Playing with Dice

A few weeks ago, I came across a reference to a book called The Dice Man, written by Luke Rhinehart. It was published in the 1970s, deemed “a cult classic,” and banned in some places, although I don’t know why. Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) endorsed it; some compared it to Catch-22. So why haven’t I heard about it until now?

The protagonist, also named Luke Rhinehart, is a psychiatrist disillusioned with—as far as I can tell from reading about the book—just about everything, but especially about the fact that he has a self he feels compelled to be true to. He decides to liberate himself by letting chance determine his actions from that point forward, rather than by remaining true to character, so to speak.

Fortuitously, he finds a single die on the floor at that very moment, and he resolves to henceforth let the die determine his course of action.

While I have no intention of reading the 500+ page book, the premise intrigues me. Personality typing systems such as the Enneagram and the MBTI are based on defining and explaining us by our temperaments. Our temperaments, experiences, and genes combine to form our selves. Generally, we tend to behave like ourselves, but sometimes we notice we are not ourselves or other people comment that we were not ourselves last night or last week or earlier this morning. When it comes to personality, consistency is very highly prized.

Yet, like the protagonist in Rhinehart’s book, we recognize how hobbled we can be by that very quality of consistency. One of the most useful facets of the Enneagram is that it shows us our fixations and the folly of remaining stuck in them. Simply studying the Enneagram and becoming more self-aware—developing the so-called observer self—can be quite liberating. But I’m always on the lookout for specific tools to use in this process of waking up and for ways to alter my habitual responses.

I’m not advocating taking the Dice Man’s path and letting a roll of a die determine your every course of action. But playing with dice has the possibility of loosening our fixations just a little by introducing a bit of randomness into our often very tightly structured lives or by forcing us to conceive of other possibilities.

Roll ‘Em

For example, if you have a difficult situation to deal with or an actual choice to make, write down six possibilities and number them. It might be easy to think of six ways of dealing with the situation or six options in terms of your choice, but chances are it won’t be easy. Maybe you’ll come up with one or two or even three before you get stuck. So just having to come up with enough possibilities to flesh out the list means you’ll have to stretch a little, and doing that may give you an insight you didn’t have before. Consider what the other two types in your Triad might put on the list or what choice the type you least understand might make.

Then roll a die and see where chance takes you. By that I don’t mean you must follow through with item number four on the list if the die comes up a four. But at least take some time to fully imagine doing it. Journal write about it, daydream about it, get into it a little. Especially if it goes against your character. Role play.

You can use the dice for less significant decisions, too. A few things that have come to mind for me include:

Which DVD am I going to watch?
Which chore on my list am I going to do next?
Where am I going to walk today?
What am I going to fix for dinner or where am I going to go out to eat?

I don’t expect that wherever I decide to walk or whatever I end up watching or doing next or eating on a particular day will significantly impact my 8w7 fixation all by itself or make me a different person. But maybe including the element of randomness or chance in my choices will shake things up over time.

So I bought a packet of dice and have one on the dining table next to a stack of index cards. I’ll let you know how the experiment goes.

Related post: Changes in Attitudes … Changes in Latitudes

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4 responses to “Playing with Dice

  1. Recently added to the above list is What type of music am I going to listen to? 1) Bob Marley; 2) New Age/World; 3) Classical; 4) Jazz; 5) Pop; 6) Krishna Das. Yesterday’s roll of the die gave me Bob Marley.

  2. I tried it using “what chore am I going to do next?” I took six items from my to do list, since I was having a hard time choosing one to start with. I know myself well enough to know if I don’t make some kind of decision, I may fritter away a good chunk of the day with meaningless activity.My list: 1) work on class hand-outs; 2) work on blog entries; 3) move forward on an editing project; 4) decide on my next quilting project; 5) finish sorting the last container of fabric; 6) work on sorting papers and books. I told myself that whatever the choice, I would spend 30 minutes on that project, and then move on to something else. The winner: sorting paper and books.

    An interesting thing happened. I ended up (over the course of the day) making this organizational task the focal point of my day. I spent two hours in the first part of the morning, including setting up a filing system to organize the papers. I filed, recycled, and generally remade my workspace. It cleared some physical surfaces and also some mental cobwebs.

    When I “took a break” after two hours, I made good progress on the editing, and the course preparations; but interestingly, I kept returning to 15-30 minute chunks of the organizational activity. I was aware that the part of me that wants to do some quilting was not totally happy, but the good news for that part is that there is now plenty of physical space to start playing with that activity, and it’s on the agenda for tomorrow–even without rolling the die.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. What I like about using a roll of the die to decide which chore or project to tackle is that it passes the buck in terms of making a decision or a choice. And then it gets you–or me or anyone–going. Sometimes starting is the hardest part. 🙂

  4. Pingback: What Can I Do in 20 Minutes? « Container Chronicles

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