Dicelife: Rolling My Selves Into The Future
“It's the way a man chooses to limit himself that determines his character. A man without habits, consistency, redundancy - and hence boredom - is not human. He's insane.”
― Luke Rhinehart, The Dice Man
Are you stuck in your own life? Is there a better way of living just out of reach? A way of life that makes every moment more exciting than the last?
I was in Santa Marta recently, a small coastal city in northern Colombia. I wanted to find something to read on the beach so I popped into a few bookstores. Luck wasn't on my side - there were no books in English to be found.
I'd almost given up hope when I came across an old dude selling secondhand books in the street. I asked him in my terrible Spanish “tienes libros escritos en ingles?”. He told me to wait and went inside a nondescript building.
The old boy came back out a minute later with a dusty box that held about thirty books. Most were textbooks for children, but at the very bottom I found a chunky novel in good condition. The book was called The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. I gave the guy 5,000 pesos and went on my way.
That night I started reading. After a few pages, even before I knew exactly what I was committing to, I was in. The world had gained a new follower of dicelife.
The Dice Man is set in New York in the early '70s. Dr. Luke Rhinehart, the novel's protagonist and anti-hero, is a successful yet unfulfilled psychiatrist. He lives in a fancy Manhattan apartment with his attractive wife and two young children.
At the beginning of the novel the Rhineharts host a poker/cocktail party. The guests include Luke's colleague, neighbor and best friend Dr. Jake Epstein, Jake’s wife Arlene, plus two other couples. For Luke, the affair is uneventful and he spends the whole evening wrestling with a crushing sense of ennui.
The party winds down and Luke finds himself alone in his living room. Out the corner of his eye he notices a single die next to the poker set. On a whim, he decides to play a game. Here's a paraphrased version of Luke's inner monologue at this point in the novel:
“If I roll a one or a two: I'll go for a walk around the block. A three or a four: I'll get into bed and go to sleep. A five: I'll clean the dishes. A six: I'll go down to the Epstein's apartment and try to rape Arlene.”
You can probably guess where this is headed. Luke picks up the die, gives it a shake, and [trigger warning] proceeds to roll a six.
I want you to read the novel so I'm not going to tell you what happens. But to put it mildly, this roll sets off a series of surprising and dangerous events.
Note: From my perspective there is nothing egregiously offensive about The Dice Man’s inciting incident, and the fact that a fictional character makes an internal commitment to try and rape someone is not the reason why I fell in love with the book. But that's just, like, my opinion, man. You might feel differently.
In retrospect, a big reason why I got such a kick out of The Dice Man is that it's essentially Fight Club meets American Psycho. There's stylistic consistency across all three novels, specifically around how sex and violence is used for comedic effect. But for me, the key difference is that The Dice Man contains a tangible and actionable code for life.
It's very simple. If you find yourself at a roadblock, grab a die and start assigning potential actions to each number. The key is that you should only choose things that you would feel okay actually going through with. The die is God, and must always be obeyed. You can stack the odds however you like, but to get the most out of the game, you should always include at least one option that would take you out of your comfort zone.
Dicelife doesn't just make you do out-of-the-ordinary stuff; it illuminates everything you could be. And perhaps more importantly, it reveals your own biases. How you tend to side with the predictable nearly every second of the day.
As you can probably gather, before I even finished the novel I started experimenting with dicelife. So far my journey has been a montage of tequila shots, impromptu conversations with strangers and hysterical laughter. An extended drinking game with no definitive end, if you will. For those who know me, this might not seem such a huge departure from my standard trajectory.
But this may not always be the case. Over time I might follow Dr. Rhinehart's lead and start upping the stakes. I sometimes wonder if I'm hurtling towards missed international flights, overdrawn bank accounts, mild concussions and “bad things” all because of a ridiculous novel from fifty years ago. Only the dice knows what my path will be.
It's hard to feel original or free in this fucked-up world. A big part of the problem might be our silly little personalities. If we all stopped working on ourselves, and started taking more chances, would everyone be happier?
Dicelife has taught me that the answer to most of life's riddles are literally the voices inside my own head. And that these voices are projections, rather than reflections. The trick is letting the most interesting voices be heard amongst the chatter.
So don't trip if you don't know where to go. No one knows where they're going, but some of us are lucky enough to have found someone, or something, to guide us.
And with that said - I believe it's your roll.