Random thoughts are a constant companion of mine. It is undeniable. I sort of confess in a faintly guilty manner to the fact of it. Guilt might be the honest response to such thoughts as they idly swim in and out of the mind like clouds, because most of them, the random thoughts, are distracting as I go about the business of daily life. Then again, it might be that these seemingly innocuous flights of the mind are snippets of truth trying to get through into the conscious mind from the subconscious. Could it be that what we perceive as the rational sense of ourselves is the real distraction? The conscious world. The real lie. It very well may be. Perhaps I, you, all of us should try to welcome the disorganised thought a bit more. Follow that dream of truth. Take it by the hand and see where the path of meander takes us. Discover another kind of 'truth'. Treat randomness not as an imposition, but a friend. Skip along without a care down the path of least resistance and just let go of ourselves. It could lead to bliss or madness or deliverance. Who knows what we might discover at the end of the road? I know it will never happen for most of us, of course. We could never totally surrender our will for long enough to explore. Most of us, myself included haven't the wherewithal. Or the time. Or the courage?
Anyhow, I think my own distractedness might be down to a lack of iron and too much tea. But still they come, these rambling thoughts, tumbling over and over, like drunken acrobats. They taunt and they tease as I walk and talk and eat and sleep, tugging at my sleeve like a nagging child in need of attention. Sometimes, for all the world like assassins, they appear out of the dark, suddenly. But they only brandish toy knives, not real ones. I suppose they just want to play. Maybe all thoughts are like that - desperate for company. A rumination is a profundity-in-waiting. Who said that? Someone. It might have been me, right there, right now. Do you see what I mean? Random thoughts, everywhere. On the bus, in the office, floating in the air, lurking in the dark wardrobe of the mind. Hiding under the bed as you turn off the light and try to go to sleep. And in that sleep of death..... etcetera, etcetera, what dreams may come. Just a mindless thought, you understand. Food for further discussion.
It would be a dangerous game to play, though. Abject randomness. Try to imagine it. I do, sometimes and then draw back, unable to compute the possible implications. An exhilaration and a fear, all wrapped up in the same parcel. A dance with the devil, possibly. An abandonment of the self, or an embracing of a kind of freedom none of us is able or willing to allow ourselves. Because we're pragmatic. Because we have too many real things to do. Because there is no time to swim in some long-forgotten primordial soup. The soup no longer exists for us and if any of we time-consumed drones attempted a prolonged back-stroke in the choppy waters of now - well, we would soon be out of our depth. We'd be floundering. Someone would have to wade in to try to save us. And the onlookers would all jeer, wouldn't they? At our stupidity, at our recklessness. At our blind faith in positive outcomes. Just look at that fool, they would crow, egging each other on. So much for him and his pie-in-the-sky dreams of betterment. So much for another drowned soul, dragged up onto the beach of reality, his lungs full of water. Sorry to say, but it serves him and his kind right. Let's ignore him and get on with the real stuff.
I blame like everyone else, against my better judgement, if there is such a thing. Who decides? All of us, despite our protests, despite our avowed claims of tolerance - which in itself is a rightly maligned concept in practice. We shouldn't tolerate, should we? Tolerance is the buzz-word we should try to disassociate ourselves from. Not really a noble addition to the lexicon of what we think is a new, liberal approach to language and its application. Toleration might be said to intrinsically imply tacit acceptance without the necessary sincerity of feeling or honesty. It ends up being acquiescence, which is never good. But I disastrously digress. I'm sorry for that, but not for you. For me. Because there I drift again, meandering away to the horizon of another abstraction. Another diversion. Another ramble without the appropriate footwear. Stones underfoot and lots of pitfalls. But, that's the human brain for you. Too much consciousness, too many stray molecules, too little control of unselected connections.
But back to blame. I hold up my disdain for the blame-game as I would a crucifix to a blood-sucking vampire. I hope that every time I refuse to apportion responsibility to someone else and instead climb aboard the car of my own culpability, I am doing the right thing. The moral thing. The worthy thing. The thing all of us are told we should strive for, despite all the vicissitudes everyday life hurls in our direction. I want to see the pile of ashes at my feet where a moment ago stood Dracula. I want to see the phantom of selfish self-regard and lack of personal responsibility wither in the daylight before my eyes, I really do. Hopefully, we all want the same. To be honest, to accept our shortcomings, to recognise what it is that makes each individual one of us what we are. But it's hard to do or think the correct way all of the time, isn't it? Isn't it the way? Even some of the time is a struggle. Distractions, again. We become scuppered by our own sense of our personal validity. We are hoisted on the petard of time, or imagined lack of it.
