Naturalness

Naturalness - Cover
Ebony Mansions - Title Page
Think well about great things; and know that thought is the only reality in this world. Lift up Nature, to thine own stature; and let the whole universe be for thee no more than the reflection
of thine own heroic soul,

CERVANTES

Go forth under the open sky, and list to nature’s teaching.

BRYANT

You will find something far greater in the woods than you will find in books. Stones and trees will teach you that which you will never learn from masters.

ST. BERNARD

RESURRECTION

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RESURRECTION

There is more than one kind of death—more than one kind of tomb. One who has let some of his faith and hope falter before the world has experienced a manner of death; and he who allows himself to become imprisoned by the subtle walls of fear, worry, and materiality is interred in a rigid sepulchre.

A nature lover one time had passed through a period of unusual pressure. Each day and hour seemed to bring new limitations and forebodings. He slipped into the ruts of the world, forgot long-tried joys and truths, and moved about in the conventional attitude of men. His eyes were on the paving while he walked through lanes of trees, he looked at street lights instead of the stars, and carried in his thoughts the limitations of men rather than the perfection of Deity. He was literally buried alive.

Then one early spring day he found reason to visit a familiar spot on the bank of a river, rather near the great city. A few scattered hickory trees, remnants of the region’s

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early splendor, still suggest the erstwhile forests. In the evening he strolled alone among these hickories, thoughts still heavy and hopeless. He was present in body only, his thoughts continually battling with spectral giants.

But there were voices calling him! The message, in some halt-forgotten tongue, seemed strangely analogous to that of the Master when he called, imperatively, “Lazarus, come forth!”

He felt a stir within him, a gradual realization of where he was, and what he was. The dark images of his thoughts slowly dissolved. Barely out of reach a song sparrow was singing, and

in a distant thicket another was answering the call of love. Overhead a tiny wren emitted a torrent of song all out of proportion to his diminutive form. On every side meadowlarks burst into melody. Robins flew about, uttering their staccato springtime call. Redwinged black-birds, cardinals, snowbirds, were in the grand chorus which was calling in ever-increasing demand, “Come forth!” In the distance was the tender call of the mourning dove; a duck spoke in flat, but not unmusical tones, while as a great tonal carpet came the chant of the frogs.

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Then, for a moment, all seemed to pause. Something was occurring above the tree tops. There was a soft whir of wings that at once spoke of gentleness and power! A voice called out military in tone. Straight through the cool blue of evening, so low every graceful move could be noted, half floated, half flew a wedge of Canadian geese!—such sublime grace and organization! such purpose, courage, and wild beauty!

“Come forth!” came the imperative command, ringing with divine authority. With a surge of joy, which must have been akin to the sensations of Lazarus, the Nature Lover stepped forth from his morbid confines, into full consciousness of the beauty about him. He became a part of the happy throng, which now seemed in ecstasy at his resurrection. Feathered songsters strove to outdo previous melodic performances; frogs quickened their rhythm, the evening star danced in the afterglow, the very trees seemed to sing. He was alive again! alive in a world which knows only Life. He understood the deep meaning of the words, “He is not dead, but sleepeth!”

So with all death! So with all resurrection!

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We creep unconsciously into the confines of materiality—a tomb of our own construction. We suffer its limitations, literally living as dead men, until something comes along to direct our thoughts upward. We awaken from our stupor at the imperative command, “Come forth!” rising into consciousness of real being. We look again on the unbroken perfection of Reality, which has been continuous and everpresent, while we dreamed a death. We recover, not from a death which was real, but from an illusion which would rob us of our sense of life.

All the harmonious conditions of heaven are eternally present: peace reigns in Nature, love brims the heart, beauty adorns creation—but if Man assumes blindness to all this, it seems not to exist. Yet, in the hour of awakening—resurrection—all Reality is found unaffected by our morbid dreams, (even as the eternal order of the Universe was unaffected by our Ptolemaic conclusions), and we move again in the majestic procession of True Being,

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HIGHER FINANCE

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HIGHER FINANCE

The capriciousness of investment convulses the world. Commercial paper and properties with fixed or constantly advancing values seem to be an illusion comparable to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth. A mere whim of fortune and the highest securities diminish in worth until all material fortunes seem to be purely hypothetical.

The fundamental basis on which the worth of an investment must be judged is the net returns to the investor. It is not enough to judge it merely by the interest rate. Though it might ultimately pay out a substantial dividend, if its incidental fluctuations have been the instigator of, uncertainty and worry, the net result to the investor is a loss! The final qualification of any investment is relative to its effect on peace of mind.

