Chapter Two: Dreams of Africa
Many people asked what inspired King Trillionaire to settle in Africa. It was an odd decision for an American billionaire to make. We have heard rich Americans cry out about the miserable state of the African continent, and we have seen others raise money and embark upon missions to help Africans, but this was a most unusual behavior, unanticipated for a man of King Trillionaire’s background. King Trillionaire explained what moved him to make such drastic changes in his life, in an interview he gave to the renowned reporter, Mr. Glen Zuckerberg:
“You dropped out of Harvard to run what is now a hundred billion dollar company in Silicon Valley. Most people would agree that this was a wise move. But now you are leaving it all to move to some bush covered third world country, out there in the unpaved, starving, and lawless parts of Africa. Are you out of your mind?”
[Chuckling] “Has my mother sent you to speak to me? She’s been asking me the same question, without exaggeration, every hour on the hour, desperately trying to change my mind. As if what I am doing is an intentional and personal offense against her. I’ve been running down the conventional explanations so many times that all I am left with now are the unconventional ones, and yet she still does not seem to understand, which is rare for a psychiatrist. My mother also questions what she calls my irresponsible decision to drag my newly wed wife to a life in hell. She thinks I am suffering a mental breakdown, perhaps caused by the stress of running a billion dollar business. She suggests I walk away from the business if that might help. It has even reduced her to make threats, claiming I may need medication, she may need to have a private conversation with Prisca, my wife, and if we ever do move to Africa against her will, she will never visit us there or answer my phone calls.”
“They say a mother always knows best, but I’m not here to talk sense to you. I just want to hear the juicy details of your next big move and then leak them out in the press. So what are you really planning to do in Africa?”
“My plans are still private, but what I can say is that I intend to buy a large ranch there and live life to its fullest.”
“You are known to be stingy, despite your immense wealth. Is this just your way of spending money on yourself in a frugal manner, buying property in Africa where it is dirt cheap, rather than in America where it could be a bit more expensive?”
“No, no, and don’t humor me. Prisca and I, in keeping with the philosophy we have embraced together with some of my friends and partners, have decided not to let money change us. If we lived modestly before we had money and were content, then we should continue to live modestly in spite of the money, despite the enticing lure of wealth, and in contrast to the ruinous decadence of the opulent. Moving to Africa is not an issue of frugality. And, as I might add, we will likely be spending more money there than we ever have.”
“Then why are you moving to Africa? Are you embarking on a humanitarian mission? Is this your way of distributing your wealth to the less fortunate?”
“You could call it something like that, although my methods will not be purely altruistic. I am still a businessman, and I continue to believe in a market economy.”
“Then how do you intend to help Africans?”
“That fact I do not wish to disclose at the moment.”
“Alright then, I will rephrase my question. Why do you want to help Africans?”
“That was the right question, and now you have gained my attention. Why would a man like me want to help Africans? Most of them are not even connected to the Internet. They have not helped me build my business nor have they contributed to my riches. In fact, I have no connection to them, neither socially nor economically. There really is no reason why I should care about Africans, and yet, strangely enough, I do.”
“I think I understand in which direction you are headed with this. You want me to guess that you’re a modest altruist, and that you care about Africans, not because you should care about them, or because caring about them will make people like you, but because deep down inside you really do care about Africans?”
“No. It is because I can help them, and then in turn they can help me. You see, for quite some time now I have been considering what I should do in the future. I have been fearful of the fact that a man who reaches the peak can only come down. This thought has made me restless and eager to find new horizons and face new challenges. I led my company to make its initial public offering, not because we needed the money, but because it was time to monetize our assets, in order to realize our success and pursue new options. Once your success has been realized in one field, the room for expansion becomes limited unless you come up with market changing innovations. Our inspiration has dried up, and we need to think outside the box. This requires either capital to purchase new ideas, or a decision to quit while ahead; and both models called for a sell out.
“We did sell out partially, but I knew this would not be enough, because something was still lacking within me. My feeling is that we have been selling empty promises and our stock was largely overpriced. It was overestimated by analysts who gave past trends undue attention, and it was inflated by opportunists who over speculated the market. The bubble will continue to burst, unless I can come up with some magical solution. To shift focus from that fact, both for my own personal comfort and as an outside distraction, and because it seemed the perfect time to do it, Prisca and I decided to get married. This let us focus on the ever more important goal of raising a family.
“But it was not enough. I still retained that emptiness deep down in my chest, and I still felt that weight on my shoulders that pressed me down towards it. And then I began to have dreams, or what others might call nightmares. They were recurring dreams that revolved around a central theme, with variable circumstances, and all had very much to do with Africa. I considered these dreams to be prophetic.”
