The following poem by Strauss won the French International Cultural Poetry Award in 1996.  It’s called A Quiet Encampment.


Ulundi hills,
Where lions temper evening moves.
The Zulu rest toward coming dawn,
To await a warming light,
To hunt, as men.

Tribal ways have come undone,
Time ravaged then passed,
Leaving hunger’s swollen wake.
Young boys unmade alive,
To pray for prey,
To fight, as men.

Shaka’s day came. Then went,
Advancing industry,
Exchanging liberty.
Unrest, these left and,
Once again,
To live, as men.


The world is what we see and believe it to be, but only as we see and believe it to be inside the faulty storage facility we call our brains.  Our input of all data is accumulated through five flawed senses originated over time to measure vibrations.  Sight measures and transmits the vibrations of light through our eyes.  Sound does so with physical shock vibrations through air and other substances.  Feel is merely a transmission from receptors in our bodies capable of receiving and passing on measured vibrations put out by the atoms making up the molecules we know of as the macro-world we live in.  As part of the American culture, the wealthiest country on the planet, we don’t live in the real world.  We live in this phenomenal world of our own resultant ‘creation.’  We live in what our senses interpret us to be living in.

We are prey.  Some of the prey is more protected than others, not by sensory perception but by actual protections afforded by the physical ‘real’ world around and impacting us.  Protection from the mind-numbing painful effects of this real-world is what every human strives throughout life to achieve.  The adventurer, who climbs high mountains, taking enormous physical risks, fears social and financial failure much more than the dangers he or she’s artificially created.  Many times dangerous adventures are embarked upon merely to diminish or set aside the other terrors the real world constantly reminds us of. We are prey.  We convince ourselves, one and all, that we are not prey because of our human capacity to imagine and change the physical world around us to some extent.

Humans can shift from a position of prey to that of a predator in seconds, not unlike other animals on the planet.  It is only humans, however, who can first imagine constructing a future to permit this change and then through planning and deliberation make it happen.  A small percentage of humanity accomplishes this on a regular basis.  We call these people the wealthy, the successful, the one percent, and other less complimentary names.  Using the commodity of money, our economic leveling unit of substance, these humans can constantly provide protection for themselves while also preparing to attack others.  There are few humans who are able to accede to great wealth who do not become predators of all others while seeking to prevent others from reaching their level of protection from becoming prey.

The most common prayer to God is a prayer asking for money in some form or other.  This prayer is not truly a prayer for money, as much as it is a prayer not to be prey.  It is a prayer for protection.  It is a prayer to be allowed or assisted in becoming a predator in order to keep from becoming prey.  Our human senses do not explain this phenomenal world we live in, any more than they help us understand what the real world is or why it exists at all.  Only our brilliantly flawed imagination helps us thereby creating belief systems.  Did God make us up or did we make him up?  There will never likely be an answer to that question, but we will continue to pray to him, as prey.

~~James Strauss


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