Some years ago the writer took the last cent he possessed, and made a trip into the north country. In years following he experienced fluctuating fortunes, and varying prosperity.

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Investments were made in various stocks and enterprises, all of which, in the honest analysis, were a loss. Yet, the investment in the northern trip has never missed a dividend! Every delightful hour spent in the great woods is still a fresh memory, brightening conversations, inspiring plans, and ever furnishing a potential escape from an imposing world. Spirit, mind and body still feast on the benefits of this and other journeys into the land of lakes, streams, woods—and peace!

True, this reasoning would have no collateral value with a banker. That is because it is non-negotiable—it is of such personal and permanent nature that it cannot be transferred, nor lost! It has a higher value than is recognized by the banker, or, perhaps more properly, by banking. A bank credit might temporarily lift financial pressure, defer it until a later date, but the investment in nature happiness will reveal the only avenue of escape from the whole catagory of commercialism!

One troubled year a guest came to the Sanctuary of Wegimind, laboring under the general conditions of financial depression. He had left behind him a sweltering, seething,

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competitive city, and for a few days wandered the forest trails, and drank in the cool peace of the northern evenings. “One thing I have learned,” he said later, “is that there is no depression in nature—trees are just as beautiful! bird songs just as sweet! fishing is just as enticing! dawns and sunsets just as brilliant! and the cool, bracing air of the northern forests is just as salubrious as ever!”

Spiritual prosperity knows no business cycles or periodic fluctuations. Investments made to this end are of a security which cannot depreciate. The money placed in a summer home, in boats, tents, cameras, and time spent out-of-doors, pays the investor a dividend which cannot be omitted or deferred.

The larger lesson of a world depression is that we should make a distinction between financial values, and real values. When riding on the high waves of post-war prosperity, man lost his sense of values. Consideration of fellow men, appreciation of home ties, love of the ethical and beautiful ran at low tide. While stock profits were built high, progress in character was negligible. Man became intoxicated with the spirit of accumulation. In a twinkling

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this false condition was swept from him, and he saw that his storehouses were packed with shadows. At the highest moment of his material prosperity, he was spiritually impoverished. The spiritual values are the real values, and life conducted on any other basis is as a “house built upon the sands.” The presence of fabulous wealth has never given happiness where it has been gained at the sacrifice of character. Ultimately, investment will be judged from only one standpoint: its contribution to mental progress and peace of mind!

High finance may twist the fortunes of communities and nations, and a distrustful race result; Higher Finance will take into accounting man’s spiritual welfare, and lead to happiness. One might well do without expensive motor cars, elaborate mansions, costly raiment and jewels; he might do without high office and financial dominion over men; but he cannot do without thoughts of beauty, peace, kindness, reverence and love. He may do without social pomp and display, but he cannot do without the heart-satisfying sincerity of the gatherings of honest, good-humored folk about a flickering campfire. He can do without

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costly travel to distant places amid castles and famed resorts, but he cannot do without the

Simple, quiet walks through avenues of celestial trees. He can do without the highly opinionated Self which struts before men, but he cannot do without the humble, adoring soul he is, when he walks with Nature and with God!

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NATURALNESS

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NATURALNESS

The noble honesty of the wildwood is its fundamental charm. It permits no assumptions, offers no shams. A tree is just a tree, a flower just a flower, all content with their God-given beauty and worth, taking their rugged environment for granted, meeting it with all the courage and power with which they are endowed.

Among men, one seldom meets with this ingenuousness, and this accounts, in a manner, for misanthropic leanings, and preference for Nature. But how appealing is this quality when found in man! What greater joy does social life offer than meeting the man who speaks and acts freely from an unpretentious heart? The biographer, sorting out the episodes which will endear his subject to the public, wisely dwells more on his purely human traits,—his affections, his loyalty, his humanity—than on his great public deeds, and most prized is the frank, honest smile, and the freedom of

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speech and action which springs from an honest estimate of the worth of man to man!

If you would know your friend, take him to the woods! In the city he may secrete his true self from you for years, but within the confines of a cabin or camp he has no place to hide. Trees will conceal a body, but they reveal character. In the city of classes and types one may justify his pretenses in numbers, but Nature offers him no prototype! Nature is a kind of x-ray, which looks one through and through, revealing true substance. A friend who proves companionable in the out-of-doors is a friend for life!

