Tag Archives: destiny

Rolling the Dice, Man

I don’t know how many people reading this would be familiar with the now-defunct British magazine Loaded. For men of a certain age, it was something of a lifestyle bible, and told you everything you needed to know about, well, life and style.

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In a 1999 issue they named an obscure (to me, anyway) American writer by the name of Luke Rhinehart, ‘Novelist of the Century.’ He was awarded this accolade largely due to a book he wrote called The Dice Man, which carried the rather catchy tag (on some editions) ‘Few novels can change your life, this one will.’ Until that point, I’d thought Stephen King was ‘Novelist of the Century.’ Still do, actually. So this was news to me. Loaded were very rarely wrong about such important things, so I went out and found a copy of said book in HMV. Then I stuck it on my ever-expanding book shelf and promptly forgot about it. Fast forward a few years, and I’m a mature student with a lot of free time on my hands. Enter The Dice Man.

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In a nutshell, the book tells the story of a psychiatrist called Luke Rhinehart (which makes it kind of a mock autobiography) who, feeling bored and unsatisfied with life, decides to stop making decisions. Instead, he rolls a dice, and lets fate decide which path he should take. As far as I remember, the rule of the ‘game’ is that you give yourself six options, one for each number on the dice. Five reasonably attractive things that you wouldn’t mind doing, and one thing you don’t want to do. But you have to be prepared to do it.

On the surface, its a book about freedom, the search for adventure, and fucking the system. I’m sure many of the deeper psychological concepts and themes were lost on me at the time. You kind of grasp most of them, but not with much clarity. The result is that they linger in your subconscious for years after.

I was so taken with the book that one summer I bought a one-way ticket to Spain and decided to live by the dice for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t let the dice decide anything important. That would be stupid. I just let it dictate the little things like which places I should travel through and in what order (as it tuned out, it was Alicante, Benidorm, Murcia, Granada and Malaga, in that order), and when I got there which tapas bar I should I stop at, which hostel should I stay in, and whether or not I should hit on the cute American tourist with the flower in her hair. Nothing remotely negative happened, apart from the cute American tourist with the flower in her hair saying no. But even that wasn’t a total blow-out. The two of us got talking to a Spanish gypsy girl called Estrella (Star) and I took her home instead.

Playing the dice was a liberating experience, and I spent most of the time strolling through the sunshine wallowing in a carefree attitude sadly missing from my daily life. But at the same time, it was slightly unnerving. I wasn’t in control of my life anymore. Something else was, some higher force. Call it what you want; fate, destiny, the Cosmic Joker, God, whatever. After a while you begin to wonder what path you are on, and why. Is it really all random? Or is there some kind of plan involved? Interesting times, indeed. It’s also kind of dangerous, in the sense that the dice allow you an excuse to be reckless.

Why did you do that stupid thing? 

Because the dice told me to do it.

Ironically, it was Tim Southwell, writer and one-time editor of Loaded, who said:

“A man without responsibility is like Genghis Khan.”

Luke Rhinehart is the pseudonym of George Cockroft, who has written numerous books and essays, including several other ‘Dice’ books. The original, first published in 1971, has attained cult status, and been published in over 60 countries. In 2012 he pranked his own death, the mentalist, but in reality is still going strong at the age of 83. Throw a dice for him. You won’t regret it. Actually, you might. But that’s part of the fun.

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Postscript: Many years later, I fulfilled a long-held dream by writing a few features for Loaded. They didn’t pay me and I had to sue them to get my money. I really should have seen that one coming.


27 Again!

I’m not religious in any sense of the word, but I do believe in something. I just don’t know what. Everything that happens in life can’t be a result of a happy accident. For evidence of this look no further than Mother Nature, where everything has a purpose, a reason to exist. I believe the signs are there if you look. Or maybe if you know what to look for.

My fascination with the number 27 is well documented, on this blog and in articles I’ve written for various publications over the years. I would like to give you with an update, or a postscript to my last 27 blog. In summary, for whatever reason, this particular number has some resonance in my life, and the pattern continues.

