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God: Wholesale And Retail


BillM
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(Note: This is sort of a continuation of Joseph's thread on defining God.)

 

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker recently. As many of you probably know, a sports star recently "came out" and admitted that he was gay. My coworker, a very conservative Christian, made a joke about not wanting to be on a playing field with this certain sports star for fear of being propositioned. I, perhaps foolishly, responded that gays are not necessarily promiscuous and that God loved them too. My coworker shot back that the "God of the Bible" would never allow gays into his heaven. Hmm. It got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about how much my own concepts of God, my own definitions and experiences of God, really mirror "the God of the Bible." I obviously believe differently about God than my coworker. Which of us is right? Or does it even matter?

 

Out of my musings, I think the metaphor of wholesale and retail God works for me. Allow me to explain and to ask for your own thoughts on this.

 

Without going too much into definitions, I think there is GOD as GOD really is. Let's personify GOD for a minute and presuppose that GOD, whatever GOD is, is aware of GOD's existence and knows who/what GOD is. This is, in my metaphor, the WHOLESALE GOD, GOD as GOD knows GOD to be.

 

But none of us are GOD. My wife assures me that I am not. :) And, as the old saying goes, it takes one to know one. If this is true, then none of us, being human, can truly know GOD as GOD is. All we can know is our human experiences and concepts of GOD. And these human experiences and concepts are the RETAIL God. Spong puts it this way, "If horses had gods, they would be horses." The notion is that we can't help but to conceive of GOD in human terms, and the GOD we experience is the God of our religions.

 

I don't want this OP to get too long, so I'll wrap this up for now. To me, "the God of the Bible" is not the GOD who is, GOD as GOD knows GOD to be. Rather, he is Yahweh or the Father of Jesus, both human conceptions of GOD. This doesn't necessarily make these images wrong, but it does mean that they are limited. As humans, we are limited.

 

I have to freely admit that I don't know GOD, the wholesale GOD. All I have, at best, is my own experiences and concepts. And these are retail. This is GOD filtered through humanity to become God (with at least one letter capitalized). And my God is often a little "bigger" than "the God of the Bible," than Yahweh. Sometimes my God is even a little "bigger" than the Father of Jesus who still seems to exclude some from his kingdom. But that's okay. I want my God as big as possible. :)

 

Any feedback?

 

BillM

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Bill that is an interesting conversation. The Bible says, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
It seems we are like a mirror facing God, our word within a Word can be referred to as the microcosm within the macrocosm each containing all the qualities of the other. That is why we can say we are made in the image and likeness of God. Microcosmic mind being more outward and objective and God's macrocosmic mind being inward and subjective because everything is within God. As ordinary men and women we see everything in its outward appearance. God the Father sees everything in His inward appearance because all of creation is within Him. All that exists in this world from the vast universe down to the minutest atom exists in God so only the form changes. If people can't relate to God, I think pure consciousness or God's pure consciousness is just as good. God the Father is the eternal witness seeing everything inwardly, and in reference to us he sees everything internally and externally through our eyes. Pure consciousness pervades everything and is the linking force of all that is. Therefore, my duty is to expand my mind and make contact with this force that maintains our life. Physicist are doing this with the unitive theory, string theory and M theory. My friends who are gay are created by God and I can see the Divinity within them. Christians with a narrow view are only hurting themselves out of a fear to expand and accept a broader view of God, pure energy. We have experienced it and it is not a pretty place. They have built a pond of pure consciousness and call that God afraid to dive into the ocean and that is OK. We are not going to change them, they have to change themselves. I think the problem is not that God created us in his image, but that we created God in our narrow immage.

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>>I think the problem is not that God created us in his image, but that we created God in our narrow image.

 

I suspect that such is the case, Soma, both in the Bible and now. IMO, God's character does change somewhat throughout the Bible's stories. One explanation could be what Process Theology points to, that God, like all living things, changes and grows with experience. Another explanation for the differences could be what is called Progressive Revelation. But I find it much more plausible to think that it is OUR understanding of GOD that changes.

