Feb 03 2016

Jacopone da Todi – Love, where did You enter the heart unseen?

Published by under Poetry

Love, where did You enter the heart unseen? (from In Praise of Divine Love)
by Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

English version by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes

Love, where did You enter the heart unseen?
Lovable Love, joyful Love, unthinkable Love,
In Your plenitude You lie far beyond the reach of reason.

Love, jocund and joyous,
Divine fire, You do not stint
Of your endlessly beautiful riches.

— from Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality), Translated by Serge and Elizabeth Hughes


/ Image by eggybird /

In these lines, the word “Love” almost becomes a chant: “Lovable Love, joyful Love, unthinkable Love…” The phrases invite repetition, circling round and round in the awareness until they lead to the very subject which they praise.

And what a delightful phrase: — “Love, jocund and joyous.” Those words roll around on the tongue like melting chocolate.

There are several key phrases here that particularly grab my attention:

Love, where did You enter the heart unseen?

In states of deep spiritual communion, when the agitations of the mind are at rest and the attention is not seeking outward distractions, all awareness settles into the heart, touching everything without the need to reach out to do so. It is an experience of expansiveness without movement, of absolute contentment and interconnection… and an experience of all-encompassing love.

What is often surprising is the recognition that this inner heart, this spiritual heart has always been at rest in this profound state of love, even though we somehow have spent years not recognizing it. It is as if a thief has stolen unseen into the heart, but riches are given rather than taken. Treasures are suddenly scattered everywhere through the heart — even far into the forgotten past.

Love, jocund and joyous…

A giddy joy comes upon us in the ecstatic state, felt especially as a spreading warmth upon the heart. This is greater and, at the same time subtler, than what is normally called happiness. Happiness is sharp-edged and fleeting, but this joy is filled with peace and completely independent of external circumstances. This quiet bliss is steady and radiant.

Divine fire, You do not stint…

In deep spiritual ecstasy, there is often a sense of heat — filled with immense love — that permeates the body. This is such a wonderful fire that mystics often describe it as the flame of love.

This love is not some philosophical notion, it’s not some passing emotion, it is simply, inexplicably there, quietly glowing within each heart, waiting to be discovered.

Lovable Love, joyful Love, unthinkable Love…


PS- Do you want in on a secret? I have quietly begun work on a new Poetry Chaikhana anthology. I hope to have it ready for you this summer.

Actually, I am also thinking of putting together a small book of the ‘Thought for the Day’ sayings, as well. What do you think? Will that make a good book?


Recommended Books: Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty Jacopone da Todi: Lauds (Classics of Western Spirituality) All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time


Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti), Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti) poetry, Christian poetry Jacopone da Todi (Jacopone Benedetti)

Italy (1230 – 1306) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Feb 03 2016

mystic’s awareness

The mystic’s awareness
does not sift reality,
it bathes in it.

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Jan 27 2016

Mary Oliver – The Lark

Published by under Poetry

The Lark
by Mary Oliver

And I have seen,
at dawn,
the lark
spin out of the long grass

and into the pink air —
its wings,
which are neither wide
nor overstrong,

fluttering —
the pectorals
ploughing and flashing
for nothing but altitude —

and the song
bursting
all the while
from the red throat.

And then he descends,
and is sorry.
His little head hangs
and he pants for breath

for a few moments
among the hoops of the grass,
which are crisp and dry,
where most of his living is done —

and then something summons him again
and up he goes,
his shoulders working,
his whole body almost collapsing and floating

to the edges of the world.
We are reconciled, I think,
to too much.
Better to be a bird, like this one —

an ornament of the eternal.
As he came down once, to the nest of the grass,
“Squander the day, but save the soul,”
I heard him say.

— from What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by kkart /

Something about those closing lines brings a smile to my face:

“Squander the day, but save the soul,”
I heard him say.

It reminds me of Whitman’s great line: “I loaf and invite my soul.”

