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Author Topic: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom  (Read 760 times)

Offline Tatuayinepu

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Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« on: May 18, 2018, 03:34:51 pm »
Em hotep everyone!

I'd like to begin a regular discussion thread of Ancient Egyptian wisdom texts. These have had a lot of meaning for me in my practice before and after becoming a member of Kemetic Orthodoxy, and have greatly enlarged my understanding of not only  Ancient Egyptian thought but on the understanding of the principle of Ma'at.

One of my favorites is from The Husia, by Maulana Karenga, in the Book of Kheti:

"Be skilled in speech so that you will succeed. The tongue of the man is his sword and effective speech is stronger than all fighting. None can overcome the skillful. A wise person is a school for the nobles and those who are aware of his knowledge do not attack him. No evil takes place when he is near. Truth comes to him in its essential form, shaped in the sayings of the ancestors."

This speaks of so many things for me. It tells me that the wise person begins from within, in silence, where they listen to their heart, to their truth. The wise person learns how to pay attention here, first; and the wise person listens to their ancestors. It also tells me that the wise person learns about themselves, and learns self mastery.

"Skillful" means practicing discernment on when it is best to speak, and when it is best to observe silence. It means being able to have awareness of what people are saying-and not saying-and whether their words and behavior seem to be in agreement. It means having good listening skills, really hearing what others are saying, not merely listening with the ears while forming a one's own comments. It means being patient while others speak, even if one disagrees and wants to "correct" the speaker. It also means pausing before one speaks and choosing words carefully.

"The tongue of a man is his sword"is powerful. I thought the use of the word "sword" meaningful, as it can be so many things. In this context it refers to truth, to wisdom, to experience, to the wise person who uses it to uphold Ma'at. It can also apply to one that uses their tongue, as sword, to ruthlessly cut others down in the hopes of "winning", but the extract also clearly implies that one that does that will not be victorious.

It also brings to mind what Netjer have taught me: Truth in Ma'at is a guide, a shield, and a refuge; and if I seek to uphold Ma'at in all things, I will live well and have a good death.

That's enough for me, for now. I'd love to hear from anyone that cares to comment, and hope that this thread catches on.

Thank you for reading.

Tatuayinepu



« Last Edit: May 19, 2018, 02:16:24 am by Tatuayinepu »
Tatuayinepu "The one Yinepu sustains"

Daughter of Yinepu-Wepwawet, Beloved of Sekhmet-Hethert, Beloved of Heru Sa Aset

Sau Apprentice

Offline Gleb

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2018, 02:12:08 pm »
Very well said words, thanks for making the thread! :)

Sometimes being too frank and honest backfires at me, personally, because sometimes I say truth in a bit sharp way, in order to make a person realize the weight of it. In other cases, when I try to cheer a close friend up, with the same truth, I get carried away with it. In both cases, from what I observed, people become stressed or uneasy with my words.

It's never my intent to hurt anyone, so now I try to control the way I say things. If it's saying truth in a bit less sharp way, or being less enthusiastic when cheering up a person. The last one makes me a bit upset, because I really hate to watch my friends suffer and I'm ready to go far to help them.

Also, it has been long since I found this site: http://www.perankhgroup.com/initiation.htm
And in the proverbs of the Temple of Karnak, it says
Quote
Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion.
I pretty much agree with this. One has to develop their own potential. Yet on a daily basis, I feel a bit caged when I can't have a bit of that sharp, grounding honesty, even though I understand that some people find it uncomfortable, stressful and maybe intimidating.
Senebty,
Gleb

Offline Tatuayinepu

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #2 on: May 25, 2018, 03:07:22 am »
From the Husia, by Maulana Karenga; The Book of Ani, XV:

"Answer not elders who are angry. Let them have their way. Speak sweetly when they speak bitterly. For it is a remedy that soothes the heart. Contentious answers provoke strife and eventually your will, will be broken. let not your heart be troubled, for they will soon return to praise you when their hour of rage has passed. When your words please the heart, the heart is inclined to accept them. Seek self mastery then and your self mastery will subdue them."

This one is interesting to me. The last sentence in the chapter, seems to be the pre requisite to successfully navigating the preceding sentences' situation, yet, the lesson comes at the end.

In this chapter specifically, the emphasis is on self mastery first, which in turn allows one to "subdue" those that are angry and lashing out. So often people think that the opposite way is the only way, and attempt to control others but do a bad job at it. They attempt to persuade instead of listen, and to "correct" the person that is angry.

I've seen this happen in my own life. When I am calm, I am able to stand in a non defensive, yet alert, manner. I can keep silent and in control. It doesn't take long for the other person who is not in control to realize I'm not dancing with them, and the wind goes out of their sails.

