Death

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James Markham
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Death

Post by James Markham »

What is death? why is it necessary?and what actually happens when we die? All of these questions relate to the nature of mortality, which is another question that has been suggested as being of fundamental importance in understanding our reality as a whole.

So the first question is also related to the "what is life?" question, in that only by some understanding of what life is, can we understand exactly what death is, in that it's the departure of life.

I think there are only two theories on life, one is that it's a separate thing from the body, and that it continues it's existence when the body dies, and the other is that it's simply an emergent property of body, and that once the complex network that manipulates energy to carry out functions breaks down, the property we call life disappears.

If this second theory is true, and life is an emergent property, it seems to me that all life must be examples of the same principle, and that one life emerging is necessarily the same as any other, which I think ultimately boils it down to the same principle as the first theory. In the first instance individual life survives death, and in the second all individual life is the same principle which ultimately exists as a constant waiting to emerge as an individual instance.

So would it be fair to say that which ever you believe, you have to believe that either you survive as an individual, or you survive by virtue of the fact that you are an instance of some emergent property which itself has some permanent existence?

The next question regarding mortality is the one of need, and on a biological level it can be argued that we each need to die because that is how life evolves into something better, but better for what? If the universe is destined to end then why does it matter how things live, and what ultimately is the function of evolution? I personally can't make a lot of sense out of reality unless I consider it from an idealistic viewpoint. If consciousness is indeed an emergent property, then logically it's an inherent property of the objective universe, it's ability to be aware of itself, analyse and form judgements about that self, must then be considered as integral to the reality of the universes existence.

So if consciousness is an eternal aspect of reality, it could be argued that death, like sleep, has more to do with the need for discontinuity, and that ultimately, like sleep, it has the effect of reducing the stress that an eternally constant wakefulness could be imagined to induce.

So personally, I think the most obvious answer to the question of what happens after we die, is the thing we know has happened at least once already, and that's that we are born. We know it's possible at one time not to exist, and from that to become existent, so what's so hard to believe about the fact it will happen again. When we think about the nature of eternity, and that if a thing is possible it will happen, this means everything possible will happen an infinite amount of times, and it doesn't matter how long the duration is in between our manifestations as consciousness, because they won't be experienced as duration, so the time we spend living will become one constant experience of existence.

So I think the Buddhists have it right, eternal existence through the process of rebirth, seems to me to be the most probable theory.
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Re: Death

Post by thedoc »

James Markham wrote:What is death? why is it necessary?and what actually happens when we die? All of these questions relate to the nature of mortality, which is another question that has been suggested as being of fundamental importance in understanding our reality as a whole.

So the first question is also related to the "what is life?" question, in that only by some understanding of what life is, can we understand exactly what death is, in that it's the departure of life.

I think there are only two theories on life, one is that it's a separate thing from the body, and that it continues it's existence when the body dies, and the other is that it's simply an emergent property of body, and that once the complex network that manipulates energy to carry out functions breaks down, the property we call life disappears.

If this second theory is true, and life is an emergent property, it seems to me that all life must be examples of the same principle, and that one life emerging is necessarily the same as any other, which I think ultimately boils it down to the same principle as the first theory. In the first instance individual life survives death, and in the second all individual life is the same principle which ultimately exists as a constant waiting to emerge as an individual instance.

So would it be fair to say that which ever you believe, you have to believe that either you survive as an individual, or you survive by virtue of the fact that you are an instance of some emergent property which itself has some permanent existence?

The next question regarding mortality is the one of need, and on a biological level it can be argued that we each need to die because that is how life evolves into something better, but better for what? If the universe is destined to end then why does it matter how things live, and what ultimately is the function of evolution? I personally can't make a lot of sense out of reality unless I consider it from an idealistic viewpoint. If consciousness is indeed an emergent property, then logically it's an inherent property of the objective universe, it's ability to be aware of itself, analyse and form judgements about that self, must then be considered as integral to the reality of the universes existence.

So if consciousness is an eternal aspect of reality, it could be argued that death, like sleep, has more to do with the need for discontinuity, and that ultimately, like sleep, it has the effect of reducing the stress that an eternally constant wakefulness could be imagined to induce.

So personally, I think the most obvious answer to the question of what happens after we die, is the thing we know has happened at least once already, and that's that we are born. We know it's possible at one time not to exist, and from that to become existent, so what's so hard to believe about the fact it will happen again. When we think about the nature of eternity, and that if a thing is possible it will happen, this means everything possible will happen an infinite amount of times, and it doesn't matter how long the duration is in between our manifestations as consciousness, because they won't be experienced as duration, so the time we spend living will become one constant experience of existence.

