Passion, Power, and Revolution

After spending just a few weeks devoting myself to the pursuit of ecstasy, I’m starting to understand why certain people in our society go to such great lengths to control people’s passions.

Passion is POWER! Control the passions of the people, and you control the world. Set those passions free, and a free world will follow.

Politicians, corporations, and other so-called leaders control our sensual and sexual passions through a combination of aggressive advertising, media messages, and oppresive “moral” restrictions. They control our artistic and creative passions by creating a banal social and economic reality where we can only survive and prosper by denying the pursuit of our dreams. They control our spiritual passions by driving the sense of wonder out of our lives and forcing us to buy it back piecemeal, either through subservience to their hollow religious institutions or through expensive consumption of inspirational “products” such as movies and music.

They use these tools to control the ebb and flow of our passions. Our sensual, sexual, artistic, creative, and spiritual passions are all seen not as inborn qualities, but rather as distant prizes that we may one day claim if we obey their rigid rules and conform to their rigid order.

They tell us to consume more; question less; submit to authority; dominate the oppressed; abandon all sense of magic and wonder; ignore the fact that our empire is sending humanity and the Earth to hell in a handbasket; and if we don’t like it, we must pop a few more pills, and our discontent will be replaced with a bit of numbness and mild nausea.

Well, I will have none of it. Ecstasy is our birthright — and the passion that drives it is the fire that will fuel the revolution.

I’ve known about all of this intellectually for years now. In fact, I’ve spent the past ten years or so of my life developing an ever-richer understanding the many facets of the global crisis. But really, only in the past year or two of personal development has the answer to the crisis become more clear to me. And in my moment of clarity and passion, I feel driven to climb the highest mountain and shout the words of my visions for all the world to hear.

The details are amazingly complex, but the heart of it all is amazingly simple. And the heart of it is this:

We must reclaim our passions, and refocus them to the task of personal and planetary revolution. Not someday; not next year; not next month; and not even tomorrow. We must embrace our passion for a life of love and freedom, and we must do it NOW! Otherwise, within our lifetimes, the global climate will collapse, global society will dissolve, and life as we know it will end.

I really don’t like making such dire pronouncements, but that’s the truth of the matter. I’ve known it for a while now, and I can feel it burning in my bones and racing through my mind even as I write this. And really, I feel that our lives should be motivated by a passion for life rather than a fear of apocalypse. But since that doesn’t seem to be working for most of us — myself included, up until recently — I think it’s time to address the fact that we stand at a crossroads of tremendous significance.

Evidence is mounting at an accelerating rate in support of the existence of human-caused global climate change. And even without climate change, our social, economic, and political reality is creating an absurd amount of carnage that is simply intolerable. And even without the external threats, the forms of mass psychological control that have been developed in the Western world in the past 50-100 years have become such a dire threat to our individual psychological freedom that we must not tolerate them for a moment longer.

From the outermost reaches of the planet to the innermost confines of our minds, hearts, and spirits, our world is under siege from the forces of domination and destruction. This has been the case throughout history — but now, we are reaching a point of no return, where we must either choose to rise up in the name of freedom, or watch as all that we hold dear is destroyed before our very eyes.

Of course, this isn’t to say that everything in the world is bad! Far from it. If I believed that, then I wouldn’t even bother writing this entry. The good news is that we do indeed have the potential to create a better world — and in fact, even amidst the destruction described above, that world is emerging.

But that emerging world is so tender… so new… so delicate… like a single butterfly breaking through its cocoon in the midst of a thunderstorm. Unless we nurture, cherish, and protect it, it will die before it ever truly lives.

I just saw a movie called “Children of Men” recently, and I found it very moving. (Plot spoiler ahead!) Humanity had become infertile, and there were no children left in the world. Then, the first child born in 18 years — a newborn infant, now the only child in the world — was born in the midst of an uprising in a detention camp. There was this tremendous tension at the climax of the movie as bullets flew all around this child, threatening to end what may well be humanity’s last hope for new life. But then, there was this amazing moment that I’ll always remember.

It was a sudden moment of peace.

