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This is Freedom Essay 23
The integrative meaning of existence
and its personification as ‘God’
Written by Jeremy Griffith, 2017
explained that humans acquired our unconditionally selfless moral instincts through nurturing, and that it was the emergence of our fully conscious mind (and with it, our present competitive and aggressive human condition) that led to our species’ departure from our original nurtured, all-loving state of innocence.
This raised the question of how we humans became fully conscious when no other animal has achieved that state? It was pointed out that to answer this other great biological question it is first necessary to explain that there is an integrative direction, purpose and meaning to existence. So, in this essay I will explain Integrative Meaning, and in the following essay (), I will explain how humans became conscious.
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The world’s greatest physicists, Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, have said, respectively, that ‘The overwhelming impression is of order…[in] the universe’ (‘The Time of His Life’, Gregory Benford, Sydney Morning Herald, 28 Apr. 2002), and that ‘behind everything is an order’ (Einstein Revealed, PBS, 1997). Yes, this ‘order’ IS apparent everywhere. Over the eons a chaotic universe organised itself into stars, planets and galaxies. Here on Earth, atoms became ordered or integrated to form molecules → which in turn integrated to form compounds → virus-like organisms → single-celled organisms → multicellular organisms → and then societies of multicellular organisms. Overall, matter is becoming ordered into larger wholes. So the direction or theme or purpose or meaning of existence is the ordering or integration or complexification of matter, a process that is driven by the physical law known as the ‘Second Path of the Second Law of Thermodynamics’, or Negative Entropy. (The law of Negative Entropy states that in an open system, where energy can come into the system from outside it—in Earth’s case, from the sun, and, in the case of the universe, from the original ‘big bang’ explosion that created it—matter integrates; it develops order. Thus, subject to the influence of Negative Entropy, the 94 elements from which our world is built develop ever larger and more stable wholes.)
In Janus: A Summing Up (1978), the scientist-philosopher Arthur Koestler gave this summary of the history of the concept of Negative Entropy: ‘One of the basic doctrines of the nineteenth-century mechanistic world-view was Clausius’ famous “Second Law of Thermodynamics”. It asserted that the universe was running down towards its final dissolution because its energy is being steadily, inexorably dissipated…cosmos dissolving into chaos. Only fairly recently did science begin to recover from the hypnotic effect of this gloomy vision, by realizing that the Second Law applies only in the special case of so-called “closed systems”…whereas all living organisms are “open systems” which maintain their complex structure and function by continuously drawing materials and energy from their environment [p.222 of 354] …It was in fact a physicist, not a biologist, the Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger, who put an end to the tyranny of the Second Law with his celebrated dictum: “What an organism feeds on is negative entropy” [p.223] …Schrödinger’s revolutionary concept of negentropy, published in 1944 [p.224] …is a somewhat perverse way of referring to the power of living organisms to “build up” instead of running down, to create complex structures out of simpler elements, integrated patterns out of shapelessness, order out of disorder. The same irrepressible building-up tendency is manifested in the progress of evolution, the emergence of new levels of complexity in the organismic hierarchy and new methods of functional coordination [p.223].’ Significantly, Koestler wrote of ‘the active striving of living matter towards [order] [p.223]’, of ‘a drive towards synthesis, towards growth, towards wholeness [p.224]’, and that ‘this “innate drive” derives from the “integrative tendency” [p.225]’.
So the theme of existence, the overall direction or destiny of change, or, from a conscious observer’s point of view, the overall purpose or meaning of existence, is the ordering or integration or complexification of matter. ‘Teleology’, ‘the belief that purpose and design are a part of nature’ (Macquarie Dictionary, 3rd edn, 1998), and ‘holism’, which the dictionary defines as ‘the tendency in nature to form wholes’ (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 5th edn, 1964), are terms that recognise this integrative ‘tendency’. The concept ‘holism’ was first introduced by the South African statesman, philosopher and scientist Jan Smuts in his 1926 book Holism and Evolution. Smuts conceived ‘holism’ as ‘the ultimate organising, regulative activity in the universe that accounts for all the structural groupings and syntheses in it, from the atom, and the physico-chemical structures, through the cell and organisms, through Mind in animals, to Personality in Man’ (p.341 of 380).