“What were these dreams, please tell?”
“In the first dream I was enjoying a vacation in Africa with my wife, when all of a sudden armed teenage thugs attacked us and our armed guards, completely surrounding us. In the ensuing shootout, bullets whizzed by us from every direction. Prisca leaped to the ground, and I crouched above her to guard her. Men were falling all around us and I feared for the worst, until our guide pulled up in a van and waved at us to come. I managed to push Prisca into the back seat, but as I was about to enter the van myself, one of our attackers grabbed me by the neck and pulled me back. Gladly, the guide drove my wife off to safety, but sadly, I was smuggled away by two brutal thugs.
“One of them must have hit me in the back of the head, because as I next recalled I was being dragged across the countryside in a very different landscape. Then suddenly some odd-looking tribesmen emerged from the bushes, shooting arrows at my kidnappers, both of whom fell motionless to the ground. The tribesmen seized me and dragged me to their village, dropping me before an older man who appeared to be their chief. He spoke to me in a language I could not understand, and none of the tribesmen could speak English. Then he motioned something with his hands that I quickly understood. He was letting me choose either physical labor or death. I naturally offered to work, and the tribesmen pressed me to a rugged field with a plow in my hand.
“They demanded the impossible from me; to plow an area the size of a football field on my own, with only the rugged tool they provided me. I remember this part of the dream only vaguely, having no recollection of time or space, and experiencing most forcefully the impressions of an excruciating pain and an impossible expectation. I was plowing with all my energy while tribesmen were beating me with sticks for not working hard enough, and signaling with hand gestures that if I rested I would be executed. I remember thinking that they must be looking for a pretext to kill me, and this could be nothing more than a brutal form of torture. I am no stranger to hard labor, although this usually involves mental stamina, but what the tribesmen expected of me was physically impossible. Eventually my strength gave way, the plow slipped out of my feeble hands and I collapsed.
“The villagers then dragged me back to their chief to be executed. As they were tying me to the stake, and the chief was sharpening his knife to end my life, my thoughts raced within my mind. I thought, if only I had a cell phone, I could have a year’s supply of grain flown in within hours. These foolish tribesmen won’t even give me a chance to prove myself. They may have their toned muscles and physical stamina, but where has that brought them? They don’t use oxen to plow their fields. I haven’t even seen them make use of the wheel. Surely they lack irrigation, and I bet they’ve never heard of a tractor. All these things come from the mind, not the hand. It is intelligence that makes us humans, not physical fitness. I could deliver them all these gifts, yet they have mistakenly decided to execute me for plowing one lousy field too slowly. What mindless idiots!
“I began to scream all these things out in my dream. I cursed them and their foolishness, saying that this is why they have remained wretched savages. I begged them to give me a second chance, explaining myself in words they could not understand. And then I realized that only God could save me now. So I began to pray to Him. I said, ‘Please God, give me a second chance. If only these tribesmen could understand me, maybe then I could reason with them. Make them hear me. I have many favorable things to teach them. They know not of their errors. Their reasoning resembles that of beasts, but they can be taught to think like men. They want me to help them, and I can, so please God give me another chance to help!’
“At that moment I woke up, trembling, with my wife holding me in her arms. She told me that I had been screaming things in my sleep, and she seemed rather worried. I told her about my dream, and she said it must have a deeper meaning, but she could not say what. The next morning I told my mom as well, and she said that I must be stressed from work. What do you think?”
“As I said before, ‘a mother knows best.’ I will not argue with what she said. What interests me is to hear more of your dreams.”
“The second dream was much like the first, except that it skipped through the introduction. It began with me being dropped off before the chief, only this time he spoke English. He said, ‘Our land has been suffering from a severe drought. We have able-bodied men to plow the fields and have already planted the seeds, but the rain has not come in its season and the crops are not growing, and now my people are starving. But there is yet hope. Last week I dreamt a dream, and now you have arrived. This must be a sign of good fortune.
“‘In my dream, my ancestor told me of an ancient scroll he had received long ago, which he had buried in a cave, under a conspicuous stone. He said that if I could decipher its language and read its sacred text, then I would find the answer I request; the solution to end this deadly famine. I have already sent men to retrieve this scroll, and they have returned to me successfully, but none of my people have been successful in its decipherment. Tell me what this scroll says and you will become a full and honorary member of our tribe, my adopted son, and the successor to my throne, but fail in this regard and I assure you that you will be swiftly executed, just as the stranger who was brought to me yesterday.’