No fraternal order in the world is more closely knit than The Brotherhood of the Outdoors. No lodge is better supplied with shibboleths to identify its members. Meet the stranger, and with what suddenness the tension of aloofness snaps at mention of the magic words: “Fishing,” “The Cabin,” “The Woods!” Eyes light with a mystic twinkle, peculiar to the kind; chairs are drawn closer, and within a moment there is a competitive swapping of observations and experiences. And, as is always the case with one’s own, you can’t help

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but respect a man more who loves the woods! There seems in it some guarantee of his honesty. A fisherman exhausts his misrepresentations in measuring the size of his catch—he is dependable in all other matters. Jesus of Nazareth chose his disciples from among fishermen!

Man stands judgment before Nature. Among the pines he must stand as straight as they, or be conspicuous in his hyprocrisy. He seems, as it were, confronted with the spiritual truth of Life, which he must either humbly accept, or turn and flee back to his artificial playhouses, where he is a fancied king in an imagined realm.

What sweet confidences flow over the campfire! Many a man has dug deep in his heart and unloaded to a friendly and trustworthy listener a burden which became lighter in the telling. Entangled plans and dwarfed ambitions have been sped to clarity and fruition in the freedom of campfire powwow. What grand release to feel free to talk without fear of being misunderstood or put at disadvantage! Sometimes it seems that we have lost heavily in the bargain when we exchanged our primitive sincerity

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for educated sophistication, and industrial mastery.

The Kingdom of Heaven will be uncovered in the affairs of men, when man stands and acts with the naturalness of trees, when he gives forth the fruit natural to his kind: good will, honesty, charity, kindness, and courage. Now we flee to the wildwood for our peace, where there are few men and many trees; but where man stripped of his falseness, were he the grand, lovable creature God created, finding him in great numbers would but multiply our joy. In truth, we are seeking the most accurate reflection of the perfect Creation we know underlies all appearances. So long as man’s consciousness runs amuck, and he plays the fraud, the beast, the egotist, those who yearn must seek glimpses of this perfection in the Silent Children of Nature, where it is less obscure.

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GROWING OLDER

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GROWING OLDER

In the mirror I can see the hair-line gradually creeping back from my forehead, and my friends observe, with persistent candor, the thinning of the locks on the top of my head. I note that I speak with a certain peculiar pride of “earlier days,” of conditions “before the war,” and “when I was a boy.” I see in myself many of the traits which, when a boy, I associated only with my elders, and I realize that I am reaching their ranks,—that I am growing older!

There are other indications that I am growing older: I am happier than ever before in my life, I am stronger and have more endurance, I am more alert mentally and have greater ambition. My capacity to make and maintain friends has increased. The great outdoors is infinitely dear to me and I am sensitive to a thousand new delights in my deepening understanding of it. My vain, youthful egotism has vanished and instead of trying to bully a world into my way of thinking, I

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stand watching in wonderment the endless unfolding of true creation. I must be growing older, because I have ceased whining like a child for things I should not have, and am content to make the most of the generous portion God has given me. I must be growing older, because I have ceased trying to get, and am seeking ways in which to share and give, I must be growing older, because I know better how to live than I did in former years, and to get the most out of Life by putting the most into it. Only the process of maturing, the act of developing, expanding, growing, could bring these blessings to me, and I am thankful that I am growing older.

But there is a vast difference between growing old and growing older. Growing older is truly growth—but becoming old is not growth, it is to permit thought to be dominated by the idea of decay. I have seen men old at thirty, and others young at eighty. One, very dear to me, carries the weight of more than a half century with a light, springy step, and remains now, as he has always been, the adored one of every group he enters and the life of every party. He has never grown old, and only be-

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comes older because it adds to his worth. But there are those with whom I grew up, half his age, who bend with affected rheumatism, groan over the hardness of life, withdraw from activities which they believe they have outgrown, narrow their ambitions and stint their abilities with pretended senility, manufacturing a multitude of difficulties, and walking with their heads over their shoulders. They are old—not in fact, but in thought! He is older than they, but not as old, for the very element of eternal, youthful life flows through him continually—love, good-humor, kindliness, joyous labor—and he but gains from the passing years.