So I think the Buddhists have it right, eternal existence through the process of rebirth, seems to me to be the most probable theory.

Is life, and the recurrence of life, strictly a human quality, or is all life guilty of this habit.
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Bernard
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Re: Death

Post by Bernard »

Yep, I think its a bit of a no-brainer as well James. I don't agree with most reicarnationists who think that one is able to remember previous lives, because that would mean there is some residue of the self that survives death which serves as an access point. No, death obliterates all vestiges of Identity - like melting a golden staue then creating a new one out of the gold - only the gold is the common denominator. Also don't agree with the general assumption that a recycling of self will occur in the future, as if being obliged to do so by the linearity of time, when death surely releases from time.
When we think about the nature of eternity, and that if a thing is possible it will happen, this means everything possible will happen an infinite amount of times, and it doesn't matter how long the duration is in between our manifestations as consciousness, because they won't be experienced as duration, so the time we spend living will become one constant experience of existence.
This sounds like Nietzsche's eternal recurrence, which I find flawed; because if there are infinite possibilities why would any one possibility repeat? If it was repeated it would no longer be a possibility because its alreadt been accomplished, and I don't think any phenomenon can exist if its not a possible phenomenon. Though to be fair, there could be many possibilities that are close to identical.
surreptitious57
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Re: Death

Post by surreptitious57 »

The Second Law Of Thermodynamics and the Theory Of Evolution both reference the inevitability of death so rather than construct an alternative interpretation in denial of this [ such as religion does ] one should just accept it instead. And once one does there is nothing to actually fear. As one has already been dead before. The elements that one is composed of such as calcium and iron and hydrogen and carbon for example came from stars. Without them dying they could not be released and no life would exist. So therefore long before ones biological parents engaged
in procreation the process of ones existence coming to pass was set in motion and throughout this one was of course non conscious. So one
did not actually exist in physical form as such but the elements themselves that ones physical body came to be composed of did however

This process is to be repeated after one dies. The same elements will still be present just as they were before but one will be non conscious. This is not to be confused with non existence which is not the same thing though one will be in a non conscious state for all of eternity but not in the same physical form of course. But all death really is is just a transference of energy from one state to another and as energy cannot be wasted
as accorfding to the First Law Of Thermodynamics then one can not in essence actually die in an absolute sense as something always remains

This may sound rather philosophical but is actually as much physics as anything else. And while one is in that eternal state of non consciousness one is pain free. So given that it is absolutely irrational to be afraid of death. How can one be afraid of something one will never experience any way ? Dying which one does experience is not the same thing but death itself is not experienced at all. And so that is how I come to terms with it For me it is just a transition from one state to another. A perfectly natural process that I have no control over and so no point in worrying about it
Last edited by surreptitious57 on Wed Apr 15, 2015 9:29 am, edited 3 times in total.
James Markham
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Re: Death

Post by James Markham »

Doc, I believe all life is a manifestation of the same principle, what differs is the degree to which individual instances are burdened, perspective is the lens through which being is experienced, and some lenses are more revealing than others.
James Markham
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Re: Death

Post by James Markham »

Bernard, I agree with what you say about reincarnation and past lives passing into oblivion, I believe the only thing that survives death is the principle of existence, and we survive by virtue of the fact we are that principle. And I also believe that what you say about temporal continuity is correct, in death the concept of time dissolves, and any mention I make of eternity refers to a timeless state, not the acknowledgement of duration. So like you, I believe our existence can occur at any stage of conscious evolution, and the direction we move is possibly governed by the choices we make, and desires we harbour. I may well be wrong, and it may well be random, but I like to think there is some discernible pattern in our motions.

With regards to what you call Nietzsche's eternal recurrence, I meant to say that what essential has the potential to reoccur is not an exact replay of any individual life (although it could be argued that, like you say, one small account of insignificance would imbue the whole with an individuality), but rather the event of consciousness, regardless of identity or perspective, is akin to an eternal light that shines out through a kalidascope of transient perspective, it's then by virtue of the fact we are fundamentally the light, and only superficially, and temporarily any single instance of life, that we endure in a timeless sense.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Death

Post by Immanuel Can »

I like to think there is some discernible pattern in our motions.
Yes, I think we all "like" to, even if we happen to be one of those people who believe the universe is just a very lucky collocation of random atoms governed by impersonal physical laws. But for us, as philosophers, the question has to be, "Is there any reason to believe such a thing, or is it merely a common form of self-delusion?"