“The chief handed me the scroll, and I recognized the text. It was a Hebrew scroll, the kind that Jewish boys are forced to read publicly when they turn thirteen. More specifically, it was the book of Deuteronomy, which Moses had written millennia ago. I told the chief that he was in luck, because, being a Jew, I had been taught to read this language as a boy. The chief was delighted, and called all the honorary members of his tribe to sit around us and hear the secrets that this scroll would reveal to them. I began reading the text aloud, the way I had been taught as a child, but the chief soon interrupted me. He said, ‘What are these words that you are speaking? Please translate this text into English, so that my people and I may make sense of it. You may read the strange language in your mind, as you have done now, but speak to us only after you have found the matching words in English.’
“I told the chief, with all the tribesmen sitting around me, that his request was beyond me. ‘It is true that I am a Jew and my people speak this language, but I live in America, where Jews speak English, and I am not even a practicing Jew, but a professed atheist. I do not understand these words, and I cannot translate them into English. The man you seek should be a Hebrew speaker, most likely an Israeli, and more specifically a religious Jew who would have an understanding of these words in their context. Grant me a few days leave and I will bring such a man to you, then all your people will be made to understand this scroll to its fullest.’
“But the chief grew angry, stood up on his feet, and began barking orders at his tribesmen in a strange language. He said, ‘You have deceived me you worthless scoundrel. Did I not tell you to decipher this text for me or face death? You have pretended to follow my orders, deceiving my people with false hopes, perhaps only to buy time to plan your escape. But you cannot fool me. Now you will be executed in haste.’ I begged him to listen to me and said, ‘Wait. I might remember bits and pieces of this story from parts that I have read and stories that I have been told as a child. Give me another chance and I will tell you everything I know, and all that I remember from this scroll.’
“But the chief refused to listen to me, or even hear what I had to say. Then, as I was being tied to the stake and the chief was sharpening his knife to end my life, the thoughts raced through my mind again. I began to think about and remember every religious lesson and event from my youth. How the piety of a certain rabbi had once inspired me, how stories of the Bible had once allured me, how the miracles of God had once impressed me, and how our family, friends, and relatives had always gathered together joyously on religious festivities. I began to ask myself, ‘Why have I never read this scroll enough to even recount its basic meaning? Why am I so ignorant of the heritage of my people? How can I claim to be an atheist if I don’t even know what it is I am denying? What could it be that God wants from us? What does He want from me?’
“And then I began to speak to God in my heart. I said, ‘Please God, accept my apology. I know not of my errors. I am like a beast before you, not knowing enough to reason properly, but I have the capacity to learn, and I desire to improve myself. Is there not yet any time left for an apologetic blunderer? Are there not second chances for fools. I had this ancient scroll near to me all my life and I never even bothered to read it. How was I to know that it could one day save my life? How discomforting to think that I should require some funny looking African tribesman to teach me the importance of a book my people have always carried with them wherever they went; their sole treasured possession in an ever-changing world. I am like a Jedi who has lost his saber, or a priest who has lost his vestments. But please God, spare my life and I swear to read Moses’s Books from front to back.’
“Just before the chief was able to slit my throat, my wife woke me up by swinging her arm at me in her sleep. Her hand had accidentally slapped me in the face, and in a jolt I woke up, grabbing her hand reflexively and sitting up on the bed. She woke up as well and asked me what had happened. I told her that God had given me another chance. Half asleep, she asked me, ‘What?’ I answered, ‘In a dream.’ She didn’t seem to understand, saying, ‘OK, go back to sleep,’ turning over to the other side of the bed and hugging her pillow, as if to indicate that she was asleep and did not want to be bothered. I’ve never recounted this dream to any person, until now. But it is a dream, I assure you, that has caused me to lose much sleep.”
“Remarkable story. This interview is turning into a story telling session, and I am like a curious child who doesn’t want to go home. Will you please tell me more?”
“Yes, but only because there is one more story left to be told. The third, and last, dream in this series began much like the previous one, except that instead of being brought before the chief by force, I arrived this time by choice. In my dream I had an intuition that the chief needed me and was summoning my spirit towards him, so in a flash I appeared before him. When I arrived, he said, ‘You couldn’t have come at a better time. A little later and we would all be dead corpses. But now that you have come at the right moment, you also have an opportunity to save our lives, and you are perhaps the only man who can save us.
“‘You see, at first we were plagued by tribal warfare. Our men were being picked off one by one in the field. Some were killed and others were kidnapped, and we could never be certain if a stranger was a friend or an enemy. We were constantly in shortage of farmers, so we developed the perfect solution, or so I believed. Whenever our fighters would notice other fighting men nearby, they would attack them stealthily without wasting time to question them and risk their own lives. But if a man appeared to be a farmer, he would be brought back to the village, where he could be put to the test. This test involved letting him work the field.