A reminder for us all today from the simple wisdom of the lark to be at ease in the timeless. That God-self in each one of us, it is recognized in deep peace, not in our endless doings…

Remember to do a little wise squandering today! 🙂


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

Why I Wake Early New and Selected Poems House of Light American Primitive What Do We Know: Poems and Prose Poems
More Books >>


Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 27 2016

map

Sacred texts:

A map doesn’t mean anything
if you don’t make the journey.

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Jan 22 2016

Abu-Said Abil-Kheir – Rise early at dawn

Published by under Poetry

Rise early at dawn, when our storytelling begins
by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

English version by Vraje Abramian

Rise early at dawn, when our storytelling begins.
In the dead of the night, when all other doors are locked,
the door for the Lovers to enter opens.
Be wide awake in the dark when Lovers
begin fluttering around the Beloved’s window,
like homing pigeons arriving with flaming bodies.

— from Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Translated by Vraje Abramian


/ Image by legends2k /

I admit, I may have arisen a little after dawn this morning, but reading these words by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir makes me want to wake up full of energy in the middle of the night. That’s when our storytelling begins.

Actually, let’s not hurry past that reference to storytelling. It’s in the darkness that we tell stories. In a world before electricity or gas lights, nighttime is the end of activity. So we tell stories. Nighttime is when we normally sleep, and dream.

But most of us do this rather passively. We listen to another person’s story. Or in the modern world, perhaps we watch television. We go to sleep, we dream, we wake up, we forget.

Not so for the seeker. The stories we tell ourselves are the stories of the soul, the way the self understands itself. In dreams and stories we reformulate our perception of the world, deepen it. And in doing so the psyche becomes more dynamic and alive to its own possibilities.

Most people imagine life shuts down at night, but a lover knows better. When the rest of the world rests, the lover finds those sweet illicit moments with the Beloved. Even if it’s just a glimpse, a smile through the window’s lattice, that is what the lover lives for. We light up, we catch fire in the night.


Recommended Books: Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Nobody, Son of Nobody: Poems of Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir Love’s Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition The Mystics of Islam
More Books >>


Abu-Said Abil-Kheir

Turkmenistan (967 – 1049) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jan 22 2016

even our tragedies

The Divine Mother loves so fully
that She fills even our tragedies
with blessings.

No responses yet

Jan 20 2016

Mahmud Shabistari – The Marriage of the Soul

Published by under Poetry

The Marriage of the Soul (from The Secret Rose Garden)
by Mahmud Shabistari

English version by Florence Lederer

Descending to the earth, that strange intoxicating beauty of the unseen world
lurks in the elements of nature.

And the soul of man,
who has attained the rightful balance,
becoming aware of this hidden joy,
straightaway is enamored and bewitched.

And from this mystic marriage are born
the poets’ songs, inner knowledge,
the language of the heart, virtuous living,
and the fair child Beauty.

And the Great Soul gives to man as dowry
the hidden glory of the world.

— from The Secret Rose Garden: Mahmud Shabistari, Translated by Florence Lederer / Edited by David Fideler


/ Image by LaurenCalaway /

Descending to the earth, that strange intoxicating beauty of the unseen world
lurks in the elements of nature.

To dive more deeply into the meaning of these verses, first we need to recognize who “that strange intoxicating beauty of the unseen world” is. Of course, Shabistari is referring to God, the subtle divine presence hidden within the seemingly tangible, concrete world of daily experience.

And the soul of man,
who has attained the rightful balance,
becoming aware of this hidden joy,
straightaway is enamored and bewitched.

As we, through spiritual practice and intelligent yielding, attain “the rightful balance,” we can directly perceive that presence within everything, everywhere, most importantly within ourselves. And, perhaps surprisingly, we discover that it is a “joy.” Accompanying this recognition of the divine presence everywhere is a flood of bliss and delight. How can a lover of God not then be “enamored and bewitched”?

And from this mystic marriage are born
the poets’ songs, inner knowledge,
the language of the heart, virtuous living,
and the fair child Beauty.