 

And, to me, problems arise when we think our understanding(s) is THE understanding, when we believe that our concepts of God are GOD GOD's-self. Then, in a very real sense, we do commit idolatry because we are worshipping our own concepts of GOD and think they fully capture GOD.

 

As my journey continues (which I am really only on the beginning of), I am finding that God is, for me, less Someone to believe in, but a Reality to be experienced. The closest I can come to defining God is to say that, for me, God is an empowering Presence of compassion. But even those words fall short of describing the experience. This doesn't mean I always experience this Presence, because I don't. But it is one thing for me to agree with my coworker that God is love, and it is another for my actions and attitudes to be in harmony with that theological concept.

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I agree with everything you stated. You are experiencing God the ever present in your co-worker, yourself and others you contact through the varried experiences. When I am mindful I enjoy the God's dance in the varried forms. When I am not conscious of the ever present moment, I seem to get hit in the face with the movements of the dance.

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I think you might enjoy some of the Sermons written by Meister Eckhart in this regard. He often spoke of "God" and God. He also famously stated: "Pray to God that you may be free of "God".

 

Simone Weil also has some very interesting insights along these lines. Neither mystic is easy to understand, and Weil may be even more difficult than Eckhart, but these ideas are more to be pondered than to force an instant insight.

 

Peace.

Steve

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Well, Soma, I think I have two left feet! :D

 

You may be right about Eckhart, Steve. I haven't heard of Weil. I've noticed that my "taste" in religious reading has changed a bit lately from "systematic theology" to a more testimonial or experiential approach. But I suppose I have, oddly, grown more comfortable in knowing that my own experiences are valid, even if they don't line up with those of the Bible or the church or Christianity in general. Being an idealist, I would like my "retail God" (my ideas and experiences of God) to be as close to the "wholesale" GOD as possible, and, in fact, believe that some religions do come closer to the "real thing" than others do. But I realize my own limitations and faults and subjectivities. I can't authoritatively speak of the wholesale GOD, for that is like only one blind man trying to describe the whole elephant. But I can speak of the part of the elephant that I have experienced, and that part, seems to me, is love and grace and unconditional acceptance. Whether this is a creation of my own mind, I do not know. Whether it is all of God or only 0.05%, I do not know. But if it does no harm to myself or others, then, perhaps, it is valid.

 

Well, just rambling thoughts. I appreciate everyone's input.

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As my journey continues (which I am really only on the beginning of), I am finding that God is, for me, less Someone to believe in, but a Reality to be experienced.

Bill,

This seems to me to be in my experience a very profound and insightful statement.

 

Joseph.

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Bill,

 

Wholesale for me, God is the substrate by which i exist as a human. God is the very source of my being, the all in all, Absolute reality, creation itself and the indivisible One.

 

Retail for "me", God is One and at the same time many, is in yet beyond my words or concepts, is both abstract and concrete , is both present and absent at the same time, is with and without form and separate yet indivisible and intimate to what is referred to as "me".

 

I realize i haven't really said anything . The nature of God to me is like that. Its easier to say what God is not. Perhaps it is best spoken in silence? Bill said " But none of us are God". It does at most times seems so since i see the world , a soul and God as three yet at times when "i" is extinguished the three are experienced or seen as One without a seer being present. It's paradoxical or a conundrum / riddle to say the least.

 

Just my babbling,

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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I am reading Meister Eckhart now and because of this thread have started my second book so thank you for the inspiration. I know I will have to write and then rewrite and rewrite many times, but it is nice to take the first step. I feel my audience is Christian an the theme is unity.