As the mother walked down a hallway and stairs with child in arms, the child was crying, and people immediately noticed the all-but-forgotten sound. One by one, they turned to mother and child, some reaching out to touch the child gently, as if to bless it and make sure that it was real. Soon, even the soldiers and militants stopped firing their guns, and the whole battlefield fell silent. Formerly stoic soldiers found their faces filled with looks of tenderness, and a few crossed themselves or humbled themselves to the child. As mother and child emerged from the building, there was this amazing sustained moment of peace as all people stood in awe of the miracle of life.

And then, of course, the moment passed, and the fighting resumed.

But still… I found the scene very inspiring, and it reminded me in a lot of ways of the present day situation that stands before us. A precious new life — a precious new incarnation of humanity — is being born at this very moment. Artists, poets, scientists, philosophers, students, teachers, spiritual seekers, and people in every walk of life are starting to see the world (and themselves) in new and exciting ways. With just a little more time, and a little more energy, and a little more focus, I just know in my heart that we will be able to create an entire world of tremendous freedom, tremendous abundance, and tremendous harmony among people and with the Earth.

We have the potential… and the potential is blooming… but at the very same time, the war is raging, and the threat of global suicide is looming. What we need right now more than anything is that moment of magic… that moment when everyone looks, and notices the birth of a newborn child, and pauses their fighting for just long enough to allow this new incarnation of humanity to be born safely into the world, and to pass safely through the carnage, if only for a moment.

At this point, further losses are inevitable… indeed, I fear that even with our best efforts, terrible tragedies lie ahead that we can scarcely even imagine at this point. But if we act now… if we follow our hearts, and act in whatever ways possible to foster the creation of that magic moment where a new humanity emerges… then all of this will not be in vain, and hope will be reborn in the ashes.

I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t even have all of the questions. But what I do have is a passionate love of life, love of humanity, and love of the Earth. And I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that now is the time for that “magic pause.”

So let’s do it. Let’s pause, if only for a moment, and work the magic of peace. Pause from our jobs; pause from our studies; pause from our personal pursuits; pause even from our frantic efforts to save the planet. Let’s pause, take a deep breath, ground, center, and stand together in a circle to discuss the challenges that face us.

What are all of the challenges? How do we feel about them? How do we respond to them, as individuals and as groups? What can we do differently, in the service of our values, even if we currently have no clue of how to do it?

Really, I don’t know what anyone else is going to do in 2007. But I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to reclaim my passions, and I’m going to devote them to the service of creating this magic moment, this turning point of revolution, where another world is possible — and indeed, another world is born. I’m going to do this by pursuing my own healing, and building community among the people I love, and travelling as much as possible to speak with others who are doing the same.

This is what I’m going to do in 2007 — and I invite you to join me.

With that said, it’s time to return to the work ahead. We’ve got rocky roads ahead, to be sure — but I know in my heart that we can face it all together.

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Projects for the New Year

Life is full of surprises, and I can’t say with any certainty what I’ll be working on tomorrow, much less a year from now. But as I mentioned in my last entry, I’m filled with an incredible passion for life that exceeds anything I’ve ever felt before. I want to live, to dance, to sing, to play, to work, to reach all of my aspirations in life, and to dream of wondrous dreams that others would not dare to imagine! All of this inspiration is starting to come into clearer focus now, to the point where I can narrow it down to three major projects that I’ll likely be working on in this new year.

The first project is my career as an author and public speaker. I didn’t used to like talking about it as a career for a variety of reasons. I’m obviously not in it for the money, and I will continue to speak and write about topics near and dear to my heart as often as I can, even if doing so leaves me penniless. But really, since this is my life’s work, and since I do endeavour to earn a living by it on a good day, it’s my career, or profession, or whatever else you might like to call it.

I’ve put off finishing up Gaia’s Orphans for at least a few more months while I work on developing a clear and effective plan for building my effectiveness within and beyond Southern Illinois. In the past, most of my books and speaking events have been very minimally promoted, either through word of mouth or simple methods such as flyering. This was because I spent all of my time focusing on the creative work and none of it focusing on distribution. From this point forward, though, I’m going to put much more effort into grassroots communications, promotions, and distributions. I have a good deal of important information and inspiration to share with the world, and it would be a shame if that didn’t happen just because I didn’t take the time to engage in enough outreach and networking. That’s a part of the revolution too, right?