HOWEVER, for humans, the great problem with this truth of the integrative meaning of life is that for a larger whole to form and hold together the parts of that whole must consider the welfare of the whole above their own welfare—put simply, selfishness is divisive or disintegrative while selflessness is integrative.
So, consider-others-above-yourself, altruistic, unconditional selflessness is the underlying theme of existence; it’s the glue that holds the world together and what we really mean by the term ‘love’. Indeed, if we consider religious terminology, the old Christian word for love was ‘caritas’, which means charity or giving or selflessness; see Col. 3:14, 1 Cor. 13:1-13, 10:24, and John 15:13. Of these biblical references, Colossians 3:14 perfectly summarises the integrative significance of love: ‘And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.’ In John 15:13 we also see that Christ emphasised the unconditionally selfless significance of the word ‘love’ when he said, ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.’ BUT, acknowledging and accepting this truth—that the meaning of life is to be integrative cooperative, selfless and loving—left humans feeling unbearably condemned as bad, evil or unworthy for our divisive competitive, selfish and aggressive, seemingly-unloving behaviour. Indeed, we have been so divisive, so ruthlessly competitive, selfish and brutal that human life has become all but unbearable and we have nearly destroyed our own planet! ONLY when we could truthfully explain the good reason WHY we humans have not been ideally behaved, explain our in-humanity—truthfully explain the human condition no less, which fortunately we now can—would it be psychologically safe to confront, admit and accept that the meaning of life is to be integrative, selfless and loving. (The truthful explanation of the human condition is presented in .)
Furthermore, the concept of ‘God’ is actually our personification of this truth of Integrative Meaning, and if we include more of what Hawking and Einstein said we can see that they both agree. Hawking: ‘The overwhelming impression is of order. The more we discover about the universe, the more we find that it is governed by rational laws. If one liked, one could say that this order was the work of God. Einstein thought so…We could call order by the name of God’ (Gregory Benford, ‘The time of his life’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Apr. 2002; see ); and, ‘I would use the term God as the embodiment of the laws of physics’ (Master of the Universe, BBC, 1989). Einstein: ‘over time, I have come to realise that behind everything is an order that we glimpse only indirectly [because it’s unbearably confronting/condemning!]. This is religiousness. In this sense, I am a religious man’ (Einstein Revealed, PBS, 1997). Einstein was also recognising that God is order or harmony when he said, ‘In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God’ (Hubertus zu Löwenstein, Towards the Further Shore, 1968, p.156). I might mention that while Mahatma Gandhi was an inspired leader of the Indian nation rather than a scientist, he was another who bravely acknowledged that ‘There is an orderliness in the Universe, there is an unalterable law governing everything and every being that exists or lives…That law then which governs all life is God’ (Louis Fischer, Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World, 1954, p.108 of 224). As it says in the Bible, ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16). ‘God’ is the integrative, unconditionally selfless theme of existence. But again, the problem was that until we could truthfully explain the human condition we needed the concept of ‘God’ to remain safely abstract and undefined—we couldn’t afford to demystify ‘God’, admit the truth that the meaning of life is to be integrative, selfless and loving. It is little wonder then that we humans have been, as we say, ‘God-fearing’—in fact, God-fearing to the point of being God-worshipping—not God-confronting!
While our soul-corrupted, divisive-not-integrative, ‘good and evil’-stricken human condition had still to be explained, only human-condition-confronting-not-avoiding, outside-Plato’s-cave-living, denial-free thinkers, or what we have historically referred to as prophets, were free enough of upset and thus sound and secure enough to face and admit the truth of Integrative Meaning or ‘God’. (See for further explanation of prophets.)
The Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten who reigned in Egypt around 1,350 , and the great Hebrew leader Abraham who lived about 2,000 , had to both be sound and secure, denial-free-thinking prophets to recognise that there are not numerous dominant forces or ‘gods’ at work on Earth, just one, which is the integration of matter, and by so doing introduce to the world monotheism or belief in one God, as they both did. Indeed, in terms of Abraham being sound and secure enough to think truthfully and acknowledge Integrative Meaning or God, in the Bible it says that Abraham was able to ‘walk before me [God] and be blameless’ (Gen. 17:1), and to be ‘blessed’ ‘in every way’ by God (Gen. 24:1), and to accept God as his ‘shield’ (Gen. 15:1). Abraham was God-confronting, not God-fearing like most other humans.
Abraham’s son Isaac was the father of Jacob who in turn was the father of Joseph, and Moses was a descendent of one of Joseph’s brothers. Genesis in the Bible says that ‘the Lord appeared to Isaac’ (26:2); and it also records Jacob saying, ‘I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared’ (32:30), and that Jacob ‘talked with’ ‘God’ (35:14); and that ‘Israel [Jacob] loved Joseph more than any of his other sons’ (37:3) because of Joseph’s exceptional soundness which, for example, enabled him to ‘interpret’ (40:8) the Egyptian pharaoh’s dreams. And in the case of Moses, the Bible says that ‘no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face’ (Deut. 34:10), and that ‘At that time I [Moses] stood between the Lord and you [the Israelites] to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire [fire has historically been a metaphor for the searing, fearful truth of Integrative Meaning or ‘God’] (Deut. 5:4–5). So Abraham and these descendants of his were all exceptionally sound and secure, God-confronting-not-God-avoiding prophets.
In the case of the later great Israelite prophet Christ, he was described as being the ‘Son of God’ (see for eg. John 5), meaning he was also an exceptionally uncorrupted manifestation of our species’ Integrative Meaning-complying, cooperative, selfless and loving instinctive self or soul. Christ even said about himself, ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30), and ‘The Father is in me, and I in him’ (John 14:10, 10:38); in other words Christ said he is free of the upset, divisive, competitive, selfish and aggressive state of the human condition and so is able to confront the truth of Integrative Meaning or God without feeling condemned. (Again, see for further explanation of prophets.)
The great Persian prophet Zoroaster also recognised that there is only ‘one supreme deity’, as this reference to the Zoroastrian faith describes: ‘sometime around or before 600 BC—perhaps as early as 1200 BC—there came forth from the windy steppes of northeastern Iran a prophet who utterly transformed the Persian faith. The prophet was Zarathustra—or Zoroaster, as the Greeks would style his name. Ahuramazda [the supreme being or wise lord] had appeared to Zoroaster in a vision, in which the god had revealed himself to be the one supreme deity, all seeing and all powerful. He represented both light and truth, and was creator of all things, fountainhead of all virtue’ (A Soaring Spirit: Time-Life History of the World 600–400 BC, 1988, p.37 of 176).
Also, in approximately 360 , that other very great denial-free-thinking prophet, Plato, similarly recognised that God is Integrative Meaning, writing that ‘God desired that all things should be good and nothing bad, so far as this was attainable. Wherefore also finding the whole visible sphere not at rest, but moving in an irregular and disorderly fashion, out of disorder he brought order, considering that this was in every way better than the other’ (Timaeus; tr. B. Jowett, 1871, 30), and he also referred to ‘God, the orderer of all’ (The Statesman, c.350 BC; tr. B. Jowett, 1871, 273).
Being able to recognise and acknowledge Integrative Meaning Smuts, Koestler, Einstein, Hawking and Gandhi can also, at least to some degree, be regarded as denial-free-thinking prophets.
In his 1955 book Flamingo Feather, Sir Laurens van der Post confirmed his status as a denial-free-thinking prophet when, in chapter 2, which he titled ‘The Great “Togethernesses”’, he also acknowledged Integrative Meaning, writing of the ‘the ultimate purpose which causes and effects all…a fundamental law of whose working you [the resigned world (see for more on Resignation)] are either painfully ignorant or arrogantly contemptuous…[what is significant is] the togetherness of things in time, not their apparent unrelatedness…“the great togethernesses” (pp.23–25 of 320). (For more on Sir Laurens, see and/or Jeremy’s book .)