Christian Mysticism is not reading about theories or taking anything on
faith. It only deals with what works to bring about enjoyment and the good
qualities of life. It is not dangerous as some Christians without knowledge and
proper practice would have you believe. On the contrary, it is a profound and
incredible spiritual experience that can induce fear in those not acquainted
with the mind of Christ. The fear that the extreme Christians invoke is
what is toxic and treacherous not the mysticism. Some mistakenly project
their fear of contact with the Divinity within. Our soul automatically
relaxes the mind and in turn the body, but the terror some profess will never
relax the mind because it only activates it.





Christian Mysticism does not destroy the Christianity one is accustomed to, the
rituals, the symbols or the history. It is like climbing a mountain and
getting a new and more expansive view. Christianity brings one to the
mountain and Christian Mysticism increases the connections making the Christian
environment richer and more meaningful. The point where we started in
Christianity still exist and is still a part of our culture, but it appears
smaller as we climb the mountain and awaken an all-inclusive, and
all-encompassing comprehension.





The church has had a dim, narrow view for over a thousand years, so I place it
at the base of the mountain. The restricted understanding by church leaders was
already scrutinized by Martin Luther when Newtonian physics challenged the
limited philosophy and the power projected by the church authorities.
Copernicus work was banned by the church and Galileo was seized and threatened
with jail for declaring that the earth revolved around the sun. The old
Newtonian physics measures an external world that exists separate from us.
Quantum mechanics, the new physics on the other hand states that we can’t
observe existence without changing it as if we are a part and can’t be
separated. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity energy becomes
mass and mass becomes energy, E=MC2. It seems according to the new view
that we are interconnected and our meaning arises from our relationship to the
whole, energy mixing with energy. We have already started up the hill and
can now see that the separate parts of the universe are connected in unity in a
direct way.



 



In the grace and comfort of unity, a spiritual
experience encounters a new heaven and a new earth where everything is united.
The confusions on the physical plane, the duality of the sins and miseries of
the mind are not remembered or renewed in this experience. In the present
moment harmony we see the balance and unity of opposites. A center of heaven on
earth has glory in our sorrows because at our lowest point we are the most open
to change and renewal. The beast in us can lay with our innocence in a new life where we are
whole or holy.



 




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Joseph,

 

>>It's easier to say what God is not.

 

As I consider things comparatively, this rings true for me as well.

 

>>Perhaps it is best spoken in silence?

 

This, it seems to me, is the contemplative experience. Words fail to fully capture or describe. And yet they can act as markers, as bread-crumbs, as little invitations.

 

But I also agree that there are the moments when the separateness disappears. When the veil is thin or pulled back and we see that all is Divine, that all has its source in the One. Going back to my metaphor, this is the wholesale GOD. This is not the Christian God or the Jewish God or the Muslim God. This is GOD beyond the separations and distinctions that we humans often seek to impose upon GOD. This, to me, is the GOD I trust with my life and my "afterlife" (whatever that may be), but which I am hesitant to describe with much level of confidence. And I think I understand about the paradox, because while this GOD is not human, this GOD is able to take us into GOD's being.

 

The retail God is, if not human, then superhuman. This God has many of the same traits that I do. He can get jealous. He can grow weary. He can forgive or not forgive. He can have his likes and dislikes. He can put rules before relationship. Of course, he can be gracious and loving too. But there is usually a catch. He often requires that I meet certain criteria through certain practices or beliefs. It is not that he is bad, it is just that he is...fickle. He is some of my best traits and some of my worst traits magnified. He loves those I love. He hates those I hate. As my coworker says, he won't share his heaven with anyone who isn't exactly like him. He is, I suspect, an amalgamation of my glimpses of the true GOD that can only be experienced and my own ID that wants control, that seeks to elevate self.

 

I think GOD is real. There is much evidence for our very best ideas about GOD. I don't think GOD is just "all in our heads." Yet, I think we often dress GOD up in human clothing. This is a natural and tempting thing to do, to create GOD in our own image. But I suspect that when we do so, we end up worshipping ourselves.

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Soma,

 

Thanks for sharing this. Are these your thoughts from Eckhart's book or direct quotes?

