In this chapter, Dublin meets a man known as the Great White Hunter, who has some advice about the meaning of life.
Dublin found himself, once again, at the bar.
Sick of Burkina’s beer, he had found a little bar around the corner from the hotel and ordered a whiskey. If he’d gone back to his room, David and Vegard would’ve stopped him and made him drink, and he needed a break from those two. He had started feeling a little clingy. Or they had.
The bar was packed with a mishmash of native and expatriate drunks. FESPACO had reeled in all the suffering artistic trotting whites and market-chewing bottom-feeding black tradesmen in Africa. His hand wrapped around a cold Star, Dublin searched for any open seat in the bar. He saw a man sitting alone at a small table and decided to approach him. He gestured with his beer at the gentleman draped in crushed khaki, who was staring into a tall glass of water standing next to a bottle of Lion Killer lemonade, oblivious to the chicken coop around him.
“Yes, you can sit here.”
“You speak English?”
“Of course. I’m German. You did win the war, you know.”
The German smiled through a grunt. “Have a seat.” Dublin pulled back the spare wooden chair and sat down.
“Did you come for the film festival?” Dublin asked. The man studied him for a moment.
“Look under the table.” Dublin raised his eyebrows. The man gestured with his hands. Dublin bent down and peered under the table and saw the man gripping a huge rifle between his legs. Dark things wrapped around Dublin’s throat and feet. He sat back up. “Don’t worry. I’m not a violent man. My name is Arn. They call me the Great White Hunter. I am staying in Burkina Faso until I find a good place to hunt. You’re not frightened, are you?”
“No, hell no.” A long drink of beer. “That’s a big gun.”
“The biggest. When you’re the best in the business, you must have the right tools. I have a reputation to keep, you know.”
“The Great White Hunter.”
“Exactly. People usually ask me next, ‘Where did you get such a name?’, and I truly don’t remember. But they know me all over this continent. I started to hunt in South America when I was fourteen, but I have not been there in some time. The Africans respect me, fear me, welcome me. I have no home, but every home with candles and rice is mine.” He laughed. “Are you still frightened?”
“No.” A girl walked by selling packets of koliko, and Dublin bought two of them. He had forgotten to eat again. “So you have no family? You just hunt?” he asked, unwrapping one of the packages.
“I have no family. I hunt. I am whole.”
“But that’s all you do? I mean, there’s nothing else for you in life? Haven’t you ever wanted to do anything else?”
“I used to be a Zen Buddhist, you know.”
“Would you like some of these fries?”
“I only eat meat.”
“Oh, you’re a vege- Wait. Come again?”
“I only eat meat. No other food, be it grain or fruit, milk or root, has passed these lips once in the last thirty-seven years. If they made beer from meat, I’d drink it.”
“So, do you, like, only eat what you kill?”
“Of course not. I try to kill everyday, but it isn’t possible. I won’t buy one of those filthy market steaks, nonetheless. I look for Germans, the monks of sausage,” he said, lighting a cigar.
“My father thinks it is a disgrace, being half German, for me to not drink beer. But I think it is a disgrace for him to consume wheat. After all, what would you rather look at, a long beautiful field of wheat, or a shit-eating cow? We should eat animals because they are ugly and we don’t need them around, but leave the grains and the vegetables alone, the fruit trees. What is the worth of this world without its natural beauty?”
Dublin held up his finger for another beer. “Tell me about Zen.”
“I was completely captured by Zen for two years. I thought perhaps I could even add to the library of Buddhist knowledge. I had an inspiration, colored in mathematics: if focusing on one means canceling everything but the one, then focusing twice as hard on one results in canceling everything. The equation reads:
if f (one) = c (everything – one),
then f 2(one) = c (everything)
“You see? True nothingness. Zen,” the Hunter finished.
“So Zen means nothing?”
“I like your double entendre. Zen, my friend, is simply a way of doing things that makes life easy. Suppose, for instance, your mind considers four thousand events and textual calculations every day. The Zen Buddhist encounters only a quarter of these. The remaining thousand thoughts are like the wind in July: felt, but hardly strong enough to blow you back.”
“Well, it sounds good. I highly consider it, I mean, I consider it highly likely that meditation is a part of the process leading us to fulfillment.” Beer rushed in with the tides.
“Zen and fulfillment are retarded lovers.”