On the other hand, I've also made the other mistake of defending myself and trying to correct the other person. That usually doesn't get me anywhere.

 Every situation is different, so discernment and self control are important. Using words effectively, for the situation at hand, comes from being in control of emotions. Knowing how to control emotions while dealing with angry people comes from self mastery.

So much, comes from self mastery. The right response, the right words, at the right time, in the right measure. The goal, if I'm reading Ani's words correctly, is this. He doesn't attempt to control the person, instead he advises controlling one's self, which in turn can possibly defuse the situation and allows the self mastered person the opportunity to retain their own self respect...and open the door for the person that they are dealing with to regain theirs. Allowing someone to "save face" and recognizing their dignity even when they are making a fool of themselves, is a gift. It also is a part of upholding Ma'at, and something we strive for as children of Netjer.

Emphasis is placed on the importance of good speech in the chapter by Ani, a common denominator I've seen in the majority of wisdom texts in AE. That shows me how highly it was valued by the Ancient Egyptians, and how important it is for us today. Speech, and words, create. What they create, is up to us.

Thank you for reading.

Tatuayinepu
Tatuayinepu "The one Yinepu sustains"

Daughter of Yinepu-Wepwawet, Beloved of Sekhmet-Hethert, Beloved of Heru Sa Aset

Sau Apprentice

Offline Gleb

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2018, 11:53:50 pm »
Thanks for the response, it'll be very useful for me next time. :)
Senebty,
Gleb

Offline Maen

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2018, 12:18:34 pm »
em hotep,

I believe that this is indeed one of the most important topics in the wisdom texts - it shows up everywhere from Ptahhotep in the Old Kingdom to Late Period Proverbs.

You have already mentioned Kheti and Ani. Let me add Amenemope to the mix:

"Don't start a quarrel with the hotheaded one, and don't provoke him with words.
Hesitate before an opponent, bend down before an attacker, sleep before you speak.

A storm rising up like fire in straw, that is the hothead in his hour.
Draw back from him, don't pay him attention,
the God will know how to answer him."


And, of course, Ptah-Hotep:

"When you answer the speach of a hotheaded man,
turn your face away, control yourself.
The flame of the hothead spreads,
but when a friendly man comes, his paths will be smooth"


Fact is that this advice works on two levels:
From a practical point of view, it is most effective to answer provocation with calmness - escalating the quarrel is in most cases not a successful strategy.
And from a moral point of view, peace is preferable to fighting.

It's also very clear to see that the silent, peaceful man in the Instructions is not a weak man who doesn't dare to fight back - it's the example of the stronger man actively choosing to value peace and compromise higher than the ego-boost he would get from fighting and winning. 

And yes, it's "man" and not "person". We see if differently today, of course, and it is certainly good advice for other genders, too.
But I  also like to look at these passages from the viewpoint of male stereotypes.
In our Western Societies, the big majority of violent crime is perpetrated by men. At the same time, boys are encouraged to be assertive, to stand up, to fight back against insults.
The male role models, quite often, are shown to be rather loud and aggressive types, that like to stand in center stage, show off, be admired.
On the other hand, men are said to be more physical and rational, with less emotional intelligence and maturity.

In my opinion, such fixed gender roles do more harm than good, especially if they encourage or at least tolerate aggressive behavior.
The Egyptian male role model is still a gender stereotype, but at least it is of a different nature. The model Egyptian values self control, cannot be easily provoked, and shows a great deal of emotional maturity and social aptitude.


senebty

Ma'en
Ma'a-en-Hethert ("rightly belonging to HetHert")
Daughter of HetHert-Sekhmet, beloved of Nut, Djehuty and Nit-NebtHet-Seshat

Offline Tatuayinepu

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2018, 01:01:09 pm »
Indeed, and I never tire reading the wisdom texts.

This is very important to me, even if Western culture "assigns" genders and roles. It is about working to uphold Ma'at, which requires action of all of us.

These days, when so many are instantly reactive, this assures me that it doesn't need to be so. Rarely is reacting, instead of acting, required. The more I practice pausing before I speak (especially if I feel I want to retort quickly), the better off I am, and usually the situation can be defused.

Nekhtet for the wisdom of these esteemed Ancient Egyptians!