I spent five years working as a teacher in China. It was a wonderful experience, but I knew, deep down, that it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing with my life. One of the reasons I was so sure of this was the sheer absence of THAT number in my life, which cropped up at irregular intervals in my life as if the universe was letting me know I was on the right path. There were still a few occurrences when I was home visiting for the summer. But in China, nada. Which I found remarkable in itself.

There was one incidence a while ago…

I don’t often tell people about my 27 obsession, for fear of sounding slightly bonkers. But I did tell a girl I met recently. Most Chinese people are, by nature, quite practical and pragmatic. So this girl was instantly sceptical, and put it all down to coincidence. A fair point. But she was as surprised as I was when I pointed out the date on which we were having that particular conversation, which I hadn’t realized until that moment. It was 27th October.

A couple of months ago job opportunity came up in London. It was the kind of job opportunity I had been waiting my entire life for. Without needing to be asked twice I ripped up my teaching contract and booked a flight from Changsha back to the UK, via Beijing, where I planned to say goodbye to an old friend.

On the way from my apartment to Changsha airport, the number 27 came back with a vengeance. Suddenly, it was everywhere. The taxi I was travelling in was stuck behind a bus for much of the journey, which had the number 27 in its license plate almost as if leading us through the traffic. At one point the taxi stopped at some traffic lights. I glanced out of the window and saw a shop I hadn’t noticed before. The shop was called ‘I Am 27.’

Quick as a flash, I snapped a picture.

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The journey continued, and later that day I found myself in Beijing. My friend wanted to visit a particular restaurant in the Hou Hai area. I agreed. The restaurant was one of those places where you order food at the counter and are then assigned a table number. Yep. You guessed it, our table number was number 27. To my mind, another sign that I was on the right track.

Another photo opportunity.

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When I arrived in London one of the first things on my agenda was getting a new smartphone. I went to Carphone Warehouse. There, I chose a phone and could then select a number. The first number on the computer-generated on-screen list ended in 27. It wasn’t the only number available, there was a whole page and probably more. But the fact that this one was first struck me as significant. Naturally, I took it.

Another intrinsic number in my life, for many reasons, is number 9. Number 9 is, of course, 3×3, 3 being the original Magic Number. 3x3x3 is… 27

The office where I work is on the 9th floor.

My new address, however, is not number 9. Nor is it number 27. Its number 229. If you subtract 2 from 29 you get…

Of course, you could argue that the only reason my mind picks out all these 27’s is that I am consciously looking for them, and you may have a point, but still, there are an awful lot of 27’s in my life. I’m always on the lookout for the next sign post…


Order in the Chaos

It’s a crazy world, right? Where things happen without rhyme nor reason. 

Or is it.

This week I watched a documentary on TV called The Code. It’s a science programme. Science really isn’t my thing. But this episode was about order in the universe, a concept that has always fascinated me. Specifically, the show explored the theory that there is a series of patterns and values underpinning everything around us.

I am not religious, as such. I don’t believe there is a single divine entity overseeing everything. I don’t believe in fate or destiny, the romantic notion that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe in something.

I just don’t know what.

I do know there is some kind of order in the chaos. You just have to look for it. If you look hard enough, the signs are there.

And so, to the Code…

One experiment outlined in the documentary was designed to show what they called the ‘wisdom of the crowd.’

Researchers asked 160 people to guess how many jelly beans were in a glass jar. We all know how difficult a task this is.

 

Obviously the estimates varied wildly, from as low as 400 to as much as 50,000. The actual number of jelly beans contained in the jar was 5,110, which nobody correctly guessed. Nobody was even close.

However…

The researchers added up all the incorrect guesses they received, all those 400’s and 50,000’s. Then they divided the total by the amount of people participating. So… total number of every estimate combined, divided by 160.

Using this method they arrived at a mean average answer of 5,115. That is less than 1% away from the actual number of 5,110.

Crazy or what?

NB: I didn’t record the documentary or take notes, I wrote this from memory the next day, so forgive me if there are inaccuracies. I’m pretty sure I have most of the main facts, though!

 

 

 


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