 

As you may know, I am one who, only a short time ago, would have been scared of, skeptical of, and opposed to mysticism. To me, it smacked of Satan's desire to ascend to the most High, to unseat God, to rule in God's place, to claim a place of Divinity that is relegated to God alone. There are so many warnings in the Bible about God being God alone and how there is none like him. Plus, I believed what the church has constantly reinforced down through the years, that we are no more than sinners saved by grace and that even the saved are still separated from God by their sins.

 

Little by little, my eyes are being opened. I concluded teaching a series in Sunday School on Jesus' parables. It was a good study with many thought-provoking questions and interesting ways to interpret Jesus' stories. But our class needed new material and our educational director asked me what she could pick up from Cokesbury for our next study. And this thought popped into my head, "Sure, I can teach what Wesley believed. I can teach what Kalas or Knight believes. I can teach what the apostle Paul believed. I can (and often do) teach what Jesus believed. But why can't I share my own experiences of God, of what I think God is like and how we can experience God?"

 

This is a dangerous thought in much of organized religion where doctrinal purity is expected and where faith is considered to be static and unchangeable.

 

Granted, I am as human and as fallible as the next person. Nevertheless, I have sought God and tried to understand Jesus all of my life. So what would make my own experiences and considerations so "profane" while those of others would be "approved" for public use?

 

IMO, at the heart of much of organized religion is this notion: "You cannot trust your own experiences of God. You can trust the experiences of those in the Bible or those in your religion or denomination. But you cannot trust your own."

 

And it seems to me that at the heart of mysticism is, not the desire to usurp God, but the desire to trust God, to trust that God can and will speak to you.

 

It's funny, the conservatives will tell you how much you need a "personal" relationship with God, but then, if you begin to speak of it, they will analyze it against the "personal" relationship of the apostle Paul or David or some other biblical writer.

 

I do believe religious claims and experiences need to be "tested". But the test is good fruit. The mark is love and compassion, at least according to Jesus. And my kind of mysticism is descriptive of me, not proscriptive for others. I share my experiences openly and freely, but I don't tell others that they must experience God as I do. God can be trusted with them. They can be entrusted to God. I think the role of the mystic is not to usurp God, but to point to the GOD that is often beyond our religion, bigger than our ideas, and more inclusive than our boundaries and borders. Organized religion often tells us that we can only find God at church on Sunday morning and only through the pastor's sermon. Mystics remind us that we can find God within, that God never leaves us or forsakes us, that nothing can separate us from God's love, and that we can trust God beyond our knowledge about God.

Edited by BillM
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It's funny, the conservatives will tell you how much you need a "personal" relationship with God, but then, if you begin to speak of it, they will analyze it against the "personal" relationship of the apostle Paul or David or some other biblical writer.

So true in my experience also. The "self" wants to trust but from tradition and conditioning the unknown for most is uncomfortable and fearful in such personally uncharted territory. A territory where uncertainty must be accepted to continue. Organized religions try with established dogma and doctrine to eliminate the uncertainty and fear with comforting answers, yet ultimately we have little other alternative if we wish to continue our own journey. We, as you said, must ultimately trust God rather than the blind teachings of men who look without rather than within, knowing that neither life nor death nor anything else ultimately can separate us from God's love.

 

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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I think, as its end, all mysticism aims at a direct realization, or non-conceptual cognition of an apprehended object. In the case of theistic religions, one desires a direct, subjective experience of God, an intellectual object inferred from teachings and the experience of others.

 

Normally we fuse the perceived object with a generic idea of the object, and arrive at an indirect conceptualization. What we really want to know is the nature of the object in "itself", rather than the conceptualization of the object as it exists in "myself", or my mind.

 

So, I think this is what all the fuss is about when people speak of mysticism. I think valid questions regarding mysticism would be: "Is direct, non-conceptual cognition of the nature of an object even possible?", and; "Can I actually trust my subjective experiences?"

