THE FAILED MESSIAH – A BROKEN HALLELUJAH

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THE FAILED MESSIAH – A BROKEN HALLELUJAH

Postby jarkko » Sat Feb 25, 2006 3:24 pm

http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/research/the ... veling.htm

Abstract of the article by Mary Veling (follow the link to read the whole analysis)
ABSTRACT

A reflection on the paschal mystery with the help of Leonard Cohen’s poems, “Hallelujah” and “If it be Your Will” [1]

Somewhere between suffering and hope lies poetry, somewhere between the Cross and the Resurrection lies the “cold and broken Hallelujah.” This broken hallelujah is something we all feel and experience, regardless of who we are or where we come from. It is the cry of the hope-less, the agonized, the weary. It is the cry that echoes from defeat, the cry of failure. It is the ‘cold shoulder’ of the lover after an argument. It is the “I hate you!” from the lips of the teenage child, rebuked and angry. It is the cry of the ‘poor ones’ in the world who suffer poverty and injustice. It is the cry of shame when Jesus “turned and looked straight at Simon” the night of his arrest, and Simon ran out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22: 61-62) It is the agonizing cry of Jesus, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) It is the “long day’s journey of the Saturday. Between suffering, aloneness, unutterable waste on the one hand and the dream of liberation, of rebirth on the other.”[2]

Baby I’ve been here before

I know this room I’ve walked this floor

I used to live alone before I knew you

I’ve seen your flag on the Marble Arch

But love is not a victory march

It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sat Feb 25, 2006 4:15 pm

How interesting.

I took the occasion to listen to the song again. What a song.

I like that :

"It is easy perhaps for some to believe that after the death of Jesus a ‘miracle’ occurred and somehow all that had gone wrong, the failure, the defeat, the shame, was instantly redeemed. That Jesus in all his resurrected glory stepped into the world once again and the disciples this time ‘got’ his message. This type of understanding, however appealing, denies the real sense of despair, of alienation and of loss that the disciples experienced after the death of Jesus. It denies the overwhelming sense of failure and guilt that they lived with, before, during and after Jesus’ death, and ultimately it denies any true continuity between the historical person and message of Jesus and the resurrected Christ. “Faith” according to John Caputo, “is a read we have on the human condition; it is not a supervening miracle that lifts us up out of our boots.” [9] The disciples were left despairing and confused after the death of Jesus. They were left alone to mull over, read and re-read the ‘condition’ in which they found themselves.

(...)



There was a time you let me know

What’s really going on below,

But now you never show it to me do you?

I remember when I moved in you

And the Holy Dove was moving too,

And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.

EASTER SUNDAY – FAILURE AND GIFT

“Undecidability” according to Caputo, “is a condition of choice, not an excuse for sitting on the sidelines.”[13] What ‘choice’ did the disciples make? What possible choice could they make in the face of such deafening silence? In the face of such shame? Perhaps, the only real choice available to the disciples was the choice to admit defeat, to both accept their failure and to accept Jesus’ failure - to accept the ‘silence of his dying’. But, to be able to do this, admit this defeat, claims Williams, “depends upon a transformation of self-perception.”[14] The disciples had to ‘let go’ of all their conceived notions of who they thought Jesus was, and what he had come to ‘do’. They had to ‘let go’ of their perceived notions of where they fitted in. In other words, they had to let go of an obsession to control. They were not in ‘possession’ of either Jesus nor his message, they had no control;rather, they were left bereft, alone and found that beyond those bounds they couldn’t survive with their own resources. “The person who faces and acknowledges inner contradiction, failure, the breakdown of performance and the emptiness of gratification”, says Williams, “is the person who is capable of hearing and answering the invitation to loss and trust… this invitation is in practice an invitation to accept the ‘hospitality’ of Jesus himself … and so this invitation is put at its most baldness and most alien when Jesus himself fails."