My second big project is my goal to live in an intentional community no later than 2010. I believe that I first announced this goal publicly back when I released my first book, Revolution of One. Now, as the date approaches, I’m feeling increasingly worried about the prospects of finding or creating such a community here in Southern Illinois. I’m a very stubborn person, though, so rather than accepting defeat and fleeing to the West Coast, I’ve decided to devote the next three or so years to the task of finding the community I’m looking for right here.

Really, there are two angles to this search. In the short term, I’ve been gathering together the bits and pieces of this would-be community that already exist here in Southern Illinois. I’ve been spending more social time with a few of my friends who I really feel share a lot of good values in commmon — values such as independent thinking, love of true freedom, openness to visionary perspectives and actions, kind-heartedness, the ability to have fun, dedication to the service of good causes, and a love of the Earth and all beings who live here. I’ve also been spending time in organizations and activities that embody at least some of these values, and serve as good practice for any future community living situations.

In the end, though, my mind keeps coming back to how these short-term efforts may fit into the long-term goal of creating community. I really can’t help it… I don’t know if I was born with it, or if my fellow revolutionaries drove it into me, but I can’t help thinking strategically about short term successes and how they may serve long term goals. Even when I’m out dancing to my heart’s content, fully lost in the joy of the moment, I’ll get flashes of insight into how the current experience may relate to the eventual creation of revolutionary communities and societies.

So, in addition to all of the daily efforts to explore community as it exists on the ground today, I’m also examining ways to work toward the creation of an intentional community.

How, then, do we create an intentional community? That’s a question that I can’t answer alone. To be honest, if I seriously intend to stay in a region like Southern Illinois that currently has nothing like what I want to live in, then I’m pretty much at the mercy of other people and their interest or non-interest in intentional communities.

What I can do, though, is help to build groundwork that others may eventually use as a foundation for the creation of our/their intentional community. Along those lines, I have two big strategies for exploring this one big goal of creating community.

First of all, I’ve decided that I’m going to adopt the personal and community practices that I would like to see adopted by individuals in my desired community. This includes a variety of aspects such as a personal fitness practice; daily meditation and spiritual practices; community service work; regular interaction with the non-human natural world, ecological study, practice, and teaching; and plenty of spontaneous, creative, downright ecstatic personal and social activities to balance out all of that discipline and routine. [If you live here in Carbondale, and you haven’t seen me out dancing yet, you probably will son!]

Really, when it comes to communities, I’m willing to settle for a lot less than the very clear and specific personal vision that I have in mind. I know that not everyone in Southern Illinois is interested in becoming an anarchist pagan monk, and if I can’t find enough of us to start our own ecstatic activist monastic community, then I’d be happy to live in a much more broadly defined community. But in the meantime, I may as well start with what I truly desire most and go from there, eh?

My second big strategy for preparing for community living is to seek out others who are interested in forming a housing collective. It basically entails forming a group, then having our group either rent our buy a house (or houses, or apartments) that we will live in together. It’s a much simpler and more mellow process than trying to form a community… in fact, it’s pretty much just like having roommates. The only difference is that you meet regularly (once a week, or once a month) to discuss house issues, and you share in house responsibilities such as cleaning and often some shared meal planning. It’s an excellent experience, whether you see it as a fleeting moment in your life or preparation for further adventures in cooperative or community living.

Anyway… yeah. My career… my search for community… those are two of my big projects for this new year. What, then, is the third?

The third one is…

…a top secret project. 🙂

Hah! Oh, wouldn’t you like to know… seriously though, it’s not a terribly secret project. I’ve spoken to about a dozen people about it, and it’s a group project involving at least two other people currently, so it’s not entirely secret. But I don’t want to mention any of the details until it’s ready for the grand unveiling sometime next year. In the meantime, let’s just say that it’s a very creative and pioneering project that will let people have lots of fun while also possibly learning about and supporting good causes.

For a while, there was also a fourth project — an idea to start a specific local business here in Carbondale to fill a niche that isn’t currently being filled. However, for a variety of reasons, I’ve put that one on the back burner. I’d love to see it come to pass, though, so if you know of any enterprising spirits who share values at least remotely similar to my own, then feel free to direct them my way.