While our divisive, seemingly unGodly human condition had still to be explained, you had to be a denial-free-thinking prophet to recognise Integrative Meaning, but now that our upset, competitive, selfish and aggressive human condition is explained everyone can acknowledge the truth of Integrative Meaning and start thinking truthfully and effectively.
So yes, when the scientist-philosopher Teilhard de Chardin wrote, ‘I can see a direction and a line of progress for life, a line and a direction which are in fact so well marked that I am convinced their reality will be universally admitted by the science of tomorrow’ (The Phenomenon of Man, 1938, p.142), he was recognising firstly how obvious the integrative, order-of-matter-developing theme of existence is; and, secondly, that this truth of the integrative ‘direction’ or theme or purpose or meaning of existence wouldn’t be able to be ‘admitted’ until the human-condition-resolved ‘science of tomorrow’ emerged, which relievingly it now has. (See for the real story of the integrative development of life that this ‘science of tomorrow’ now makes possible.) ‘Yesterday’s’ scientists avoided the overarching, truthful whole view of the integrative meaning of existence and the issue of the human condition it raised and instead adopted a reduced view that only focused down on to the details about the mechanisms of the workings of our world—they have been what’s called ‘reductionist’ and ‘mechanistic’, not ‘teleological’ and ‘holistic’—and the contrivance they developed to avoid the truth of Integrative Meaning was to assert that there is no direction or meaning to existence and that change is random. (F. Essay 25 also includes discussion on science’s denial of Integrative Meaning.) Furthermore, to avoid religion’s acknowledgement of Integrative Meaning (albeit an indirect and abstract acknowledgement in the form of the concept of ‘God’) ‘yesterday’s’ scientists claimed that religion and science were two totally unrelated realms—to the point that the famous Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has said, ‘I take a very strong stance against the mingling of religion and science’ (National Geographic Magazine, May 2006). Of course, as the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles H. Townes truthfully admitted, ‘they [religion and science] both represent man’s efforts to understand his universe and must ultimately be dealing with the same substance. As we understand more in each realm, the two must grow together…converge they must’ (‘The Convergence of Science and Religion’, Zygon, Vol.1 No.3, 1966). The physicist Max Planck (another Nobel winner) similarly recognised that ‘There can never be any real opposition between science and religion; for the one is the complement of the other’ (Where Is Science Going?, 1977, p.168). And as my headmaster at Geelong Grammar School, Australia’s greatest ever educator, Sir James Darling, said, ‘The scientist can no more deny or devaluate the truths of spiritual experience than the theologian can neglect the truths of science: and the two truths must be reconcilable, and it must be of importance to each of us that they should be reconciled’ (The Education of a Civilized Man, ed. Michael Persse, 1962, p.68 of 223).
Indeed, the great hope implicit in the reductionist, mechanistic approach was that by finding understanding of the mechanisms of the workings of our world, its practitioners would at least be assembling the means by which the human condition might one day be able to be explained—which is exactly what they have achieved. Through the gradual accumulation of knowledge about the mechanisms of the workings of our world, scientists found understanding of the difference in the way genes and nerves function, which, as is explained in and , is the key insight that at last made it possible to explain the human condition.
So it is only now that the human condition has been explained that de Chardin’s integrative-‘direction’-or-theme-or-purpose-or-meaning-acknowledging ‘science of tomorrow’ can emerge. And it is also only now that the integrative ideals and our lack of compliance with them can be reconciled and religion and science ‘converge’. Furthermore, finding understanding of our less-than-ideally-behaved human condition is the crucial insight we needed to psychologically rehabilitate the human race. The famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung was forever saying that ‘wholeness for humans depends on the ability to own their own shadow’ because he recognised that only finding understanding of our competitive, selfish and aggressive dark side could end our underlying insecurity about our fundamental goodness and worth as humans and, in so doing, make us ‘whole’ and restore our humanity, the cooperative, harmonious integrated state. Yes, it is only now that we can at last explain the human condition that we can understand and thus heal that divisive competitive, selfish and aggressive, seemingly-‘unGodly’ condition! That most beautiful and repeated prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, ‘Our Father in heaven [Integrative Meaning], hallowed be your name, your [integrative] kingdom come, your [integrative] will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Bible, Matt. 6:9–10) has finally been answered. The integrative state returns to the lives of humans. Finally, at last, the great transformation of the human race from living in a human-condition-stricken state to living free of it takes place! (See .)