"he disciples realised at some time during their time of guilt and shame, anger and loss, that defeat is not the final word. They accepted the invitation, God’s gift that “selfhood is given not achieved.” And this, according to Williams, is the essential point. This is resurrection, the transaction in human beings where they realise that their identity is gift Resurrection is judgement upon the attempt to control, to construct impregnable systems. Resurrection is dying to the illusion that we possess the final word – even in death. The disciples had come face to face with Jesus, his gaze had penetrated them, and in that gaze they saw the face of the ‘other’, and upon reflection, in their darkest hour, they knew that “the arm of the murderer is not long enough to reach the other, not in the other’s true otherness, which is infinite, which exceeds everything empirical, and thus is an invisible excess, an irreducible transcendence.”[16] According to Robert Schreiter, the resurrection accounts in the gospels are primarily stories of reconciliation.[17] Jesus appears to the disciples in narratives of healing, forgiveness and hospitality. Jesus forgives Peter’s three denials, he heals Thomas’ doubts, he cooks breakfast for the disciples on the beach. As Williams notes, these resurrection stories tell us that love is stronger than death, that the night will end. “The narratives of the resurrection of Jesus show the centrality of forgiveness, restoration and gift in the apprehension by the apostles of the risenness of Jesus… the assurance that failure and loss do not mean final destruction or emptiness.”[18] "

This is the most beautiful analysis about this song that I have ever read.
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Postby Tchocolatl » Sat Feb 25, 2006 4:34 pm

I know. I know. But this is not a contradiction. Sex and spirituality. According to wise men and women of ancient oral traditions (like in yoga) this is the same energy. So.

***

If it be your will

f it be your will

That I speak no more

And my voice be still

As it was before

I will speak no more

I shall abide until

I am spoken for

If it be your will

If it be your will

That a voice be true

From this broken hill

I will sing to you

From this broken hill

All you praises they shall ring

If it be your will

To let me sing

If it be your will

If there is a choice

Let the rivers fill

Let the hills rejoice

Let your mercy spill

On all these burning hearts in hell

If it be your will

To make us well

And draw us near

And bind us tight

All your children here

In their rags of light

In our rags of light

All dressed to kill

And end this night

If it be your will


could fit for the Great Manitou also.

How come the Great Manitou can have let His people experienced such a failure when obviously they were much more spiritual harmony? They should have "win", like Jesus (In a walt-disney-kind-of-comprehension-buy-one-you'll-get-the-second-free of the world). Maybe The Great Manitou was touched by this crucified Man, this G_d who died of Love for humanity? Maybe the issue commanded that He asked his braves to follow His path? I think so. A broken Halleluijah indeed. But we badly need to hear the wisdom of their harmony again, so I hope they could choose to speak again despite their calvary.

Hum.... on this, I'll listen to the song again, and dash! Have a nice week-end people!
:D
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Postby johnny7moons » Sun Feb 26, 2006 10:34 pm

Thanks for the link, Jarkko – I thought Veling kind of missed the point of ‘Hallelujah’, at least the point of ‘Hallelujah’ as I see it, but she missed it in an interesting and thought-provoking way.
Veling takes the cold, broken Hallelujah to be a simple expression of pain and despair, “the cry that echoes from defeat, the cry of failure”. I think this gets half-way there, but only half-way. If we look at the lines,
And it’s not a complaint you hear tonight,
And it’s not some pilgrim who’s seen the light –
It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.
We see that this cold and broken hallelujah is not a complaint, it’s not just a cry of misery. But it’s not the mystic’s cry of ecstasy either; it’s something more subtle than either of these. When Leonard sings,
But love is not a victory march,
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.
- we know the old roué too well to imagine that he’s turning his back on love, telling us that it’s all failure and defeat. He’s recognizing the pain and difficulty of love – the coldness and the brokenness – sure he is. I’m reminded of the tough words of the Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck: “A relationship is a great gift, not because it makes us happy – it often doesn’t.” So yes it’s cold, and yes it’s broken, but the point is it’s still a hallelujah. It seems to me this verse is about recognizing that love is bitter and painful and it often doesn’t make us happy, but it’s something to be glad of and to celebrate nevertheless.
This sad, brave saying-yes-to-the-world-in-spite-of-all-the-suffering seems to me to be what ‘Hallelujah’ is mostly about. It seems very clear to me in the lines,
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.
Yes, the singer says, it all went wrong, it was painful and disappointing and catastrophic, but I’ve got no complaints; in fact I’m grateful for it all. Rather than Jesus, it puts me in mind of Job and how, after all the awful and senseless sufferings of his life, the revelation of God ultimately reconciles him to it all.
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Postby lizzytysh » Sun Feb 26, 2006 10:55 pm