ANYWAY… yeah. Career, community, and Project X. Hopefully, there will be a bit of romance in there somewhere too… but if not, then I’ll just vent all of that extra energy on the dance floor and in my creative projects. If you have any ideas or other input about any of these, you know where to find me. In the meantime, I’m going to head out into the world in search of good food, good fun, and more inspiration for the revolution…

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That Which I Seek

Cult of Ecstasy: This is the symbol of the Cult of Ecstasy, one of the Traditions from Mage: The Ascension.I’d like to start this entry with a quote from the Charge of the Goddess:

“If that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without. For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

In other words, if you’re not happy inside, then nothing on the outside can make you happy. Some people, I suppose, would take this as an excuse to abandon revolutionary pursuits and just sit around contemplating the inner peace of their navel. But for me, I see it as just the opposite — a powerful lesson in the most powerful source of all revolutionary action.

Earlier in life, I saw revolution as some sort of overwhelming impersonal duty. My emerging empathic abilities informed me very quickly that billions of people are experiencing great suffering right now, not to mention the ecological havoc that is annihilating whole species each and every day of our lives. Since I could see the problems… and since “my” government/corporations had contributed to the problems… and since I might have the power to stop the problems… then wasn’t it my responsibility to take action?

The short answer is yes. Yes… all of us who see these problems have a responsibility to act. All of us who contribute to the problems have a responsibility to act. All of us who could conceiveably stop these problems have a responsibility to act.

But… and there’s ALWAYS a but… the true question lies in HOW to act.

Is it productive to walk around feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually crushed by an overwhelming sense of the horrors of the world? Is it productive to burn ourselves out in the span of a few precious years with forms of activism that only address the barest of symptoms? Is it productive to forbid ourselves the little joys of life, simply because other people are suffering and we don’t feel that we deserve joy until after the revolution?

The answer to these questions is no. No, no, and no. And no to a thousand other conscious and unconscious questions that haunt many of the activists and revolutionaries that I know.

I want to live in a better world. I can envision that world quite clearly now, and I believe it’s a vision that goes beyond my own personal preferences, into the realm of securing greater freedom and justice and peace for all people, and for the land itself. And for a long time, I feel like I’ve been holding back my own personal pleasure, as if waiting for the creation of a utopian society, or at least a small community that was prefigurative of such a society.

Maybe after the revolution, I’ll be happy, and joyful, and peaceful, and free, eh? Maybe I just need to hold all of that personal passion for life back until then so that it doesn’t get in the way, eh?

Well, as some of you may have noticed already, all of that holding back is over for me. I’m not waiting until “after the revolution” anymore… I’m living for that passion now, and I’m here to tell you that you should do the same.

What we really need right now is some passionate revolutionaries. We need people who feel that same sense of duty to fight oppression, but use that duty as an opportunity to let their passion and creativity shine.

Some people would say that it’s disrespectful, or perhaps even shameful, to live a life of passion, joy, and celebration while most if not all of the world is burning. But really… how are we going to create a better world if we can’t feel the beginnings of that world inside of ourselves? If we can’t feel that new world inside of ourselves, how are we going to create it on the outside, and who’s going to believe us that it’s really possible?

Passion is life… passion is love… passion is power. We are born to be passionate — to experience divine ecstasy in a way that most people alive today can scarcely even dream of. And yet, the systems of authority and oppression rob us of our birthright through a combination of physical, social, and psychological violence.

In order to change this system, we must start with some of the usual steps that activists and revolutionaries start with. We must come to a greater understanding of the problems, and we must work to formulate principles, strategies, and practicies that will lead to solutions. But once this rational organizing has formed the cold, firm flesh of our revolutionary movement, our passion must be the hot blood that animates every ounce of it.

When we’re in the midst of a campaign, we must pursue our goal with a single-minded passion, like wild berzerkers whose very survival depends upon success. And when we’re in the midst of our purely personal time, taking an hour or a day’s break from any organizing work, we must approach our own life with equal passion. We must sing and dance with our fellow travellers until the wee hours of morning. We must paint, draw, or write in a fit of focused fever, burning inside as though our very life depending on finishing that creative project. We must swear to ourselves and each other that we will no longer let our passions be tamed by any governments, corporations, groupthink, or any of the senseless inhibitions that they inspire.