As for Nietzsche's eternal return, it is an initially-engaging but ultimately erroneous idea. The same basic fallacy implicated in the multiverse hypothesis (if anyone is curious, see my comments in the thread "Nonsense on Stilts" viewtopic.php?f=23&t=11603) applies to the Eternal Return idea. Ultimately, we have no probabilistic grounds to suppose it can happen at all, and an infinite set of reasons to suppose it cannot.

An additional issue of interest is the question is "self" or "soul" or "consciousness" a purely material property? For if it is not, then no "return" of materials to a state identical to a previous state would thereby produce a return of the "self." "Self" would still be a one-off.

Let me float a new definition of "death" to fill out a further possibility. Death is the severance of a life from the Source of Life.
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Bernard
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Re: Death

Post by Bernard »

To be fair to Neitzsche the Eternal Recurrence was a formula that worked well as a literary and poetic device. How much seriousness he meant to lend it as a theoretical explanation, and how conclusive he himself felt it was are moot points. Certainly it worked within the context which he placed around it and he gives off the feeling that it is a preliminary departure from the traditional Christian views he was surrounded by, but still distinct from what had been arriving from the East in terms of philosophy that held interest to him, such as Budddhism and Zoroastrianism. He deserves credit for breaking into some very hard ground.

I think there is a specific potential that survives for any one living thing that dies (yes, you could call it light), and that that potential has been ever so slightly augmented during that specific living thing's lifetime. It is recycled according to that potential, which will mean it - the potential - will reframe or form a new individual existence in a way and place that is in close proximity to what had previously occurred for that individual. So, to quote the Christian text "The farmer will remain a farmer". A bat will be a bat, a microbe a microbe, and a star a star. Its only if one were able to see the changes brought on by zillions of these instances of recycling of an individual, that one would see the evolution from microbe to frog, or frog to human... constantly slipping in and out of existence, future or past, again and again.

I think the earth has the representation of a whole cycle of organic evolution within it, and that we are each an
essential part of that cycle, and can as little escape it as camn any other organism on earth. The whole cycle has to play out precisely until the potential for organic life on earth has realized its full potential.

I don't think there is any end or beginning point to evolution - at least in the sense of evolution I've attempted to outline above, just a joyous and endless existence ride.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Death

Post by Immanuel Can »

to quote the Christian text "The farmer will remain a farmer"
Bernard: Which one are you quoting here? I do not know of any such text.
I don't think there is any end or beginning point to evolution - at least in the sense of evolution I've attempted to outline above, just a joyous and endless existence ride.
Whose "joy"? Certainly not those hapless beings caught as a single "stage" of an ongoing process of supplanting and discarding by evolution. So who gets the "joy"?
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Bernard
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Re: Death

Post by Bernard »

Immanuel Can wrote: Bernard: Which one are you quoting here? I do not know of any such text.

I think its in John somewhere where the disciples ask what state people will be in when they arrive in heaven. It might have ploughman, not farmer. Bad quoting though, just ignore as it is not a necessary support in my argument anyway


Whose "joy"? Certainly not those hapless beings caught as a single "stage" of an ongoing process of supplanting and discarding by evolution. So who gets the "joy"?
No one gets the joy, which is the whole point, I think, of death... not just final death, but all the little deaths of everyday as well. Joy can't be possessed by any individual, so individuality has to be fully stripped in order for the joy to be experienced fully. But I think you are taking the negative perspective when you could just easily be taking the positive at no extra work to yourself. Evolution creates as much as it discards, maintains as much as it supplants. Its simply a matter of what you focus on.
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Death

Post by Immanuel Can »

I think its in John somewhere where the disciples ask what state people will be in when they arrive in heaven. It might have ploughman, not farmer. Bad quoting though, just ignore as it is not a necessary support in my argument anyway
Correct. It's not there. While I'm sympathetic with literary license, I think quoting something as important as that particular document should be done with great care, even if one does not happen to believe it to be the Word of God -- after all, a lot of people do take it very seriously, so quoting always lends a great deal of weight to one's argument, and that weight places a certain duty to caution lest we lend artificial weight where it is not justified. But yes, perhaps ignoring the misquotation is the best course in this case. Occasionally I misquote a thing myself, so I will not "cast the first stone," of course. No foul.
No one gets the joy, which is the whole point, I think, of death...
How does random death get a "point"? That needs some explaining. Randomness implies pointless, meaningless and accident, which is precisely what the materialist or evolutionist view of the world implies is the nature of the universe itself. After all, a Big Bang is nothing if not that...a really, really big accident, presumably followed by a bunch of other accidents ("accident" meaning a "happening without purposiveness"). And death is also an accident, just a way things "happen" to be.
not just final death, but all the little deaths of everyday as well.
Ah. This is a point I was thinking about with the definition I suggested earlier. "Death" is not just an immediate cessation of respiration: it is decay, decline, disappointment, poison, sadness, misery, pain....etc. spread throughout all of the happenstances of life. Biblically speaking, "death" is an ongoing or terminal state of severance from the Source of Life. It is life "unplugged" from the regenerative Power Source. I think you're onto something there, Bernard. There might indeed be a connection between "big" and "little" death.
Joy can't be possessed by any individual,
Then surely it's meaningless to say that it can be "possessed" at all...by anyone or anything. There is no "joy."
so individuality has to be fully stripped in order for the joy to be experienced fully.

