, checking up beforehand to see if such and such technique would be viable! I have to remind myself that this is definitely not in the spirit of chance and give myself a stern talking to!


  1. An interesting topic, a surely fascinating novel I till now missed to read, and an exciting experiment I should dare to test at some occasions step by step- often I have the feeling other persons are guiding my life by the dice- I should think of 'alternatives'! The picture suits well the theme, but, sorry, I cannot find it so funny like other people may do for sure, because the covered head reminds me of some cruel newspaper- pics showing persons deprived of their freedom- but this is also your point: "give myself a stern (or a stem?) talking to"!

  2. love the image Ingrid as for enduring the not so pleasant through choice i feel life is hard enough just now thanks:) but go for it, it should make for an interesting read:)

  3. I'm sorry about the connotations of the photograph, Philine - it hadn't entered my head, but I do see now how it could be misconstrued. It is in fact a photograph done for The Paper Bag project - see the link on the right.
    I half agree with you Tim - part of me just wants the easy life, doing things I'm comfortable with. It would be easy to go through this project without exchanging a single world with another human being and just stick to photographing things, but perhaps I need to spice things up a bit and have some interaction with strangers.