We are victims of our sentiments in many instances. Age is one of them. We have overrated the values of childhood and youth, and vastly under-rated the joys which come only with advancing years. No one will deny that there is much happiness in the early years of our earthly life. I believe that I have experienced most everything that is thought to constitute the pleasures of childhood and youth. They were happy periods, for the most part, and I am grateful for them—but they hold no monopoly on happiness! In fact, for downright fun,

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joy, inspiration, and all-round satisfaction, I would not trade the day on which I write this for all the other days of my life! Childhood had its sorrows along with its joys, let us not forget that, and while in later life these sorrows seem amusing and insignificant, at the time they were as severe as any we now know! A broken toy caused as deep a wound in the heart as a broken business does now. Youth seems a miracle of carefree living, but it is speckled with disappointments, difficulties, broken friendships, and heart-breaking love affairs. It is a reign of illusions, all of which must burst before the unfoldment of Reality. Therefore I look back on childhood and youth with no pang of yearning, and yet no sense of bitterness. Today is the childhood of tomorrow, and this sense of eternal youth is enough for me. I am better prepared to live than I ever was before, I bear disappointments more philosophically, and derive some good from all of them—I was not able to do this in earlier years. Growing older has been a process of improvement for me, and I am grateful to say that I do not now, and never have, wished to step one stride backward through time.

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I sat talking, one time, with a gracious lady who holds a prominent social position in the world. She is the mother of several wonderful children, and has everything that most people regard as desirable in life. During our conversation she confessed to me that she was terribly unhappy, and that all this unhappiness arose from the dread of becoming old. What a pity! Here was a life, which should have been a supremely happy one, compromised by a philosophical fallacy. Did she but know, the all-wise Creator has made Life complete and perfect, and even as we found childhood and youth rich in delights suited to our needs at that stage of growth, even so the advancing years will uncover new joys of the manner and kind which then meet our requirements. The joys of parenthood, the privilege of taking part in community and national affairs, the satisfaction of accomplishment, the silent joy of kowledge—these are fully the equal, when one is ready for them, of the endless playing of youth.

Old age cannot settle on the mind filled with youthful, active thoughts! Recently a man of lovable propensities came through the

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north country, slowly making his way on foot. My friend, who makes it a business to be kind, observed him and asked him into his home for food and rest. The stranger was eighty-seven years of age, and though penniless, was just starting afoot to California! He was burdened by no weakening sentiment. His stride was strong, his eyes laughed as he talked, his voice was calm and steady, and he disdained sympathy. From his rich experience he told stories which paid many times his tally. He had been in Alaska during the famous gold rush; he had spent years as a whaler during the days when the hazards of that business were greatest; he had worked, honestly and well, with the pioneers who invaded the most distant seas, mountains, and forests. He had made fortunes and lost them. He had traded with the natives of the far north, and washed for gold along the coasts of Siberia. He had lived more in his eighty-seven years than would be realized in a thousand years of the average living—yet he was off on a three thousand mile trip, not to die, but to live on! He was filled with plans and ambitions,—plans that were sensible and ambitions that could be realized. He had grown

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older, but not old. His years were an aid to him, not a burden; and as he walked off into the dawn, politely refusing an invitation to stay on and rest, the adoring thoughts of all who had met him went with him.

The greater wisdom is never to think of man as either young or old, for this is a nearer approach to truth! Age is a human concept, it has no place in the divine economy. Man is an endless unfoldment, and through his life he passes on from the thought of physical strength, to that of mental strength, and lastly to spiritual strength. At each stage of development an unmeasured cache of happiness awaits him,—happiness of different order than he has ever known before. Fortified by this knowledge he may look forward to the coming years in delightful anticipation, knowing that he shall never be old and useless, but rather realize a constant stream of joyous progress as he grows—older.

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MANLESS FOREST

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MANLESS FOREST

I can think of a forest without man! Sometimes, when my reasoning is bent with bitterness, when I have looked on acres of slashings which mark the trail of the ruthless timber merchant, when I look on the black stumps—monuments to human carelessness—or come upon the lifeless body of a forest creature, slain and left to rot, I long for all forests to be man-less. I like, then, to think of endless reaches of “forest primeval” which have neither felt the axe nor heard the gun; in which trees rise by the laws of nature, bow and fall in. one unhurried cycle of growth; in which animals roam, faced only by circumstances against which their instincts offer them a measure of protection.

But in my calmer moments, I know better than to desire this. I know that it is not man whom I would lift from the forests, but his brutishness and ignorance. For in a manless forest, whence would come the beauty, color, form, magnitude, peace, tranquillity, to grace

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the wildwood? Has a tree beauty before man looks upon it? Has a forest peace if there is no responsive being to become peaceful in its influence? These qualities burst into being at the fusion of man and nature, they exist nowhere alone!

The forest would be but half alive if there were no man to love it. But he must love it!—love is the atonement! Lift from man that strange, animal mesmerism which makes him destroy for the sake of destruction; which makes him thoughtlessly drop the burning match that starts a n orgy of red death through the forest; that makes him cruelly trap and torture the unoffending creatures;—lift this from man, and the forest is glorified at his touch!