 

I tend to think that both are possible, and that it is the experience of the non-conceptual cognition of reality that people refer to as "God".

 

Peace.

Steve

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Bill I am reading Eckhart separately and slowly. The writing is just away for me to stay focused.

 

Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” because it provides an effective answer to the many problems of modern life. This call for love tells us that we are united and that no other person is separate or apart in God’s spiritual consciousness. Recognizing that we are all one in God’s consciousness gives us full protection in His unity by integrating our individual life with the world around us and providing a basic harmony and equilibrium in our hearts and minds. Love is uniting the subjective with the object of love, the objective. The mystics of every religion talk about this unity, the new physics is talking about it and the Christian mystics are talking about it in the closet the church has provided. They even lock the door so it is hard to get into or out of it.

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To me, "the God of the Bible" is not the GOD who is, GOD as GOD knows GOD to be. Rather, he is Yahweh or the Father of Jesus, both human conceptions of GOD. This doesn't necessarily make these images wrong, but it does mean that they are limited. As humans, we are limited.

 

Bill, I like your analogy of the Wholesale GOD and the Retail GOD. I think this is the way most Christians approach the concept, whether they choose to admit it or not. Some would call this "picking and choosing" or some such negativity, but that's just to mask the fact that they are doing the exact same thing.

 

I disagree, however, with your final comment that we, as humans, are limited. I don't think this is the case. I think that it is WE who created the idea of G-d in the first place out of our fears of the natural world and our realization that we are mortal. So, to suggest that we are limited in our understanding is to betray our role as G-d's creator. if we are limited, it is a self-imposed limitation. We have willingly submitted ourselves to the oppression of the GOD we created! Perhaps the reason for this is so that we can level blame at this "Creator" who allows the horrors of "evil" to abound.

 

I think that the reason the G-d of the Hebrew Bible seems to evolve as you progress historically through the narratives is that the concept of G-d in the mind(s) of it's creators (authors?) has evolved and the role is edited as time passes.

 

I think that it is within our power to create a G-d, GOD or god that embraces homosexuals as the beautiful people that they truly are.

 

NORM

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Norm,

 

You may well be right. I certainly can't say for sure because I can't escape the "limitations" of my own subjectivity. God may be a figment of our collective or individual imaginations.

 

But I don't think so.

 

You're right that our notions of God can be (and probably often are) rooted in fear - fear of our lack of control over our world, fear of our mortality. But this is not the only role that God serves.

 

Something (or Someone) made all this. It wasn't me. It wasn't any human I know. It had to be Something (or Someone) More, even if that something is Evolution. It is this More that I call God or the Sacred or the Divine or the Creator. And it is my experience (which is my primary source for my beliefs) that this More was/is here whether we humans are or not. This, to me, is the WHOLESALE GOD, GOD apart from human labels and descriptions. Does this GOD really exist? I am convinced this GOD does. Others may not be.

 

It is when this GOD is described in human terms (such as all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present) that we are talking about the RETAIL God. And then we wonder how this God could exist because if we were God (this RETAIL God), we would allow what God allows. Or we would do what God won't.

 

What I am musing about is that, IMO, people (Christians and otherwise) believe that their RETAIL God is the WHOLESALE GOD. So they think that their ideas about God (which are limited to human understandings) completely capture and describe GOD (which, IMO, is beyond full human comprehension). My coworker believes he knows exactly what God will and will not do because his Bible tells him so. My point is that the God found in the Bible (as wonderful as that God can sometimes be) is still ideas about God from human opinion (that of the ancient Jews and that of the early church). Therefore, IMO, these ideas are limited to time/place/culture/education, etc. The Bible doesn't tell us everything about God, no matter what my coworker insists.