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At this point I should address some questions that are often asked about the demystification of God as Integrative Meaning:
Does the scientific explanation of ‘God’ really contain all the attributes of religion’s metaphysical ‘God’? / Won’t Griffith’s demystification of ‘God’ be seen by supporters of religion as blasphemy?
If we humans are 2 million years hurt, damaged and wretched, as in truth we are (see ), then the loneliness of our situation has been absolutely astronomical, and so it follows that the comfort we have derived from a metaphysical view of ‘God’ has also been immense. Obviously then, the scientific/‘laws of physics’ demystification of ‘God’ is going to seem very inadequate in terms of embodying all the attributes that we have imbued ‘God’ with. But, in fact, all the attributes we have imbued ‘God’ with—‘His’ lovingness of our fallen state, ‘His’ reassurance that if we are as true to him as we can be all will be okay in the end, ‘His’ kindness towards all forms of suffering, ‘His’ essential ‘goodness’, ‘His’ ‘bigness’ in every sense; namely ‘His’ universality, ‘His’ omnipotence (all-powerfulness), omnipresence (all-presentness) and omniscience (all-knowingness)—are actually now confirmed and reinforced by our ability to understand ‘Him’; but this sudden demystification of ‘God’ may take some time to adjust to. In fact, in fairness to how much we 2-million-years-corrupted humans have needed the support of a metaphysical ‘God’, almost everyone should expect some shock and resistance to have to work through when absorbing the scientific explanation of ‘God’.
This demystification of ‘God’ may well come as a shock, but to repeat what Nobel Prize-winning physicist Charles H. Townes said: ‘they [science and religion] both represent man’s efforts to understand his universe and must ultimately be dealing with the same substance. As we understand more in each realm, the two must grow together…converge they must’ (‘The Convergence of Science and Religion’, Zygon, 1966, Vol.1, No.3). And with understanding of the human condition now found, ‘converge’ they have; ideality (which religions and the truthful, denial-free-thinking, God-confronting-not-avoiding prophets they were founded around represented) and our search for understanding of our non-ideal reality (which science represented—the word ‘science’ literally means ‘knowledge’) have finally been ‘reconciled’. Yes, with the human condition now explained and our divisive, seemingly non-integrative state finally understood, all humans can at last safely admit and recognise that there has only been one God, one all-dominating and all-pervading theme or meaning of existence, which is Integrative Meaning—a truth we recognise when we say ‘God is love’ (Bible, 1 John 4:8, 16).
