The long read: A search for the strange author of a counterculture classic led to someone else only. Or did it?
Toward the end of the 1960 s, Luke Rhinehart worked as a psychoanalyst in New York and was suffered potent. He lived in a quite suite with a nice look. He practised yoga, read books on Zen, dreamed vaguely of joining a commune but did not dare. As a therapist, he was resolutely nondirective. If a patient who still had not lost his virginity was harassed by brutal impulses and said on Rhinehart’s couch that he would like to rape and kill a little girl, his professional ethics pressured him to repeat with a calm expression:” You’d like to abuse and kill a little girl ?” No finding. But what he wanted to say was:” Well, is moving forward, then! If what really turns you on is crimes and killing a little girl, then stop boring me with this fantasy. Do it !”
He checked himself before coming out with such monstrosities, but they haunted him more and more. His own fictions were nothing extreme- not enough to get him sent to prison- but like everybody else, he stopped himself going through with them. What Luke would have liked, for example, was to sleep with Arlene, the wife of his colleague Jake Ecstein, who lived across the landing. But as a faithful spouse, he let the idea simmer away in the back of his mind.
So life ploddings on, allay and dull, until one night after a dinner party, when he has had a little too much to drink. Rhinehart accompanies a dice lying on the carpet, a banal playing dice, and gets the idea of throwing it and playing on its teaches. He supposed to say to himself:” If it property on a number from two to six, I’ll do what I would have done anyway: producing the dirty glasses back to the kitchen, brush my teeth, take a double aspirin, go to bed beside my sleep partner, and maybe masturbate discreetly thinking of Arlene. But if I wheel a one, I’ll do what I truly want to do: I know Arlene’s at home alone tonight, so I’ll go across the hall, knock on her opening and slept with her .”
The dice tracts on one. Rhinehart hesitates, feeling vaguely that he is standing on a doorstep: if he spans it, his life could change. But “its not” his decision, it is the dice’s, so he obeys. Arlene opens the door in a negligee; she is astonished but not put under. When Rhinehart comes back home two unusually pleasant hours later, he realises that he has changed. He did something he wouldn’t usually do.
From now on, he always consults the dice. Since it has six areas, he returns it six options. The first is to do what he has always done. The five others depart more or less plainly from this routine. Once it has been subjected to the dice, even the most anodyne choice- that of a film, a restaurant- opens a enormous display of possibilities for putting your number behind you.
His selections soon become more audacious. Going somewhere he would never go, getting to know beings he would otherwise never gratify. He pushes his patients to leave their families and jobs, to change their political and sex directions. His reputation suffers, but Rhinehart does not care. What he likes , now, is doing the exact opposite of what he is usually do: putting salt in his coffee, running in a tuxedo, going to work in shorts, pee-pee in the flowerpots, moving downward, sleeping under his bed. His wife locates him strange, but he says it is a psychological experiment, and she gives herself be lulled into believing it. Until the working day he gets the idea of initiating his children.
One weekend when their mother is not there, Rhinehart gets his little son and daughter to play this apparently innocent game: you write six things you would like to do on a piece of paper, and the dice choice one of them. It all goes well at the start: they snack ice cream, go to the zoo. Then his son becomes bolder and says that one thing he would like to do is exit beat up a boy who imperfections him at institution.” OK, write it down ,” Rhinehart says, and “thats what” the dice rollers. The son belief his father won’t do him go through with it, but his papa says:” Go onward .” The boy goes to his friend’s place, smacks him several times, and comes back to the house with his eyes glistening and expects:” Where are the dice, Dad ?”
That builds Rhinehart stop and think: if his son so naturally accepts this method of being, it is because he is not yet entirely warped by the absurd notion that it is good for children to develop a coherent reference. What if they were brought up differently, opening pride of place to contradiction, multiplicity and relentless alteration? Luke earnestly reputes of freeing his son from the frightful tyranny of the ego and realizing him the first man altogether subject to chance. Then his wife returns and discovers what has been going on. Not finding it funny in the least, she leaves Rhinehart and takes the children with her.
Next, it is his profession that Rhinehart vacates, after shame himself( on the dice’s instructions) at an night with the cream of New York psychoanalysts. With no category, act or personal ties, he is free to move from transgression to transgression. Eventually, the day comes when the dice pushes him to do things that he had not only never dared to do, but didn’t want to do, because they guided counter to his preferences, his passions, his whole personality. But that’s just it: the personality- the sorry, inessential temperament- is the enemy to be done away with, the conditioning that you have to free yourself from.
Sooner or later, he could not forestalled writing “murder” on his roster of options. When the dice tells him to do it, Rhinehart is forced to draw up a index of six potential preys, in which he courageously includes his two children. Luckily for him, he is saved that particular ordeal: the dice simply asks that he kill one of his former patients.
If you believe his autobiography, he went through with it, although certain commentators incredulity it. What seems so certain is that having ruined his vocation, his family life and his reputation, Rhinehart was ready to become a prophet, and that is what he did. In these times when “the worlds largest” paradoxical cares flourished from one line-up of the US to the other, a guru with a dice had every chance of alluring followers. So he demonstrates the Middle for Experimentations in Totally Random Environments, where you enrol of your own free will but accept not to leave until the experimentation is over. In time, students are expected to commit to roleplays of running spans: you roster six personality types and for 10 times, an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year, adopt the one that the dice decides.
Some of the partisans of dice therapy travelled insane. Others died or ended up in prison. Some, it seems, reached a state of nirvana. During their short reality, Rhinehart’s centres became as appalling as Timothy Leary’s parishes: local schools of chaos posing as serious a threat to civilisation as socialism or the satanism of Charles Manson, as the conservative newspapers had it. The purpose of the undertaking is shrouded in obscurity. It is said that Rhinehart was arrested by the FBI, that he spent 20 years in a mental hospital. Or that he died. Or that he never existed at all.
Everything I have just told comes from a notebook, The Dice Man, published in the US in 1971 and translated into French the following year. I was 16 when I discovered it, as a terribly hesitant teenage with long fuzz, an afghan jacket and little round glasses. For a while, I went around with a dice in my pocket, counting on it to give me the self-confidence I absence with girlfriends.( Not that it worked too well .) The Dice Man is the kind of volume that is not simply satisfies readers but likewise leaves them a determine of rules for life: a manual for subversion.
It was not clear whether the book was myth or autobiography, but its author, Luke Rhinehart, had the same name as his hero and, like him, he was a psychiatrist. According to the back cover, he lived in Majorca- apparently the ideal refuge for a oracle at the end of his tether, who has just managed to escape from his shipwrecked community of maniacs. The times legislated, The Dice Man remained the is the subject of a minor but persistent cult, and each time I met a person who had read it( almost always a pothead, and often a adherent of the I Ching ), these questions was put forward: what was true in the book? Who was Luke Rhinehart? What had become of him?
After The Dice Man was put forward in conference a little while back, I started to wonder once again what had become of Luke Rhinehart. In an hour online, of course, I learned more about Rhinehart than I had in 30 years of idle conjecture.