A tree, standing unobserved, has the propensities of growth. It has root, pulp, sap, bark, and leaf, all of which function by the unseen laws of the universe. But bring man to it, with his consciousness cleared of carnality, and it blossoms anew! It now has symmetry and proportion—those pleasing properties of form which gratify the hungry, ascetic senses. It has color, the peculiar action of reflected light

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rays on the observing eye. It has beauty, which is a divine way of thinking of an object. In a mute language, heard only by man in state of adoring humility, it testifies of piety, strength, courage, patience—Immortality! Their spiritual qualities lie not in the tree alone, but are the arboreal answer to a call in the soul of man.

No, I would not want a manless forest. But I would hasten the day that man awakens from his carnal dream to see in his brother creatures divine provision for the birth and expession of his better self. I would bring more of this true man to the forest, and more of the true forest to him!

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BEAUTY
CONSCIOUSNESS

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BEAUTY CONSCIOUSNESS

An artist was asked by a friend where one especially beautiful picture had been made.

“In your garden,” was the answer, and the artist took his friend to the exact spot.

The friend, a business man, had looked on the very scene innumerable times, but it had never before entered his thought as being so lovely. His mind was occupied with affairs of the world as he passed to and fro, and beyond some awareness of a beautiful bush or tree, it was little noticed. All the charm of composition, the relation of shrub and elm, the harmonious trend of trunk and branch, the leafy framework for distant hill and sky,—all had lain outside the pale of his consciousness.

Beauty is not something which thrusts itself irresistibly into man’s thoughts. “The beauty,” said Bovee, “is partly in him who sees it.” It is the wedding of spiritualized sense with the object. A Nature Lover was tramping the woods one day with an experienced timber

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cruiser. “What a beauty!” he exclaimed, pointing out an unusual white pine. “At least five thousand board feet,” the cruiser agreed, sweeping the tree with an expert eye. One sees only that for which he looks!

Beauty is silent, shy, unobtrusive. Beauty demands an ardent lover, a constant courtship. She will not seek, she must be sought, and bestows her favors only so long as the suitor courts her with the freshness of young love. But when, through suitable devotion, one has gained her favor, all Nature shines with new lustre!

“Beauty hath vanity,” and perhaps there is no better way to court her than through photography. To go afield with camera, seeking her intimate moods with no other thought in mind, is a flattery she loves. Soon, to this earnest seeker, she reveals herself everywhere! He becomes enamoured of her, and fastidious as to her posing. He climbs the high hill to look on the distant lake of silver sheen, moves a bit to the right or to the left to include a branch or tree; he stoops to catch the single blossom, strains to get the massive rock, looks aloft, below, on every side, seeking, seeking, ever seeking beauty! “Seek and ye shall find,” and

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he who so ardently pursues beauty does find her—everywhere! The plant, the shrub, the tree, the lake, the sky, the bird and animal! all wear new accouterment to his awakened consciousness, He, himself, is happier, holier—more beautiful!

“The contemplation of beauty in Nature, in art, in literature, in human character, diffuses through our being a soothing and subtle joy, by which the heart’s anxious and aching cares are softly smiled away,” wrote Whipple.

It is astonishing how familiar everyday things light up with exotic charm, when beauty consciousness dawns. The dog, the housecat, the potted plant, the graceful elms in the yard, the isolate rose bush, the lowly dandelion, become crowned with a fairness that defies expression. A German photographer has produced a picture of wonderful interest and appeal, using for a subject the hands of a baby and of an aged person, placed side by side. Here was the deep-furrowed record of long years of labor and service, appearing in sharp contrast to the dainty hand of innocence, promise, and hope. Another artist has produced remarkable results using for a subject the much maligned

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and misunderstood snake! No more delicate coloring and marking is found in all the animal world than in the snake, yet fear and prejudice—and ignorance!—have barred its charm from our thoughts.

Beauty, like charity, begins at home—in one’s own thought. (Is this not the birthplace of all things?) He who finds no beauty in his present surroundings, no charm in his own circle of friends, and no interest at his own fireside, will find none anywhere else. It was from this premise that Emerson declared traveling to be a fool’s paradise. No matter where one goes, how famous the scene, how great the distance, he still finds his problem is with his own consciousness. No one will ever find beauty who has no beauty in his thought, and he who has awakened within himself the consciousness of beauty, will see it everywhere!

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