Also, as I pointed out in the following , Christ, for example, looked forward to the time when we can be told ‘plainly about my Father’. As I said in that paragraph, “religions aren’t being threatened by the arrival of dignifying understanding of the human condition—they are being fulfilled. The whole purpose of religion was to be the custodian of the ideal state while the search for the liberating understanding of humans’ ‘fallen’ condition was underway. Buddha, for instance, looked forward to the arrival of the amelioration of the human condition when he said that ‘In the future they will every one be Buddhas [meaning in the future everyone will be free of psychosis] / And will reach Perfect Enlightenment / In domains in all directions / Each will have the same title [there will be no more distorting alienation] / Simultaneously on wisdom-thrones / They will prove the Supreme Wisdom’ (Buddha [Siddartha Gautama] 560–480 BC, The Lotus Sutra, ch.9; tr. W.E. Soothill, 1987, p.148 of 275). In the Bible, Moses similarly anticipated a time when we ‘will be like God, knowing’ (Gen. 3:5). In his Lord’s Prayer, Christ instructed us to pray for the time when ‘Your [Godly, integrated, peaceful] kingdom come, your [integrative] will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (Matt. 6:10 & Luke 11:2). He also looked forward to the time when ‘another Counsellor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth [the denial-free, truthful, first-principle-based, scientific understanding]…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything [all the denial-free truths] I have said to you’ (John 14:16, 17, 26). He similarly said he looked forward to when, instead of being restricted to ‘speaking figuratively’, we ‘will no longer use this kind of language but will [be able to] tell you plainly about my Father [be able to explain the world of Integrative Meaning in denial-free, human-condition-reconciled, compassionate, understandable, rational, first principle, scientific terms]’ (John 16:25). And again, the same anticipation of our species’ liberation from the human condition is expressed in Revelations in the Bible where it states that ‘Another book [will be]…opened which is the book of life [the human-condition-explaining and humanity-liberating book]…[and] a new heaven and a new earth [will appear] for the first heaven and the first earth [will have]…passed away…[and the dignifying full truth about our condition] will wipe every tear from…[our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain [insecurity, suffering or sickness], for the old order of things has passed away’ (20:12, 21:1, 4). Yes, as Isaiah hoped, there would come a time when humans ‘will beat their swords into ploughshares…Nation[s] will…[not] train for war any more’ (Isa. 2:4). And what did that truth-saying prophet John Lennon ‘imagine’? A time when the human condition is resolved and ‘the world will be as one’, when there will be ‘no heaven [above us and] no hell below us’; when, in essence, there will be a world without the condemning differentiation of good and evil, a world liberated from the insecurity of the human condition and thus the need for religion, where, as Lennon sang, there will be ‘Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too…all the people living life in peace…No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man…all the people sharing all the world’ (Imagine, 1971).”
How can you reconcile the explanation of the human condition that defends the upset state with religious teachings that condemn upset?
With understanding of the human condition we can now appreciate that in order to encourage people to adhere to the integrative, ‘Godly’, cooperative ideals of life, religions sought to restrain ‘upset’ behaviour by making people fearful of behaving in an overly angry, egocentric and alienated way. So you will find in the Bible passages, such as the following from Jeremiah, that spell out the upset state—‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure: who can understand it?’ (Bible, Tr. 1978 NIV, Jeremiah 17:9)—and other passages that seek to persuade people to not live out their upset; for example, ‘He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power’ (ibid, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9), and ‘Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ (ibid, Matt. 25:41). The more upset and therefore destructive people became, the more they needed to try to obey the Godly ideals of life that religions taught, but the problem was such condemnation of upset behaviour, as ‘deceitful’, ‘cursed’ and warranting ‘eternal fire’ for instance, could be terrorising and extremely oppressive. As a result, many people who grew up with strict religious doctrine suffer all their life from the ‘you’ll-burn-in-hell-if-you-sin, fire and brimstone’-terror that they were subjected to as children.
Obviously what was desperately missing was the reconciling understanding of our upset behaviour and the Godly ideals; reconciling understanding of the human condition in fact—which is exactly what FREEDOM provides. With the understanding of the human condition that explains why we departed from those Godly ideals, no longer does anybody have to preach, or be terrorised by, religious dogma. And everyone can now understand the aligning (with Integrative Meaning) and restraining (of upset)—albeit repressive—purpose of religious doctrine. No wonder the reconciling understanding of the human condition has brought incredible relief to people who have spent a lifetime suffering from religious fire-and-brimstone teaching!
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Discussion or comment on this essay is welcomed—see below.
These essays were created in 2017-2021 by Jeremy Griffith, Damon Isherwood, Fiona
Cullen-Ward, Brony FitzGerald & Lee Jones of the Sydney WTM Centre. All filming and
editing of the videos was carried out by Sydney WTM members James Press & Tess Watson
during 2017-2021. Other members of the Sydney WTM Centre are responsible for the
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