But this part makes no sense to me, and in fact seems to contradict your earlier statement. How can a "stripped" individual experience "full joy," as you say? For you have said already that no "individual" can possess it, and what can "stripping" be, if it removes individuality, but some kind of soul annihilation? I hear no note of joy in any of this. But perhaps you can elucidate?
But I think you are taking the negative perspective when you could just easily be taking the positive at no extra work to yourself. Evolution creates as much as it discards, maintains as much as it supplants. Its simply a matter of what you focus on.
I don't think I am, Bernard: yet I'm questioning the cold 'comfort' you seem to be trying to offer because I cannot see any reality to it. Evolution creates and discards...so what? How should the fact that evolution will create *another* individual once eternal oblivion has swallowed me up be any consolation to me? Others will enjoy future life, but I am the dross of the evolutionary process, one unfortunately born to be the waste product of the entropic process. Where is there joy in this?

Thomas Hardy said, "...if way to the Better there be/ It exacts a full look at the Worst..." I think that's wisdom. The biggest mistake we can make, both as philosophers and as mortals, is to accept in the place of a real answer to the problem of death some false solution that anaesthetizes the soul without providing any real answer. Death is too serious a matter for us to capitulate to sentimental opiates, and it is so momentous and personal an issue that we need to be very much on guard against our own impulse to shut down thought about it, or to cling to superficial answers...

That is, assuming we're all serious about the issue of "death," which I assume we are. And yet your solution at present, if it is not one such opiate, may deserve a fuller explanation. Are you inclined to expand?
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Bernard
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Re: Death

Post by Bernard »

Yes I do have inclination to expand. You seem to extract two results from what I say that serve two streams of your own purpose. The first is that my answer is insufficient because horrifying in its implication of losing identity, the second that it acts as an opiate. I'm not sure how something with terrifying implications can placate, unless those implications have not been made known and only a lullaby land has been offered... but I clearly have made those implications known.

Nothing edifying comes in viewing death in isolation from life. Can we accept the full ramifications of death in synchronization with the full ramifications of life? I believe my ideas do that. Yes, the emptiness of materialism is there, but its not to do with the randomness of death - a term with which you seem to attempt a misrepresentation of what I've offered. But that's because I haven't expanded enough. I see that death, far from being random, is precise in its advents and in perfect concord with life, and in accord with the demands of life. Wev are used to the idea that death is the final say, I'm not convinced, for in as much as life can keep death at abeyance to some eetent, then life has the upper hand in my books.

Schopenhauer expressed the notion that life should not logically exist - which is a testament to the main characteristic of life: will/power/consciousness! Its difficult to expand on something as overwhelming as the determined nature of life/existence (hence all the /// :) ). No death isn't random - life makes sure of that!
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Bernard
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Re: Death

Post by Bernard »

I don't think I am, Bernard: yet I'm questioning the cold 'comfort' you seem to be trying to offer because I cannot see any reality to it. Evolution creates and discards...so what? How should the fact that evolution will create *another* individual once eternal oblivion has swallowed me up be any consolation to me? Others will enjoy future life, but I am the dross of the evolutionary process, one unfortunately born to be the waste product of the entropic process. Where is there joy in this?
Obviously if you are not there anymore there will be no one to need consolation. Maybe you miss something in all this: that which is you will die to become a different self. You will have no memory of your previous self but you will still be you as distinct from me or anyone else. Is that only as clear as mud now? Do you see what I mean? You see, you may have been once me or I may have been once you, but it makes no difference to you or I as long as you are you and I am I. BEING is the thing!
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Immanuel Can
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Re: Death

Post by Immanuel Can »

a term with which you seem to attempt a misrepresentation of what I've offered.
Bernard: I have no ill-will here. But let's try to stay away from supposing evil motives from one another, or accusing one another of misrepresenting. What I'm attempting to do, and what I hope you're attempting to do, is to examine each others' views. The views we can criticize, but we need not fall to criticizing each other -- for I freely admit I do not know your motives or your personality, so to judge you would be wrong for me, as it would be wrong for you to judge me without knowing me. But our views are being placed in plain sight, for all to see, and for the very purpose of mutual examination. So until further notice, I'll imagine you to be a person of good will, but one with a different view from my own; and I invite you to believe the same about me.