I don't have time at the moment to read all of the article, intact. However, I agree with what you're saying, Johnny. I've always heard it in the same sense that I hear "There Ain't No Cure for Love," as to the love aspect of it... despite its travails, there's a kind of redemption in it. To me, Leonard makes the contrast himself when he sings, "and even though it all went wrong . . . nothing on my lips but 'Hallelujah.'" Nothing is perfect, certainly not in this world... still there are glories to be found within all of its imperfections. Man-woman love is one of many. In the same sense as the cream rises to the top, we may choose to remember the good times, and forget the bad and painful. Listening to this song from the man-woman love relationship perspective, it's clear [for me] that he appreciates all that he had whilst being in the love relationship and for that he resounds a clear "Hallelujah"... acknowledging the pain and the loss at the same time as all of what was beautiful, brings forth "it's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah" ~ still the "Hallelujah" prevails and is the final comment.

~ Lizzy
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Postby lightning » Mon Feb 27, 2006 2:01 am

I'm not sure he says anything about what, in love , was beautiful As I remember later in the song he says, "Even though it all went wrong, I'll stand before the Lord of Song.... " "The cold and broken hallelujah" is for, at least, getting a song out of the experience. And a beautiful one, besides, as those that come from that lonesome valley tend to be.
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Postby lizzytysh » Mon Feb 27, 2006 3:30 am

You're right, Lightning... I don't recall that he did, either... for me, it was implied, as in justifying, ". . . I'll stand before the lord of song, with nothing on my lips but hallelujah" ~ love has to have beauty in some measure, for it to have been embraced as such. What I've said relates only to the man-woman aspect, not the spiritual, religious ones.
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Postby Tchocolatl » Mon Feb 27, 2006 6:08 am

johnny7moons, I see no contradictions in your comprehension and her understanding of the song. It seems to me that she passes by another path with other words and examples, and thoughts to arrive at the same place as you. It makes me wonder if you have read the text completely. I'm serious.

I read a book by Charlotte Joko Beck about 10 years ago - I have won the first price in a contest at school and this was a gift certificate in a library, I could choose the books I wanted (well some of them - of course), and for some reason this book by her attracted me in an irrisistible way. I learned in it some most interesting things. That was my first encounter with Zen philosophy. Like : being one with the world, going with the flow, not oppose myself to reality but to stay closely in touch with every reality, even the ones that are considered "bad" in our Western culture. Very very interesting book.

Lz, love is love, indeed. Love has no boundaries. Love between a man an a woman is the same love as spiritual Love. This is why I find that johnny7moons and Ms. Veling got the point, the same (well at least, by "the point" I my "the point I see either").

I like this part about acknowledging (or being conscious) that we have no control over the "object" of love, we are in relation with, in balance in harmony. Or we are not.

I had this song in mind all the week-end. It is such a great song.
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Postby Nightstalker » Mon Feb 27, 2006 7:12 pm

I enjoyed reading the abstract and all of your comments and can certainly agree with them mostly from one point of view. Most of these comments are from an entirely Christian point of view ( and I have studied Christianity exhaustively) and that may differ significantly from a Jewish point of view. I must doubt that Leonard wrote the song from a Christian viewpoint but I may be wrong. He seems to allude to a possible conversion or almost conversion in some other songs which may validate that it is from the Christian viewpoint, so I won't speculate further. Since some of these interpretations can be applied either way, I won't make the extended effort that would be necessary to explain the other possibilities. Jews will recognize them and others with some knowledge of Judaism may also.