I think I particularly like these lines. This is the moment that various traditions refer to as the mystic marriage, the unio mystica — Union. This moment of profoundest Oneness between the individual soul and the universal divine is the root experience of all spirituality. You may be aware that the word “yoga” means to yoke or join… in union, but we forget that the word “religion” itself means to reconnect or rejoin; they are essentially the same word. All of these words speak to us of union. This is the core impulse of every religion and spiritual tradition: The Marriage of the Soul.

That mystic marriage is not just a giddy experience of bliss; something is unlocked within the individual. The mystic perceive oneself and reality differently, but also unexpected gifts and creativity are revealed within the renewed mind. Not uncommonly, mystics begin to write poetry… or, if they have been writing poetry all along, their poetry takes on a new life, a deeper resonance that carries the breath of the mysteries. (This is why there is such an overlap in the ancient world between poetry and mysticism.)

Mystics also speak of “knowledge” or gnosis, but it is not knowledge in the sense of information or data. It is true that one’s intuition may be heightened, but the inner knowledge referred to here is more of a sense of awareness. It is as if one floats in the vast ocean of knowingness. It is more of an all-encompassing recognition of meaning and interrelationship, the sense that this living meaning somehow flows through all of existence, unifying everything in a living self-awareness.

In mystical union, there is less separation between the conscious self and the heart of one’s being. In other words, that union is not just about the connection between the individual and some external sense of God or universal consciousness; all the disparate parts within the individual are unified, as well. It is an interior marriage as much as an exterior marriage. That spiritual union results in an interior harmony — which we might call “the fair child Beauty.”

And the Great Soul gives to man as dowry
the hidden glory of the world.

That pervading beauty and harmony, that creativity and knowledge, that centering within the full self, all of that is the wedding gift the mystic receives, which, in turn, becomes the mystic’s gift to the world.


Recommended Books: Mahmud Shabistari

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom The Secret Rose Garden: Mahmud Shabistari Beyond Faith and Infidelity: The Sufi Poetry and Teachings of Mahmud Shabistari


Mahmud Shabistari, Mahmud Shabistari poetry, Muslim / Sufi poetry Mahmud Shabistari

Iran/Persia (1250? – 1340) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Jan 20 2016

stories

The little self is simply
the sum total of all the stories
we tell ourselves.

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Jan 15 2016

R. S. Thomas – But the silence in the mind

Published by under Poetry

But the silence in the mind
by R. S. Thomas

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best, within
listening distance of the silence
we call God. This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.
We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins;
that calls us out over our
own fathoms. What to do
but draw a little nearer to
such ubiquity by remaining still?

— from For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics, by Roger Housden


/ Image by MindSqueeZe /

But the silence in the mind
is when we live best…

Isn’t this poem delightful in its stillness?

This is the deep
calling to deep of the psalm-
writer, the bottomless ocean.

I particularly like the image of launching an armada of thoughts out on the bottomless ocean of silent mind.

We launch the armada of
our thoughts on, never arriving.

The silence is so vast that the thoughts can never arrive; they just fade into the misty distances. The image puts proper scale to our thoughts. They are tiny products that barely have substance amidst the great expanse we discover in silence.

The silence is seen, then, not as a negation or emptiness, but an overlooked, all-encompasing dimension of reality and being:

It is a presence, then,
whose margins are our margins

And it is a challenge to us, a beckoning call…

that calls us out over our
own fathoms.

I was a teenager in the 1980s, when the first personal computers started to become available. And, yes, I was one of those nerdy computer kids, spending hours in front of the computer screen, when I wasn’t down at the neighborhood arcade feeding quarters into Pac Man and Space Invaders. It was a new medium, a new world built of light, different ways to display light, manipulate light, and finding meaning in that light. The mathematics, art, and movement of light were mesmerizing.

But once the giddiness and sense of power wears off, you realize how restless that world is. The human mind, never much at ease in any historical period, now has endless promptings to remain entranced and agitated.

I went through a period when I rejected computers and as many other elements of modern technology as I could. I desperately wanted to find out what it meant to live in the essential state of being human. What did it mean to be human 500 years ago? 5,000 years ago? What is the essential human experience of life and self-awareness?