I swore to myself long ago that I would live to see the destruction of this entire system of oppression. I swore that one day, I would be free, and all people would be free, and the Earth as a whole would be free and healthy. I swore that I would live to see this, or that I would haunt the Earth forever until it finally came to pass. And now, I’ve come to discover that the greatest force of all in this struggle will be our heart’s deepest passions, expressed in harmony with our visions for a better world.

Apathy is the engine of all systems of oppression. Why? Because your passion is at the core of your humanity. Once you learn to imprison your passion, you are essentially learning to imprison your own humanity. Therefore, with your humanity under lock and key, it becomes quite easy to teach you how to dominate others. This is the foundation of fascism — to suppress healthy human desires so that they may be replaced with an apathy for genuine humanity and a passion for service to the Machine.

Well, I say fuck the Machine. It may be struggling to control my body, but my mind has broken free, and it will never have my heart again. No walls can imprison me, and no chains can bind me. I’ve found freedom and passion in my heart… nothing can take that away from me, and it’s a gift that I intend to share with all the world.

It’s going to take a long time to make all of this renewed passion a reality, both in my personal life and in my political life. Let’s face it… I’ve spent the better part of the last ten or more years keeping a tight lid on my passions, either to fit in with the social reality or to deny myself pleasure in favor of supposedly revolutionary pursuits. But in the end, I learned that my passions are so strong that restraining them would literally be the death of me.

I have a deep, genuine desire to be free; to share the joys of that freedom with a community of people who think and live freely; and to serve in securing the freedom and well-being of others. If I resist this core passion of mine in any way, for even a moment, my very flesh starts to wither away. I don’t know if this is how it works for other people… but this is how it works for me, and I’m not going to deny my passions any longer. Merely living in the presence of the profound apathy that surrounds us is painful to me… if I embrace that apathy myself by repressing my emotions, then it literally makes me ill.

So what does all of this talk of passion really mean? In the short term, it means that I’ve been doing more singing, more dancing, more playing, more creating, and at times more mourning and anguishing over things that are beyond my control. [Wailing passionately is better than not crying at all…] But in the long term, I can tell already that it means that I’m becoming a more holistic person, capable of riding through the peaks and valleys of ecstasy and despair without losing my sense of inner peace and vision for a better life. On a personal level, this means my life is becoming more rich, more meaningful, more rewarding, and in an odd and unexpected way, more focused. On a political level, it means that my understanding of the personal aspects of revolution is deeping, and my ideas on revolutionary organizing are evolving.

How do the corporations sell people a bunch of worthless plastic crap that they don’t really need? They do it by appealing to their suppressed passions. “Hey, this product will make you have fun, look younger, feel more self-confident, and have sex with someone you desire.” Well, what would the corporations do if we found our own fun, our own youth, our own self-confidence, our own sexuality, without the help of their worthless products?

If that happened, we would truly be free. And if that were the end of it, it would only be a victory for us personally. But what if we felt that all people had the right to be free too? What if we took some of our newly liberate passion and directed it to the service of freedom for one and all? Why, we’d have a revolution on our hands!

THAT is what people want from revolution — something they can feel passionate about, and something that liberates their passions in return.

So that’s a theme I’ve been exploring in my life over the past few weeks… both philosophically and on the dance floor. If you’d like to explore it with me, you know where to find me. In the meantime, I’m off to express my passion further through some more writing elsewhere…

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Another Oak Falls

A few months ago, I wrote about a tree friend of mine that had been cut down on Oak Street. Alas, I found out recently that another of my favorite tree friends has fallen — this time, the one on Campus Lake that I call Leaning Oak.

Some people may think it’s silly for a human like me to call a tree their friend, or to mourn the death of a tree. To these people, I say that you should sit at the base of a tree for a while and see if you feel any differently.

When I sit at the base of a tree, or climb up in a tree’s branches, I find a peace inside of myself that I rarely find anywhere else. Whether you think it’s genetics, or ancestral memory, or some combination of the two, I believe it’s only natural for former tree-dwelling primates such as ourselves to form close and personal connections with the trees, and with all of the plants and animals of the living ecosystems that we call home.