Tatuayinepu
Tatuayinepu "The one Yinepu sustains"

Daughter of Yinepu-Wepwawet, Beloved of Sekhmet-Hethert, Beloved of Heru Sa Aset

Sau Apprentice

Offline Sedjfaiemitui

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2018, 01:50:08 pm »
Em hotep nefer, all, and thank you Tatuayinepu for beginning this thread! :)

Ma'en brings up a very important series of points. :)

Building off of what Ma'en said:

From a strategic perspective, too, the benefit of being like a wall before a hothead is that a furious one will thoroughly exhaust themselves in the face of someone who does not react, and reveal themselves to be an egregious arse, doubly losing the confidence of "the great ones" -- or whomever else it is they are trying to convince to turn against you, for whatever reasons. 

I recently had to deal with a person like that, and got out of that situation winningly precisely because I was like a brick wall whenever she decided it was a grand idea to aggress against me and/or lie about me. She was (and still is) very belligerent and maliciously manipulative, a reactionary slave to her passions. Because I did not react to her baseless accusations, because I did not respond to her grandstanding and violent displays, I looked A LOT better than she did in the eyes of those she was trying to convince by her routine fabrication of strife. She now has to live with the disgrace she brought upon herself. She has to deal with the unequaled shame that comes with the sorts of lies she told and all the outrageous acting-out she did. I, meanwhile, remain guiltless because I acted in a way that was utterly beyond reproach, in a way that did not in any way substantiate her attempted character assassination of me.

Hotheads. Always. Lose.

When you are silent, not only do you not give yourself "enough rope to hang yourself with" by potentially saying something stupid; or compromising; or by giving your enemy any information, however extraneous and seemingly unimportant, that they might later weaponize against you -- you also give yourself the space and time to observe and take note of what is really happening. You give yourself an advantageous position from which to make exact, measured decisions. In like kind, you will confuse wicked people by being silent. Silence scares people who thrive on instigating strife and on sowing doubt. Silence isn't something they can read or make any sure predictions by. Manipulators can't work with someone who is like a brick wall. A brick wall is a manipulator's worst enemy.

Senebty!
Sedjfai
"Endowed by Two Fathers"
𓁣 𓁠
Sat Set her Amun-Re-Banebdjedet
Meryt Herishef, Wesir-Narefy, Heru-Wer, her Yinepu

Offline Maen

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #7 on: August 20, 2018, 04:35:38 pm »
em hotep!

Thank you for sharing your experience, Sedjfai!
This illustrates very profoundly this point the ancients were making.

The passages we have seen until now talk about a rather specific topic: The power of thoughtful speech in general, and the best way to react to a hothead in particular.

The topic of self mastery or self control was brought up as the source for both the calm silence and the skillful use of words. However, I believe that the idea of self-control extends much further in the various instructions than the topic of silence and speech alone.
It is also the source of moderation, especially in relation to wealth and to eating and drinking habits: the ability to control desires and urges, and find contentment in moderate and simple pleasures.

I'll give you some quotes
 (these quotes are actually translated from my German edition "Die Weistheitsbücher der Ägypter" by Hellmut Brunner - other translations may have quite a variation in phrasing and even meaning, but the difficulty of accurately translating the wisdom literature is a topic all on its own...)

We'll start chronologically. Ptah-Hotep:
"The heart of one who follows his belly will go astray.
It will cause disdain instead of sympathy,
and his heart will be bare and his face turned downwards
due to that which his heart has done against him.
Under that which the God gives, the heart will burn,
but the one who follows his belly belongs to the enemy"


Please note how the different parts of the person are described: The desires are the belly, the "self" is not named, but probably the Ka, and the "heart" is another seperate entity, maybe best translated as the conciousness?
"the God" -pa Netjer- is probably to be seen like a placeholder for the reader: "insert your patron god here", and note how a "burning heart" is obviously something good  8)

Another bit of Ptah-Hotep, a veritable diatribe against greed:
"Beware of the lure of greed,
For this is a grave and incurable disease.
With greed, you have no confidant.
It poisons a friend,
It turns a faithful one away from his lord,
It parts fathers and mothers
It drives away a wife from her husband.
A bag it is, full of all hateful things,
A bundle of all evil."


Still Ptah-Hotep:
"The one who is grumpy all day: Nobody will cause for him a moment of joy
But the one who is funny all day: Nobody will keep his houshold in order"


Kagemni, on eating and table manners:
"Greed is lowly, fingers are pointed at it.
A cup of water stills the thirst,
A mouthful of vegetables strengthens the heart.
A single good thing is like all good things,
A little bit is like much."

Kind of sounds like he wants us to eat and drink carefully, and conciously enjoy every bite.

Ani, on drinking:
"Don't overdo it, when you drink beer,
so that people will not talk about you
and a colleague will report what you told,
but you cannot remember saying it."