I began to seek remote places in nature, where I could meditate and fast.

I wanted to discover that “silence in the mind” that brings us–

…within
listening distance of the silence
we call God.

Don’t get me wrong– I’m a modern person, a product of the modern era. I would greatly resent being thrust back into some previous era. I don’t take the freedoms and possibilities of my modern life for granted.

But we so miss having a place in society for silence. We are given very little encouragement to cultivate stillness. More than ever we must fight to create the space for silence in our lives. I feel great love and respect for all you misfits and spiritual revolutionaries out there quietly holding ajar the doorways to silence. You are the hope of the world.

What to do
but draw a little nearer…?

…All this, typed on a computer, sent out over the Internet. (Ivan, still trying to find ways to make light move, yet in ways that inspire peace.)


Recommended Books: R. S. Thomas

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds R. S. Thomas: Selected Poems R. S. Thomas (Everyman Poetry) R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990
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R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline
Christian

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Jan 15 2016

struggle

It is the struggle to attain spiritual awakening
that makes us strong enough to actually receive it.

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Jan 12 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke – A Walk

Published by under Poetry

A Walk
by Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Robert Bly

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance–

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on,
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

— from Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, Translated by Robert Bly


/ Image by Sergiba /

My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.

This is a fascinating truth that we tend to forget in the hard materiality of the modern world-view: We do not only touch the things with which we come into physical contact. We are often just as profoundly affected by what we see, even when it is out of our reach or not yet within our reach in the physical sense. Sight is a form of touch. It is contact. We touch, and are touched by, what we see.

Rilke’s insight invites us to expand our understanding further still. If what we see with our eyes is a vital sort of contact, then, naturally, what we see, but not with our eyes is just as vital. What we imagine, what we daydream, what we plan, what comes to us in dreams and meditative vision, these touch us too. They affect us. We react to them. They nurture us, feed us, or they may unsettle us and break our hearts.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance–

Real touch is not about fingertips on skin or hard metal or stacks of money. Real touch is heart to heart, mind to mind. Real touch is a process within the awareness, not about dense matter encountering more dense matter.

What we seek is never what we seek, but the affect it has on us. With everything we seek, what we actually seek is self-transformation. And, of course, that transformed self is already within us, just awaiting our own permission to be that. That is why Rilke says–

and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are…

Whether we yearn for a beloved person or place or circumstance, that encounter always awaits us within.

a gesture waves us on,
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.

We can read his final lines as suggesting something about the ephemeral nature of reality, or it can be the dawning recognition that we are continuously receiving communication, encouragement, contact, we have just been missing it because of our fixed ideas about what we seek and what is real.

Sending love to you in this new year…


Recommended Books: Rainer Maria Rilke

The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry Ahead of All Parting: The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred Poems from Many Cultures Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God In Praise of Mortality: Rilke’s Duino Elegies & Sonnets to Orpheus
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Rainer Maria Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rainer Maria Rilke

Germany (1875 – 1926) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic

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Jan 12 2016

moments

The slow realization
of a lifetime lived with attention:
the satisfaction of simple moments.

No responses yet

Dec 17 2015

Teresa of Avila – You are Christ’s Hands

Published by under Poetry

You are Christ’s Hands
by Teresa of Avila (attributed)

Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
      no hands but yours,
      no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
      Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
      doing good;
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now.

— from The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology), Edited by Ivan M. Granger


/ Image by batega /

With Christmas coming up, I thought this might be a poem one to contemplate. While this poem is popularly attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, it is not among her officially recognized works.

Whether this was composed by Teresa of Avila herself or by an anonymous Christian poet, this is one of my favorite prayer-poems. It is a prayer of supreme spiritual maturity. It is not someone imploring Christ to come and fix everything in the external way imagined by so many fundamentalist sects; rather, it recognizes the presence of the Divine within each of us and our sacred responsibility to embody that compassion and service within the world. Each one of us is the vehicle through which Christ (or Ishwara or the Buddha) enacts blessings in the world. Our job is to let that sacred current flow through us unhindered.

Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now…

Whether you celebrate Christmas or recently celebrated Hanukkah or are readying for the Solstice — or simply watching as the light to renew itself amidst the darkness of winter — may this be a special time for you. And may the light in your life bring light and hope to others.


Recommended Books: Teresa of Avila

The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (A Poetry Chaikhana Anthology) Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Essential Mystics: Selections from the World’s Great Wisdom Traditions For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics
More Books >>


Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Avila poetry, Christian poetry Teresa of Avila

Spain (1515 – 1582) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Dec 17 2015

miracle

A miracle isn’t an event or an experience.
It is a moment of recognition:
We glimpse the wider reality,
and what we witness washes us away.

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Dec 16 2015

Mechthild of Magdeburg – A fish cannot drown in water

Published by under Poetry

A fish cannot drown in water
by Mechthild of Magdeburg

English version by Jane Hirshfield

A fish cannot drown in water,
A bird does not fall in air.
In the fire of creation,
God doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.
Each creature God made
must live in its own true nature;
How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?

— from The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, by Stephen Mitchell


/ Image by kopita /

In the fire of creation,
God doesn’t vanish:
The fire brightens.

Aren’t those wonderful lines? We have a tendency to be overwhelmed by the intensity of life… the “fire of creation.” In that overwhelm we often have a self-protective psychic reflex to wall out the things and experiences we label as painful. We create a mental separation and tell ourselves, “This is me. And that out there is the pain.” That’s natural, right? In extreme cases, maybe it’s even necessary — in the moment.

The problem with that in the long term is that, over time, as we live and experience more, we wall off more and more until we inhabit a fragmented psychic landscape. And, in that fragmentation, we lose the vision of unity. This is how God seems to “vanish” in the fire of creation. This is how we lose our connection with the fundamental ground of being and forget our true nature.

BUT- through spiritual practice, through deep self-acceptance, through fearless observation, those psychic walls come tumbling down. And then, all at once, the vision comes, and we are overwhelmed with its brightness!

Like a fish in water and a bird in the air, the Eternal lives and moves through all of creation. Material reality is the medium of expression for the Immaterial. It is That, and nothing less, which is the all-pervading animating warmth and life of all things. When we rediscover it, all of creation shines.

How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?

So often spiritual seekers struggle with the question of how to find God, how to get to heaven, how to attain salvation, or enlightenment, or true yoga… What are they really? Do they even have value in ‘real life’? But Mechthild reminds us that it is our very nature to seek that unity. The real key is to simply stop resisting our nature. Seekers strive, but saints get out of the way.


Recommended Books: Mechthild of Magdeburg

Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women Poetry for the Spirit: Poems of Universal Wisdom and Beauty The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry German Mystical Writings: Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, and others The Mystic in Love: A Treasury of Mystical Poetry
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Mechthild of Magdeburg, Mechthild of Magdeburg poetry, Christian poetry Mechthild of Magdeburg

Germany (1207 – 1297) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Dec 16 2015

recognize enlightenment

You don’t acquire enlightenment;
you recognize it.

No responses yet

Dec 16 2015

Favorite Christmas CDs

Published by under Music

Here are some favorite Christmas CDs I’ve been listening to this year:

Handel’s Messiah
Still elevates my spirit every time I listen. To me, this music still evokes something holy about Christmas.

Nutrcracker Suite
The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy perfectly captures that quiet, barely contained excitement of Christmas Eve.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, by The Vince Guaraldi Trio
Skating evokes that sleepy wintertime magic. Linus and Lucy. Schroeder’s Fur Elise.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Cyrus Chestnut & Friends
Takes Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas music and adds some spice and playfulness. Skating played on harmonica. Fur Elise as samba.

Downe in yon Forrest, by Kemper Crabb
Medieval and Renaissance Christmas music with a speedy tempo and a some unexpected flair. This one has grown on me to become a real favorite.

Noel, by Joan Baez
Joan Baez’s soaring voice singing Christmas carols. Christmas Eve, with a lit candle, listening to Noel — a perfect moment.

— What are you listening to this year?

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