What about my own current nemesis? The one causing my own preoccupations. All part of a graduating confrontation with a book, sadly. Not something I willingly admit to. I usually succeed in a lazy way in avoiding the affect-syndrome response to fiction. A novel is a novel is a novel. I might have a long-lasting seed of thought planted somewhere in my brain that I can continually draw on in response to a funny or profound work. And maybe profound and funny are just opposite sides of the same coin in literary terms. But I try to reject being taught anything. I may be moved to tears of compassion, or rage, or mirth, or pathos. Sometimes all at once if the writer is skilled enough. Mostly, though, I am at pains to distance myself from the shudder. There are curios, of course. See my recent review if Beast by Paul Kingsnorth for an example of a book that resonated more strongly than I expected. What a dark journey that was and still is. A riveting and deeply unsettling focus upon the mind's frailty and how destructive obsession can be. But no, for this thought provocation, this temporary waylaying of my reasoning faculties, I blame Luke Rhinehart and his damn dice. Or, specifically The Dice Man, may he rot somewhere not very pleasant. And it could happen, sooner or later. Time will tell for the anti-hero of this 1971 'cult' classic. Well, at least that is the common consensus. I emphasise the word cult only because I dislike the term. I am pejorative for the same reason I dismiss 'must-see', 'not-to-be-missed' and 'essential viewing'. Who the hell decides these things? The makers, the viewers, or the back-room series promoters? Please, I abstain from slavish acceptance of your's or anyone else's critique until I have read or seen the damn thing for myself. Just go away and take your half-baked recommendations with you. Thanks awfully.
The Dice Man. So far, so insane. It proceeds at a headlong pace. A New York psychiatrist. Successful, esteemed, affluent, married with two young children. Bored. Bored to the point of an abnormal desperation. A man trapped by the expectation weighing him down. The expectations he imposes on himself, the demands and suppositions of others. Standards of behaviour crowding in. Suffocation, despite the fancy car, the big house in the leafy suburbs, the sunny wife and even sunnier children, the bulging client list and two hundred dollars an hour fees. Life is seen through a fog of indifference by our ham-sized handed protagonist. He doesn't sleep well. He doesn't eat well. He seldom makes love to his wife. He is indifferent to his clients. They bore him. So do his children. So does his house and the overly cheerful neighbours. He looks at them and their beaming smiles each morning, afternoon and evening and realises that he wants to kill them. Them or himself. Or his wife and children and then himself. He is psychologically conflicted to a dangerous degree. Not a good position for an eminent top-flight shrink to be in. But what to do? Where to turn? How to break free from the shackles of drudgery?
Which is where the dice enter Luke Rhinehart's story. Or, rather, The Dice. The Dice of destiny, you might say. The Dice of forgiveness, the Dice of acceptance and forgiveness. The Dice of freedom from society and its constraints. And a list. A list of six courses of possible action. A random guide to The Way. A vow to abide by the outcome of the roll of the dice. A promise Luke Rhinehart makes to himself to roll, see and do, no matter what the consequences. No matter what pleasure or sacrifice he has to make. The Dice becomes his controller, his god. Already he has cheated on his wife, this being one of the negative choices he makes as he compiles his list. He takes drugs at inappropriate times, during sessions with patients, in his car, during concerts. He becomes a slave to the randomness, imagining he has found freedom. Well, we - and he, will see. I have a distinct feeling things will not end well. Our hero grows more decadent by the day. Questions are being asked by colleagues, by his wife, by his children. Where, oh where? Where will all this focused but blind randomness lead him, and me? Perhaps I might make my own list of projected outcomes. Six should do it. All I need then is one of those six-sided, numbered cubes and I'll be in the game. What does your Dice think I should do?
A place of endless wonder without dragons. The home of the dodgy dialectic. A sanctuary for the frustrated and the terminally curious. Where debate meets damnation and humour lurks to surprise the unwary. From critical acclaim to diatribe. Don't be scared - come along for the ride.