Leaning Oak was almost certainly the tree that I’ve known the longest. At some point early on in my college years, I encountered this peculiar specimen during one of my many walks around Campus Lake here in Carbondale. From the looks of it, this tree had originally grown up much like any of its siblings on the same bank. However, unlike its siblings, this particular tree had laid its roots down very close to the shore.

Was the tree planted so close to the edge by some reckless human? Did it wander there as an acorn, driven by a sense of adventure to explore the boundaries of its earthy home? Or was its placement a random combination of wind, gravity, and other natural forces?

We may never know the answers to these questions. In any case, once the tree had laid down its roots, its fate may have been sealed. For at some unknown point in the life of this tree, a great cataclysm occured. I wasn’t there to witness it, but judging by the results, I can only imagine that a combination of erosion and the tree’s own growth lead to a partial collapse of the shore.

By the time I walked Campus Lake for the first time, this tree had fallen on its side. It leaned out over the lake, almost parallel to the water, with its roots still clinging to the eroded shore. At first glance, its position seemed quite precarious… but after years of occassional visits, I became convinced of just how strong and stable this tree really was.

Leaning Oak meant a lot of things to me at a lot of different times in my life. Sometimes, it was a refuge — a place to go when I felt alone, or afraid, or in need of a renewed connection with the Earth. Other times, it was a source of connection — a place to bring friends and loved ones who I felt would enjoy playing on a tree above the water, or at least enjoy watching me do the same. Other times still, it was food for thought — a place to contemplate the meaning of life, and death, and perseverance, and the connections among the elements.

Most of all, though, this tree was a friend. I see the trees as our elders, and this was a tree who listened and spoke to me on many occassions. And now, through some unknown final act, Leaning Oak is gone.

I first discovered the disappearance of Leaning Oak months ago, when I took a friend out there at night for a visit. For a moment, I thought that I must surely just be missing the tree in the dark. But the path was so familiar that I could have walked it blindfolded — and once I saw the large chunks of gravel lining the shore, I knew that someone had done work to prevent erosion in the spot where Leaning Oak had once stood.

That night was a curious night unto itself, so I didn’t have a chance then to honor the Leaning Oak’s passing. A few days ago, though, I took the time to walk out to Campus Lake specifically to pay my respects for one last time.

It was really good to make it out onto Campus Lake. On some level, that place feels more like an urban park to me than like a wooded lake, with its asphalt paths and abundant evidence of human habitation. However, Leaning Oak was one of the first places where I truly started to see beyond the false dichotomy between humanity and nature… and sure enough, as I sat on that shore, I felt a deeper connection to the Earth and the natural world than I had in months.

I felt sad… almost surprisingly so. I knew that this day would come eventually, even though Leaning Oak’s branches budded with new life every year… but somehow, I always thought that this fateful day would come much later, perhaps even after I had passed on. Something of the character of that side of the lake has been lost… another tree fallen to erosion, just as so many tres in the rest of the world have fallen to an erosion of a different sort.

But really, on another level, I felt almost happy. Surely, it must have been a struggle to stay on that shore… and now, however its final days had unfolded, this tree had found its peace. As I watched the many ripples on the face of the water, I felt a tremendous sense of peace… one tree was gone, but the water still flowed, and the wind still blew, and the wheel of life continued to turn. I felt myself shifting into my forest consciousness, even with so many buildings and roads and people criss-crossing this wounded landscape.

I don’t feel that my time with Leaning Oak can be distilled into any single lesson… but as I looked out on those waters, I knew in my heart that I had learned a great deal since the day, not so long ago, when a young man named Justin had anxiously stepped out onto that Leaning Oak to sit above the lake and look for a moment’s peace.

I have other things to talk about too… news in my life, and news that may go beyond my own little bubble. But I’ll leave that for another entry… perhaps even another day. In the meantime, let me close this entry by thanking Leaning Oak for our time together. And if you’ve never hung out with the trees before, now is as good of a time as any to start!

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My name is Treesong. I'm a father, author, talk radio host, and Real Life Superhero. I live in Carbondale, Southern Illinois. I write novels, short stories, and poetry, mostly about the climate.

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