And still Ani, one of my favourite pieces in this Text:
"A humans body is larger than a royal storage house,
it is deeper than a well
it is filled with all types of possibility.
From the best things, you shall choose,
but the evil: lock it away until the time of your death."



...okay, this is getting out of hand... obviously, I have not yet mastered the art of moderation when it comes to quoting my favourite authors, since I'm not even a halfway through the collection.

So, what do you think of these quotes? Aren't the teachers being too strict with us?
These instructions sound a bit like they're fit for an ascetic monk... not for someone who follows their heart, feeds their Ka and enjoys the good things in life.

I'll give you another bit of Ani, to show that he is not that much of a bore all the time.
Ani, on what to plant in your garden:
"Make a garden for yourself,
fence off a plot for cucumbers in addition to your field.
Plant trees in the area around your house.
Fill your hand with all kinds of flowers that your eye beholds.
One would miss them all - it's good if you don't loose any"


Note how the obviously useful foodplants and shading trees are of equal importance as the flowers... balancing pragmatism and beauty.


senebty

Ma'en
Ma'a-en-Hethert ("rightly belonging to HetHert")
Daughter of HetHert-Sekhmet, beloved of Nut, Djehuty and Nit-NebtHet-Seshat

Offline Sedjfaiemitui

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #8 on: August 20, 2018, 08:00:58 pm »
Em hotep nefer, Ma'en and all! :D

Absolutely, all the wisdom texts stress the notion of moderation again and again, and this quite obviously doesn't simply apply to speaking (or not speaking), as evidenced by the selections Ma'en provided. Ma'at is the measure and standard of all things, from guidelines to living, to art, and to music, which Erik Hornung outlines rather succinctly in Idea into Image: Essays on Ancient Egyptian Thought. Ma'at isn't simply a list of "do's and don'ts," though the lists we find are very important to pay attention to. ;)

Personally, I don't think the wisdom texts are "harsh" at all. Excessive, decadent, thoughtless living warrants reproach. No one lives their best life when a slave to their appetites, their passions, their desire for "more," alcohol and drugs, etc. Such lifestyles are disharmonious, and are not conducive to creating "happiness." What Ancient Egyptian wisdom texts (and Mesopotamian wisdom texts, which convey most of the same ideas but stress the dangers of sin-taboo a whole heck of a lot more) advise doesn't involve never enjoying life, never being "happy." Rather, they point out that "happiness" is something one finds when living in accordance with virtue, when doing what the Mesopotamians referred to as "following in the way of one's God" and the Greeks called "heeding the middle course," best known by the Delphic aphorism meden agan, "nothing excessively."

I think what Modern Western cultures typically define "happiness" as is very perverse: it revolves around material wealth; it revolves around consumption and waste. It lacks soul utterly, for one, and for another, it lacks reason -- which, to digress, I find funny (in a bitter way), since nearly all the West (Britain, France, and America especially) claims an intellectual heritage descending from the minds of Greece and Rome. I think most Modern Western lifestyles would be thoroughly condemned by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and many others, precisely for the preponderant lack of emphasis on self-control and thoughtful, reverent behavior. Those thinkers all had much more in common with Egyptian reasoning and ideals than those presently expressed by many Western cultures. :P

Senebty!
Sedjfai
"Endowed by Two Fathers"
𓁣 𓁠
Sat Set her Amun-Re-Banebdjedet
Meryt Herishef, Wesir-Narefy, Heru-Wer, her Yinepu

Offline Yinepuemsaes

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2018, 01:42:15 pm »
I think what Modern Western cultures typically define "happiness" as is very perverse: it revolves around material wealth; it revolves around consumption and waste. It lacks soul utterly, for one, and for another, it lacks reason -- which, to digress, I find funny (in a bitter way), since nearly all the West (Britain, France, and America especially) claims an intellectual heritage descending from the minds of Greece and Rome. I think most Modern Western lifestyles would be thoroughly condemned by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and many others, precisely for the preponderant lack of emphasis on self-control and thoughtful, reverent behavior. Those thinkers all had much more in common with Egyptian reasoning and ideals than those presently expressed by many Western cultures.

Exactly.
Yinepuemsaes - "Yinepu is her protection"
Sat Yinepu
Meryt Bast

Offline Taji

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2018, 01:53:27 pm »
I actually really do like the hedonists more than the stoics, though they’re mischaracterized these days.  They’re not about excess at all. 