There has always been a puzzle within this song for me. Bathsheba never cut David's hair....... Delilah cut Samson's hair.... Something is in that somewhere..... Anyhow, the relationship certainly broke David's throne in the long term. I don't know how a guy, King David, with scores of suzerainty wives would need one more woman anyhow..... hmmmmm.... But then why does a man with even one good woman need another? You knew I would wander off topic, didn't you?

To return somewhat to the topic I will offer this. I mention this as a discussion point and not in an attempt to hurt someone's feelings but apologize in advance if I affront anyone. Perhaps Leonard regards 'the broken Halleluyah' as the the failure of Christian doctrine to successfully fulfill its promisses as he understands them in relationship with who he is and what else he knows and believes. He fervently wishes the premiss were true but sees past the veil and the wish "sinks beneath the waters like a stone"? Of course per the song, it doesn't make any difference which Halleluyah is said, does it? I think it doesn't in life either.......
"For the captain had quitted the long drawn strife
And in far Simoree had taken a wife." (R Kipling)
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Postby lizzytysh » Mon Feb 27, 2006 7:38 pm

That's a very interesting postulation, Nightstalker... the Christian vs. Judaism consideration.
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Postby Tchocolatl » Tue Feb 28, 2006 2:03 am

I am not insulted (or something), Nightstalker, you are respectful of differences, it is what is important to me, for the rest... life is much more enjoyable with differences of all sorts. Very interesting your point of view, indeed. Leonard Cohen grew up both in a very Christian city and "Jesus freaks" time. So. Without giving up his faith (which he never did) he had the opportunity to know this other one very well. It is not so bizarre that he could have wrote a song from a Catholic point of view. He was curious of many other religious and spiritual groups also. There is trace of this in The Absent Mare. For me all religions and spiritual philosophies are different paths that lead to the same place, in the core. Even people who are not believer can go to this "place" if they are living in the principles (not the dogma, you know that). And some are more fanatically anti-religion than religious fanatics. So all this are words and images. The real thing, this is what is really important. Respect is part of the real thing. So. The rest...

It is "beneath your wisdom" not "waters". By the way.

Why a man would want another woman when he already has one?

Maybe it is because sexual instinct wants it like that Nightstalker. Maybe it is not "bad" at all. Maybe there is a difference between having such kind of sexual instinct and acting accordingly or otherwise.

Maybe what is "good" and "bad" depends of the context also.

Jews of the ancient time were very aware about the importance of being "pure" (keep the body healthy) vs. (if we can say so) the non-jews. Religion and hygiene were the same thing, but they just did not explain to people the "how and the why", they were telling them what to do, that's it : do this and do that. This is what is good. And this is what is bad. Very easy (at a first degree of course. Judaism is much more complex than that, but, besides the fact that I am not an expert of this fascinating subject, it is much too wide for this post).

They were taking care of how they were preparing the food (all this kosher things, of course, plus other recommandations like on which surface preparing the food, things like that), how they have sexual relationship (you choose a mate, people should stay virgin (not only the female, the male also) before marriage : this avoid spreading sexual transmissible deseases. They did not care for our "moral" of the twenty-one century, if f*cking around causes epidemia of sexual transmissible deseases, they did not say "do it anyway" out of a reaction againsts religion fanatism Wink-wink-wink.