Your view, as expressed by you, is as follows...
Can we accept the full ramifications of death in synchronization with the full ramifications of life? I believe my ideas do that. Yes, the emptiness of materialism is there, but its not to do with the randomness of death - a term with which you seem to attempt a misrepresentation of what I've offered. But that's because I haven't expanded enough. I see that death, far from being random, is precise in its advents and in perfect concord with life, and in accord with the demands of life. Wev are used to the idea that death is the final say, I'm not convinced, for in as much as life can keep death at abeyance to some eetent, then life has the upper hand in my books.
You say that death is not a random force or happening. Fine: but that then suggests the only alternative to randomness, which would be purposefulness. Yet you do not say who is doing the purposing here. You say it is "in perfect concord with life" and "in accord with the demands of life." It seems to me an anthropomorphism of the concept "life," a treating of an impersonal force as if it were some sort of purposing agent. I have to question that: what do you mean when you say "life" can "demand" anything?

Do you mean, "Life happens to be the contrary of death"? If so, it would be a true yet very trivial statement that no one would doubt or deny -- but it would add no knowledge to the present discussion, so I can't think you mean that. But if you mean more, then it seems you must mean something like "Life has an ability to *intend* something, or it has some sort of *will*." And this does not seem clear at all, so you'd have to explain why you think it's true. It seems to me that if "life" is an impersonal force, it can neither 'want' anything nor 'intend' anything -- it just *is.* That is all one can expect in a materialist or evolutionary universe, unless you're positing some sort of Deist 'god' or something like that. So see if you can clear that up for me, if you would be so kind.
No death isn't random - life makes sure of that!
Here's the same sort of anthropomorphic statement again. How can "life" "make sure" of anything? You seem to be hanging everything upon this, since (unless I'm misunderstanding) you appear to think it's consoling, or informative of how randomness is banished from death. I'm listening, but you really need to fill this idea out for me, because I'm not seeing how an impersonal force (i.e. "life") can have any cognition at all.

Your second message adds...
Obviously if you are not there anymore there will be no one to need consolation. Maybe you miss something in all this: that which is you will die to become a different self. You will have no memory of your previous self but you will still be you as distinct from me or anyone else...You see, you may have been once me or I may have been once you, but it makes no difference to you or I as long as you are you and I am I. BEING is the thing!
To say a person is "distinct" from everyone else is again a fact no one would doubt; but if you mean only that, then again I'm afraid it adds no light to the situation. Of course we're all "distinct": the problem is, after death we're also distinctly *gone.* You seem to suppose that my consciousness will somehow be recycled (a soul?), and come back as another person with no memory of my previous life...but I can't imagine that's what you mean, since you've given me no reason to think it's true. Surely it is not an empty, sentimental meditation of the sort that relatives throw out a funerals, so I must think you mean something by it: can you explain why you think souls get recycled in this way?

Your claim about "BEING" is also inscrutable. You capitalize it, so I suppose you mean something very important by your reference to it: but I can't think what it is. If "BEING," like "life" is simply an abstract quality and not a person, then how could the continuance of such an abstract property be of any consequence to me? I don 't need a continuance of "BEING" per se, meaning the "being" of other things: I need a continuance of the "being" of *me.* Otherwise, there's no consolation in the fact that the universe continues to exist but without me in it. Death still amounts to the final word.
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henry quirk
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you're all makin' a to-do about nuthin'

Post by henry quirk »

"What is death?"

When the flesh (brain, bone, organ, etc.) that comprises me stops working (for one reason or another), I'm dead ('I' no longer 'am'...I'm 'gone'...'I' cease).

#

"why is it necessary?"

May not be 'necessary' but death most certainly is the way of all things, from stars to you and me to bacteria (and even matter itself if entropy -- as process -- holds true).

#

"what actually happens when we die?"

It's the end of the recursive (I-ness) and the beginning of worm food.

Not a complicated transition (not that I'm lookin' to experience that smooth segue from 'here and now' to 'not here and not now' any time soon).

#

"If...life is an emergent property, it seems to me that all life must be examples of the same principle, and that one life emerging is necessarily the same as any other."

'I' am 'me' and not 'you'. When I'm gone, 'I' (that collection of experience and the 'Henry Quirk' that arises from that experience) am gone.

My point: we (you and me) may be similar but we are not the same (regardless of the potentially common 'source').
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