Life is short.  Enjoy it with the people you care about.  Savor the people and the little things that give you joy.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Epicurus’ big thing wasn’t eating until you puke; it was friendship. It’s kinda weird how his name is now synonymous with indulgence when he wasn’t about that at all.
Tasedjebbast, The One Whom Bast Restores to Life
Daughter of Bast-Mut & Hekatawy Alexandros (AUS)
Beloved of Yinepu, Sekhmet, Set, Heru-wer, & Aset

Offline Sedjfaiemitui

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Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2018, 06:45:39 pm »
I actually really do like the hedonists more than the stoics, though they’re mischaracterized these days.  They’re not about excess at all. 

Life is short.  Enjoy it with the people you care about.  Savor the people and the little things that give you joy.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Epicurus’ big thing wasn’t eating until you puke; it was friendship. It’s kinda weird how his name is now synonymous with indulgence when he wasn’t about that at all.

Dude, I know, right!? Epicureanism as a school actually involves a great deal of self-discipline and self-honesty. It's not like Epictetus' and the other Stoics' idea of "being in control of oneself," but they weren't horribly divergent, either. Epicurus also wasn't an "atheist." No Ancient Greek was an "atheist," not by the Greek understanding of the term. That's a series of consistent interpretative problems in Philo / Theo that never stops having to be debunked. Even though Plato goes on and on AND ON about Zeus and "Zeusity," people still try to portray the founder of Platonism as an "atheist," too. It's cuckoo-bananas.

Personally, I'm #TeamPlatonism. ;) But yeah, Greek and Roman philosophies and religions are wildly mischaracterized in this day and age. I think many people not being very literate in the original languages is a large part of the problem, and personal (Post-)Modern biases are another.

Even though Egyptian literacy has never been very high insofar as Philo/Theo is concerned, fortunately almost no one has made specious, fallacious claims about Egyptians being "atheists" and "bacchanal." It's at least nice not to have to deal with that series of unnecessary bugbears in the study and re-implementation of Egyptian philo/theo, versus the study and re-implementation of the philos/theos of other popular Ancient civilizations.
"Endowed by Two Fathers"
𓁣 𓁠
Sat Set her Amun-Re-Banebdjedet
Meryt Herishef, Wesir-Narefy, Heru-Wer, her Yinepu

Offline Maen

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  • Country: 00
Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2018, 11:45:26 am »
em hotep!

Wow, I didn't know you were such philosophy nerds!!
I'm suddenly very glad that I've been following a blog on the history of philosophy ( https://historyofphilosophy.net/ - highly recommended), so thanks to professor Adamson I now have some idea what you're talking about...

I'd like to add that both the Stoics and the Epicureans saw one of the main goals in reaching "ataraxia" - freedom from disturbance. If I understood correctly, this is a calm and happy state of mind that cannot be disrupted by outside influences: the wise person can reach happiness even if they are poor or sick, because it is an inner state of being.

The type of self-discipline described in Egyptian literature, on the other hand, appears to be more extroverted.
When we are instructed to practice calmness and moderation, the reasons and examples given are usually social in nature: Do that so that you will be respected by your peers, that you will not embarass yourself, that your career will be furthered, that you will have friends to help you in times of need...
I think the Egyptians  did not want to be free of outside influences, very much on the opposite, I believe: they wanted to be part of a community, both with other humans and with the gods. As opposed to Ataraxia, Ma'at is very much a social concept.
The Epicureans were similar in the respect that they valued friendship a lot. However, an Epicurean would never try to be active in politics, while the Egyptian wise men often held political posts and advised how to reach a high office.


senebty

Ma'en

 
Ma'a-en-Hethert ("rightly belonging to HetHert")
Daughter of HetHert-Sekhmet, beloved of Nut, Djehuty and Nit-NebtHet-Seshat

Offline Taji

  • Divined Remetj
  • Country: us
Re: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2018, 12:29:48 pm »
Yeah.  I’m kinda just a Wikipedia level philosophy scholar, but it’s fun. And yeah.  Ataraxia, a word I’ve used as usernames, is freedom from worry, stress, anxieties.  Aponia is freedom from physical pain.  I was going to disagree that the Epicurians didn’t focus on community, but I agree with your clarification. To them, I believe community would be about fellowship, enjoying the relationships and the things that make life worth living.  It’s not about public service, which could be seen as detracting from that joy. 

And yeah.  Epicurus wasn’t an atheist, but not terribly religious either.  He questioned whether there was an afterlife and said that in the end, it didn’t really matter anyway.  The here and now is what we have.   The Gods are too vast to have much influence on our day to day. 
Tasedjebbast, The One Whom Bast Restores to Life
Daughter of Bast-Mut & Hekatawy Alexandros (AUS)
Beloved of Yinepu, Sekhmet, Set, Heru-wer, & Aset

 


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