So to be married was also a way to keep the body pure (among other things, 'cause of course there was this thing about making an alliance with another family group, and having children - and you know this, the family as a cell of the society - and keeping society in good order, etc.), you see. I don't know if it was working totally, really, because of the number of prostitutes on the roads you can find reading the Bible, but Jewish religion is a religion of laws and of respecting the laws of God and they (the prostitutes) were there for... everyone... of course, not only the Jews. So.
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Postby johnny7moons » Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:53 am

Well, Tchoc, I did read it through, but I have to admit that by the end I wasn’t quite sure what she was trying to say. There’s something about the language of a lot of contemporary Christian theology that seems vague and woolly to me – I can’t get to grips with it. You’re obviously better able to make sense of this kind of writing than I am, though, so if you find that Veling’s reached the same point I have, I’ll gladly take your word for it.

Lightning and Lizzie - as for references to what’s good and worthwhile in love, the verse

There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show it to me do you?
But I remember when I moved in you
And the Holy Dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah.

seems to me to be saying the sex was pretty good, for one thing, while it lasted.

I find it difficult to think of Hallelujah as being ‘about’ religion, Christian Jewish or otherwise. It seems to me that in this song, Leonard is using Judaeo-Christian symbolism to describe a love affair, its ending, and his emotions as he looks back over it (though he offers us all sorts of double-meanings and ambiguities along the way). Hence mixing the two Old Testament stories, as Nightstalker points out, in the verse,

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah.

On one level, this reads to me like a description of the changing phases of a relationship. At first she seemed like Bathsheba, distant and forbidden and exciting and you had to have her, come what may… but then reality and domesticity took the place of excitement and romance, you felt trapped, ‘tied to a kitchen chair’, weakened and emasculated like David. This verse reminds me very much of another ‘kitchen’ verse,

We were locked in this kitchen
I took to religion
And wondered how long she would stay
I needed so much
To have nothing to touch
I’ve always been greedy that way

from ‘The night comes on’ (God, I love that verse). However, for all its bitterness and sense of bondage and deflation, the singer in Hallelujah finally manages to affirm the domestic life, to say ‘hallelujah’ to it.

On the other hand, you could read this verse as being not about a lover but about the muse, and the artistic life. Compare it to

Twenty seven angels from the great beyond
They tied me to this table right here in the tower of song.

Leonard’s tied to the furniture once again - here being ‘tied to the table’ I think signifies the artistic life, slaving away blackening pages in service of the muse, or as Leonard once memorably described it, crawling across the carpet at 3am in your underwear desperately searching for a rhyme for ‘orange’. According to this reading, the verse says, the artistic life is bitter and difficult, it costs a lot, it ties you to the table when you’d rather be out there in the world… but the sacrifice is worth it – probably - for that moment when ‘she’, the muse, ‘bends to your longing’, draws something worthwhile, some kind of hallelujah, out of you.

Of course, there are bits of ‘Hallelujah’ that don’t really fit into my interpretation at all. I’m still not sure why he opens the first version on the song with the ‘secret chord’ verse, beautiful though that verse is. Thank God, there won’t ever be one final interpretation of a song like this; it’s bottomless.

If It Be Your Will, on the other hand, I think that one’s a straightforward hymn. But I’ve rambled on long enough; I’ll save that for another day.
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Postby lizzytysh » Tue Feb 28, 2006 3:58 pm

seems to me to be saying the sex was pretty good, for one thing, while it lasted.
Yes ~ thank you, Johnny. For me, the lyric spoke to beyond the sex itself, to a deeper connection between them.
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Postby lightning » Tue Feb 28, 2006 5:14 pm

Since the footnote to Howl where Allen Ginsberg declared "Holy" things usually cursed with sin by religion, beat-influenced writers and poets, have been going further along that path. The other direction to Lenny Bruce's "Talk Dirty and Influence People" is Lenny Cohen's sanctification of the carnal. Leonard Cohen's religious sex has won him much literary favor, and no doubt, many conquests, but, unfortunately, it did not preserve his marriage.
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Postby Nightstalker » Tue Feb 28, 2006 6:03 pm

Tchocolatl wrote:I am not insulted (or something), Nightstalker, you are respectful of differences, it is what is important to me, for the rest... ........ Respect is part of the real thing. So. The rest...