“You’re drunk, and so you won’t understand what I mean, or you will, but forget. In any case, none of us have all the answers. Zen lets go of wanting, yet enlightenment is attained. I wonder when all the bullshit of meaning will stop.”
“Perhaps someone has come up with the one true meaning of life.”
“Such a person does not yet exist.”
“I would have heard something by now.”
“What if it just happened?”
“Suppose that person were here among us.”
“Well, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose someone has discovered the true, eternal meaning of life. Perfection in existence. How would that person go about spreading the word?”
“Assuming this was the answer for everyone?”
The Great White Hunter thought for a minute. “He would go about his life the same way he always had. Teaching the True Answer destroys it. What does the Meaning embrace?”
“Quantum physics and the relationship between the soul and the universe.”
“Then I recommend staying away from scientists and Buddhists. You should, rather that person should walk down the path of their life blindfolded, trusting that once given the Answer, the universe will deliver them to the proper place on time. Something perfect cannot stay in one vessel; it will overflow and get other people wet. If you offer people a drink from the vessel, they will not take it, for they cannot see what is inside.”
Dublin did not look up from the table.
“Politicians know this. They only offer people the water they already have, because you cannot give what is not yours to begin with. Politicians have more wisdom than anybody, but they have no knowledge.”
“How can they have wisdom without knowledge?”
“Because wisdom means knowing things from experience. They know the game of politics because they have played it. They know history because they have studied it. But they don’t know how to interact with history, what meaning it has for the present, and they don’t know how to get things done, because they have no knowledge. They are stupid, peculiar, full of potential yet amazingly inept citizens.”
“You see, only men of fear run for office. That’s why it’s called running. I will myself to hunt every day of my life, for surely I would become a czar or tyrant otherwise and ruin millions of lives. It’s the way we are built. Perhaps, someday, the people will successfully elect…a nice guy. That would turn the world on its heel, but I shall never hear of such a thing in my lifetime. Most don’t see it yet, but everything is changing, young man. Some people in the world are sick and tired of being run around, and they have been backed into their last corner. Isn’t it odd that snakes and bees only strike when aggravated, and that is what the big countries of the world do to the little ones. It’s arrogance, your America.” He took a very long pull from his thin cigar. “Nobody likes to get stung.”
“Does that mean you’re a man of fear?”
“Of course not. But that is only because I am not in an office charged with the caretaking of millions of souls. Should I be in such a position, I would exploit it.”
“How do you know?”
“It is the kind of man I am. There are two kinds of people in this world, young man. The normal and the special. I am the normal.” He took another pull from the cigar. “You, I expect, are the special.” The smoke came out. “You’re soft, trusting, wondering, looking, peace-making. You would never fire a gun at an animal, because you would never have a gun in your hand with animals all around you. It is not a problem. The normal exist in the majority, and we run the world and do all the things in it. The special are very few, very rare, and they think all the time. Perhaps someday you will have thought enough to come up with something to help better the normal. It happens from time to time. Perhaps not in this lifetime. But it happens.”
“You have to imagine, then, that there are two ruling powers, and that one of them is set over the intellectual world, the other over the visible. I say not heaven, should you think that I am playing upon the name. Do you have this distinction of the visible and intelligible fixed in your mind?”
“That’s Socrates you’re quoting.”
“Yep. Do you believe in reincarnation?”
“I myself am very new. This is my second or third time. Do you have a suspicion about yourself?”
“Well, no. I haven’t thought about it, really.”
“Think about it.”
“It feels like…”
“I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do.”
“I guess I just have this feeling like I’ve been around for a very, very long time.”
The Hunter blew out the last of the smoke from his cigar. “You see? You are the special.” Dublin smiled and took a very long drink from his beer. “And now I must take my leave. The animals are coming out of hiding, thinking I’ve gone and gotten drunk all day and forgotten about them.” He pushed himself up from his chair with his hands on the table. “Good luck, uh, I never asked for your name.” Dublin was in the middle of the last drink from his beer. “Don’t bother. Good luck, Great White Thinker.” He nodded and walked away, sighing at the pain in his knees. Later that week, he was killed and eaten by a man who had lost his mind and believed his destiny was to eradicate Caucasian races from the continent. The cannibal was known in rural villages as the Great White-Hunter. He ate the organs of his victims and left the rest on the ground in a heap. With his last few breaths, the Hunter thought about the life he had had and what the next one would be like.