 

I want my ideas about God (my RETAIL God) to be closer to the actual GOD that exists apart from human concepts. Perhaps you don't believe GOD does. That is the atheist POV and I respect it. But that GOD has certainly allowed for homosexuality to exist in our world as a seemingly natural part of the way things are. That GOD is quite a bit "bigger" than the God of the Bible who has a problem with homosexuals, penises with foreskins, eating shellfish and pork, and women preachers. :)

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Just a couple more (hopefully) brief thoughts on this.


So here is my coworker who says that his God won’t allow homosexuals into his heaven.
And here I am saying that my God doesn’t have a problem with homosexuals or homosexuality as long as it isn’t harmful to others (rape, with children, etc.).


I have to agree with Norm (if I understand him correctly) and admit that both of these Gods may not, in fact, exist. Both may be figments of our imagination, our own egos magnified. This would certainly account for why my God is not like my coworker’s God. In fact, his God has more credibility than my own because he has Bible verses from both Testaments that he can point to in order to prove that his God is opposed to homosexuality and homosexuals. All I have is opinion, no overt scripture verses. Nevertheless, neither God may exist. I have to admit that because the existence of God is something that, IMO, cannot be proven.


But, at least for me, I think the fact that there is something rather than nothing lends evidence or credence to the notion of a Creator. And, speaking only for myself, I do think this Creator is some kind of Being or Entity with a consciousness and will. But this is what I think and I can’t prove it, for it goes back to my subjective experience and, perhaps, my own conditioning. But if this Creator does exist, given the size and complexity of our universe, how much interest would this Creator really have in what we puny humans do with our reproductive organs? We this Creator really be as obsessed with “dirty sex” as our Biblicist brothers and sisters have us believe? Would such a Creator really disregard the good character of one of its creations and exclude that creature from its Presence simply due to a sexual orientation or preference?


These are questions I ask myself about my understanding of God (which is, granted, retail). But these are questions that my Biblicist coworker will not entertain because he believes his retail God is the wholesale God, God as God really is without any human perception mixed in. I know enough to know that my understanding is retail, and that, as Norm says, it may even be just my own imagination. But if that is the case, it would be, IMO, absolutely foolish for me to denigrate and condemn others based upon figments of my imagination. If I am going to imagine, I want to image big, not small.


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I find it funny that popular belief holds that gays are automatically perverted and promiscuous. I am thinking they have tastes and preferences just like any other person and are not enraged with desire to the point of running around hitting on people! We fear what we do not understand. LOL! Just for the record I am a wholesale God guy here. I would rather spend my time enjoying God instead of trying to define him. The Tao te Ching states "the Tao that can be named is not the Tao". If you can put your finger on it, it is not God but just another part of the "world of the 10,000 things".

 

Of so many creatures on Earth, why is it that only humans exhibit homophobic tendencies?

Edited by PerpetualSeeker
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That article confirms homosexual activity in animals, not homophobic activity . Did I miss ssomething?

No, sorry, you didn't. I was too quick on the trigger finger :) Got my suffixes mixed up!

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Bill I like the way you entered the inquiry with the thought we might not know the answer as our journey lives in the question with an
ongoing inquiry, relationship and journey. Our answers are not better than the questions because they are connected as breathing is to inhaling and exhaling or the two chambers of the heart beat together to circulate our blood. We don't have to worry about the questions, but maybe we need to worry about the solutions to the problem. The door to the Way, the Truth and the Light is open. I feel our soul has the capacity to relate to all beings in an awakening to the Divinity in all things. The inability to respond, to connect, to experience all beings is our illness as we try to be both practical and perceptive. As the door to Truth opens it seems the self-enclosure of the church is locking its
doors. This inability to respond, to connect and experience the essence of all beings is our Christian autism. I could be wrong the diagnosis might be arthritis a hardening tendency blocking the spirit or a cancer growth that is not sensitive to the magnitude of the consequences. I feel these blockages of Spirit are more of a problem than being gay. If we block the eyes they can’t see, block the ears they can’t hear, block the mind it can’t think, block the heart it won’t be able to love.



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