“‘Our fields are fertile, but they are coarse, and any farmer who works in the area quickly learns to develop a certain skillset and a body tone for plowing fields efficiently. Therefore, a man who was not a skilled farmer could be quickly spotted out by us, and, for the purpose of expedience, was assumed to be a warrior and duly executed. This tactic worked for some time, allowing us to retain enough farmers to feed ourselves, but then a devastating drought came upon us and dried us out. Then my people hungered like dogs and fell in the fields like beasts. We were starving and none could save us. Foreign organizations shipped in grains to help, but, already weakened by starvation, our fighting power had waned, and our enemies took advantage of this to repeatedly pillage our food supplies.
“‘The foreigners tried to police the distribution of food, but then our enemies would pillage the stocked supplies even before they arrived. As more supplies came in, thieves became more daring and deadly, and the profits gained from their illicit trades helped them to better arm and equip themselves, spawning the creation of multiple vicious and deadly armed gangs and small armies, that the foreigners were not able or willing to deal with. If the situation became dangerous for the foreigners, it was all the more so for us. Even after the drought had ended, our people were too fearful to work the fields, and many left us for the relative security of crowded cities. Our numbers already dwindling, and our people still starving, we were unprepared for the next plague that struck us.
“‘Deadly disease began to spread in our village. The government feared a new outbreak and quarantined our village, cordoning off its entire vicinity from any outside contact. Foreign aid organizations were now too afraid to come near. That’s our dependable government for you. When you are in need they are nowhere to be seen, but once the scent of death is in the air, they will reliably arrive to bury you. Now that we are no longer being supplied with food and have ceased to be an attractive target, even thieves and murderous thugs dare not venture anywhere near us. This is a mixed blessing wrapped up in a curse, but the truth is that we have been largely abandoned to die by the world. We are able to smuggle in a small supply of food and medicines, but this is but a negligent trickle, hardly enough to keep us all alive.
“‘The good news is that I have been given a sign of hope. My ancestor appeared to me in a dream and said that one man can still save us. He said, “This man will be able to pray on your behalf and beseech the blessings of God. Then His curses will be removed from you and your people will be healed from their ailments. This is because the man who I speak of is most favored of God.” After much deliberation and consideration, I suddenly realized that that man is you. You must pray for us and save us, before we all die.’
“I quickly denied the chief’s claims, saying, ‘Who am I to pray to God? Until now I have been an atheist, knowing neither how to pray nor Who to pray to. Surely God will not listen to such a man as me; the newest edition to His long list of admirers, and likely the least worthy of them all.’ But the chief rebuked my words. He said, ‘That is where you are mistaken. God has listened to you all your life. I have read of your many exploits, and ask, how many people are so talented and have been blessed with such successes and as many riches as you have been? How many people have amassed such vast amounts of wealth at such a young age and retained such a large following? You are one in a billion, and a billion in one, and you are even a multi billionaire. How could anyone accomplish such a feat without God’s help?’
“To which I answered, ‘I never thought of it that way. Perhaps there is something in what you say, but why is it that each time I pray for something it never seems to come from the prayer? From my experience I have only achieved success after investing very much time and effort and forming a strategy to grasp it.’ Yet the chief rebuked me again, saying, ‘You must be blind to make such a statement. If you look back only a few pages in our conversations, you will see that God has answered you every time. He has even allowed you to escape death by my hand on two occasions. I assure you that not many people have done this. Even the curses you have pronounced against us have come to pass. Could there be a clearer example than this?
“‘The first time you prayed that we would speak your language and that you would be given an opportunity to teach and help us. As you may recall, the next time we met my tribe could speak English and we gave you an opportunity to teach us and another chance to help. The first time you also cursed us, comparing us to beasts and savages. I ask you, have my people not fallen like beasts in the fields, and has God not heard our victims’ complaints of the injustices we have committed and withheld our seasonal rains from us?
“‘The second time you prayed that God would accept your apology and reward your admittance of your ignorance, by granting you more time to redeem yourself. You also swore to read the Books of Moses, if He would but spare your life. I ask you now, do you not have another opportunity to redeem yourself, or have you not been given more time to fulfill your oath? Your golden opportunity awaits you now, and I beg of you, for the sake of my people, if not of my own, pray to God for us now, without delay, as this opportunity will never repeat itself. Because I have focused on the good news to offer you hope, but the bad news is yet without end.