It is "beneath your wisdom" not "waters". By the way.
Tchocolatl, you have a lovely outlook on life. TY

And TY for the correction too. I have a bad habit of not remembering the exact lyrics of songs but adhere to the gestalt. And I also mull over other words that might fit into poems and songs as I listen to them. The result is I misquote often. You and Liz (who privately corrected my 'waters' mistake) are quite right to correct this, I hope you will continue because it is important, and I am thankful for folks who actually have good memories. I also don't use spellcheck and so you will some typos.
Tchocolatl wrote: Why a man would want another woman when he already has one?

Maybe it is because sexual instinct wants it like that Nightstalker. Maybe it is not "bad" at all. Maybe there is a difference between having such kind of sexual instinct and acting accordingly or otherwise.

Maybe what is "good" and "bad" depends of the context also.
I agree. ( I was adding levity but am glad you commented) It isn't even bad except in the eyes of established society. However, sexual mores are so ingrained in most individuals that even very intelligent, well educated, liberal people have jealousies when situations become personal. I don't pretend to rise above this when the shoe is one the other foot either. I know that I have loved many women and even some men for their personalities and behavior. And in my experinces Leonard is correct in his assessment that copulation only further complicates relationships sometimes. Hell, often it is the end of excellent friendships. Unfortunately, for decades the genuine friendships I had with women ended in sexual relationships that were physically very satisfying and seemed mutually necessary at the time but caused such complications after a while that the relationships fell apart. Metinks we humans is wierd animals! LOL
Tchocolatl wrote:Jews of the ancient time were very aware about the importance of being "pure" (keep the body healthy) this fascinating subject, it is much too wide for this post).

They were taking care of how they were preparing the food (all this kosher things,

So to be married was also a way to keep the body pure and they (the prostitutes) were there for... everyone... of course, not only the Jews. So.
Agreed. Of course multiple wives were allowed for a long time. And a brother was expected to take a widow as another wife (but this was done mainly to continue family property rights). There are many Jews who still follow the old laws to a letter. There are volumes of expoundings upon modern points of the law. It is a very large subject. Still, the old laws were to make the people healthier and to give them rules for worship.

Prostitutes in Biblical times? Really? LOL I should not be so light because some of them then and now are simply very unfortunate people upon whom society often preys and usually casts dispersions. I often wonder why G-d allows situations which cause any person to do things that society maligns. I believe that they deserve the same respect and understanding as nuns or rabbis. Please, don't make me defend that feeling. It's just what I think.

BTW, the word 'Halleluyah' in Hebrew is 'hallelu' and 'Yah'. The former is the imperative of the verb 'praise' (and is actually two words but that requires more unnecessary lengthy explanations) and the later is the first syllable of the unspeakable name (out of respect for Him) of G-d. So, 'praise G-d' is what one is saying. And it is an unusual use of His name also. Most of the time we refer to Him as: Hashem, Elohenu, Adonoi, Melach and other names but not usually any part of that particular name.

In the end I believe that what Leonard may mean is that no matter what he will stand before G-d and praise him. That is most of what He wants from humans according to famous rabbis past and present. All the Earthly manifestations of keeping laws and attitudes and such pale compared to this requirement. If one loses everything, is sorely afflicted, rebukked in love, reviled and questioned by everyone, injures others purposely, sins gravely, ruins his own one life, etc, G-d is still there expecting to be recognized as the One King and praised. (See Job -- arguably not a Jewish story, BTW, but allegorically perfect) When G-d chose the Jews he did not choose us to give us a special place and special rewards or set us 'above' other people at all. Some say he chose Jews to 'heal the world'. But this is a very Earthly task. He chose us to proclaim praise for Him. To praise Him in all circumstances. Halleluyah!

May all your lives be blessed by Him.
"For the captain had quitted the long drawn strife
And in far Simoree had taken a wife." (R Kipling)

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