“‘I am sick with an incurable disease, and I have seen in a dream that death awaits me shortly. After me, little hope will remain for my people, unless you can save them. But if you fail to save them, there will remain little hope for you in the future. You are plagued by your own problems, I know. Should you refuse to help us, these problems of yours will only growingly haunt you in the future, until you become accursed, like us. But I offer you more hope than most men could ever dream of. Save my people, and they will belong to you. I have conferred my leadership unto you, and instructed all of my tribesmen to obey you. Have compassion for them when needed, because they are a sensitive people, but otherwise lead them with an iron fist, as they are restless and will quickly challenge your authority should you project weakness. Now all that I ask of you is this: Please, please pray for us. Pray for us as you have prayed for yourself, those two times, when it was your life on the line.’
“So I prayed for them like I’ve never prayed before. I said, ‘Please God, save these tribesmen. They have been abandoned by everyone else and are dying before my eyes. Now I stand over their blood and know not what to do. Do You not see these miserable men? Have You abandoned them as well? Do You wish to kill off an entire nation? Please God, give them just one more chance. Remove your Hand from them and relieve them from their afflictions. Show me a way to teach them and lead them towards a better future, or this land will surely become a graveyard. Your Greatness cannot be recounted amongst the deceased. The dead may no longer improve themselves. Grant this remnant new life, for this tribe to regenerate itself, and then its survivors may recognize the errors of their deceased members, to learn the lessons of life that You Teach us. Then Your Name will be praised amongst them, and the deceased will no longer have died in vain.’
“I realized then that when you are praying for someone else, you are also praying for yourself, so your prayer becomes that much stronger. By praying for God to help the tribesmen, I was also praying for Him to help me help them. This meant that I was really praying for God to help both the tribesmen and me personally, and it also meant that I was praying for myself to help the tribesmen. Then I understood that my prayers were not directed only towards God, but also towards myself, and this thought pierced through the emptiness in my chest and reinvigorated my spirit. A large part of me hoped and prayed to fill this wearisome void within me with something of meaning. What I truly sought was a way to improve the quality of my life and restore the hope that once filled me as a child.
“And then I woke up. I told Prisca that morning, ‘We are going to Africa.’ She looked at me gleefully and asked, ‘Is this for our honeymoon?’ I answered, ‘Perhaps, but more likely it is for the happily ever after.’ She stared at me in her usual questioning manner, but then said nothing. Maybe this was her way of telling me that she understood and was prepared to fulfill her vows, ‘For better and for worse, till death do us part.’ I have always liked that side of her, and she has always given me room to think for myself and make my own decisions. And that’s exactly what I did. I thought very long and hard. I contemplated all three of these dreams, and decided that my first course of action must be to read the Books of Moses from beginning to end. That I did, and was especially pleased with myself for doing it.
“I began reading in the morning at the office, letting the staff know that I was not to be disturbed. When no more than two minutes had passed, my secretary abruptly interrupted me, saying, ‘I’m sorry to disturb you but you are needed for something urgent, and so and so big shot is waiting on the line for you with something he says just cannot wait.’ I told her very quietly, ‘Tell everyone I am indisposed for the day, and possibly for tomorrow as well. I will be leaving, but let them know that you don’t know where, and that perhaps I have gone to see a doctor.’ With that I left the office, took my car for a drive, and ended up two hours later at Carmel Bay. I rented a beach house and notified Prisca that we would be sleeping there that night. Then I continued to read in peace until sunset the day after. Prisca prepared food for me when she arrived that night and learned that I hadn’t eaten all day. The next day she looked after my needs while I continued to read undisturbed.
“The Book was a game changer for me. I had been raised on Greek epics, written by men like Homer, but now I was maturing with the Book of Books, written by a most remarkable man called Moses. After that I pulled the same stunt two more times, continuing to read the rest of the Bible. When people became privy to my pretenses, I simply said, ‘I am taking a vacation and am not to be disturbed.’ They complained, saying, ‘But—,’ and then I cut them off with, ‘Am I a slave to this company or are you my employees? If this hundred billion dollar business cannot function for one week without me, then we are in serious trouble. Does America cease to function when the president is away on vacation?’ They understood, and that was that.
“All the while I also continued to think. The Bible offered me many secrets and insights, and my dreams also taught me many lessons. This helped me to formulate a plan. A plan with specific goals. That plan will be pursued in Africa, and, God willing, the achievement of my goals will be pleasing to Him.”
“What’s the plan, is what I would like to know. Perhaps my readers and I may offer our helping hands.”
“The plan will be revealed when it is carried out. But mark my words, Mr. Zuckerberg: It will be good.”
“I’m counting on it, and I confess that your story has left me speechless. You have almost interviewed yourself. All you are leaving me to add is my conclusion, and I say: Go! Go to Africa. Go to Africa and make us proud!”