29 February 2020

Read the Label ~ Closing Thoughts


Greetings Dear Reader,

I often find labels in English from other countries quite entertaining.  The first laptop docking bay I owned had a bright yellow label.   It read “This Unit Must be Earthed!”  The instructions for my wireless phone charger insist that I not use it for a coaster or try to warm children with it.  My keyboard advises me not to use it in the shower.

The labels on things are often necessary.  Sometimes, however, those creating them do not understand how to communicate with us.  The same danger exists when we label each other.  We cannot know someone well enough to label them for others.  Further, I think there is a better way to approach our interactions with each other.

When someone tries to engage me in conversations that involve labeling others, I have a new response.  Instead of reading the label they point out to me, I want to be present as to the uniqueness of the individual.  My response is, “thank you for wanting to share with me.  I am trying to hone my skill at discovering who someone is on my own.”

In some cases, labels are necessary and vital.  When it comes to humans, I prefer the labels that the Father has already given them.  You see, Dear Reader, the Father calls us all his own.  We are fearfully and wonderfully made.  We are loved, unique, and being perfected.  Further, the Father makes it clear that every human is worthy of my love.  Those are the labels we are required to observe.  That is how we are supposed to treat each other.

The reading of labels, signs, and milestones along the journey is necessary.  We must pick and choose carefully the labels we assign and affix.  When others wish to label us, we are not required to believe those labels.  We are not bound by them either.  What matters is how the Father labels us.  Perhaps if we focus on that, the labels will be fewer, kinder, and more honest.  As we walk together, I will not label you.   Perhaps we can work together to see past the labels given to others that are not true.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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28 February 2020

Read the Label ~ The Benchmark Label


Greetings Dear Reader,

There are many pieces of fine silver dishes that bear the name Revere.  Paul Revere, a famous early American silversmith also played a significant role in the Revolutionary War.  His silver work is sought after because of his fame and its quality.

Because of this, there are many fakes and forgeries resembling pieces he might have crafted.  The way that one tells if a piece is original Revere Ware is by its benchmark.  The Revere benchmark is not impossible to forge but it is distinctive.  It is one of the vital identifiers for authentication of goods created by Paul Revere.

Still, a genuine piece of Revere Ware is valuable and historic.  My Grandmother had a fruit bowl that bore this mark and she kept it as the centerpiece of her china cabinet.  The bowl was always gleaming in the evening sun from its place in the hutch.  She would fill it with fruit on special occasions and the conversation always seemed to get around to her upending it to show the benchmark.

The benchmark of Christ-followers is very clear.  “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  This is part of the charge given to his followers as his representatives.  Since these are part of the great commandments, to love the Father and each other, we are to be recognized by our love.  That is what serves to authenticate us as Christ-followers.

The label we are supposed to carry is that of being loving.  It is to be the mark that sets us apart from anything else.  Our love for each other is the thing that is supposed to confirm that we belong to Christ and are living like him.  

There are many who claim to follow Christ.   If they are hateful, unloving, and harsh, they are not evidencing authentic faith.  I must remember that if I carry the mark of Christ-follower, I must live out that label.  It is that simple.  If I do not have the benchmark of love, I am not following well.  We need to not only be authentic but it must be obvious because of our love, Dear Reader.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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27 February 2020

Read the Label ~ See It As I See It


Greetings Dear Reader,

When I was first beginning to work as a professor, I determined that my students would always know how deeply I cared for them.  Years later, when I moved to my third teaching position, as chair of the department, my fellow department chairs were trying to warn me about the group of freshmen I was about to inherit.   They had a reputation for being difficult. 

I formed a plan to win them over and shared it with my colleagues.  They laughed at me kindly.  The plan included some very strict guidelines for attendance, work submission, and classroom interaction.  One of the other chairs said that I would not last a month.  The other part of my plan was to ignore the labels placed on these students and show them their potential through love and respect.

I am still friends with most of that first class of freshmen.  I am proud of the way they have built their careers.  There is an aspect to the labels we put on others that is both unkind and self-satisfying.  We see the negative aspect of an individual, pull out our label maker, and brand them for life. 

I imagine the labels I carry in the minds of others at times.  They have decided what they think of me and affixed their opinions to my existence.  Some of them are deserved.  This drives me to be very careful of what I print as a sign for others.  When Christ-followers do this, they become no better than modern-day Pharisees.  They claim religious authority whilst ignoring the weighty matters of the obligation to love, kindness, forgiveness, patience, and humility.   When we deal in labels instead of grace, we devour that space others need to see Christ and follow him as well.

It is not enough that I not affix labels to others.   I must ignore the ones already affixed.  I must look past the labels worn out of force or choice and see the human life that exits beyond it.  No matter the direction or quality of that life, my duty is to love him or her with all that is possible from the Father.  The journey home requires that I travel with whoever falls in step with me and that I travel with them full of love and kindness.  The more I do this, the more find that the labels fade to nothing and the person beneath them is amazing and beautiful.  This is the way of peace, Dear Reader.  This is how we must walk.

It is in the love of a person in the moment that I can get a glimpse of how Christ sees others.  In yielding to this glimpse, I can look past everything to the fellow traveler who is as worthy of love as I am.   In these moments I can understand why Christ asks me to deal in grace and love; why he asks me to “see it as I see it.”

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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26 February 2020

Read the Label ~ T-Shirts


Greetings Dear Reader,

I have a good friend who almost always wears t-shirts with some message on them.  Some are funny.  Some are poignant.  They are never political and most of them yield a conversation.

We were discussing this and he pointed out how they serve as an icebreaker.  When someone comments on them, he is afforded the chance to begin a conversation.  Since all of them have a connection to faith and following for him, that is the path he takes.  His reason for carrying large labels on his shirts is to invite others to see what he likes and find some common ground.

One of the things I have noticed is that some of them are obscure.  People who respond to them possess a specific set of likes or a unique affinity.  I have watched him make a new friend over a t-shirt from a Sci-Fi show canceled in 2003.  We will be walking through a crowd and someone will say, “Cool shirt”, or something like that.  He responds with kindness.

He uses these labels to invite others instead of pushing them away.  His purpose is to create the opportunity to start the conversation.  What if we all took on this approach?  We could make the labels we carry invitations to know us.  We could open ourselves to being labeled as loving, kind, followers of Christ. 

We are capable of being in control of the labels we carry.  We see it all the time in others.  Since we are accountable for all that we do and communicate.  It is in our best interest to live as walking labels to the one we follow.  We should do it with intent.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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25 February 2020

Read the Label ~ Signs


Greetings Dear Reader,

In one of my favorite baseball movies, For Love of the Game, there is a conversation about signs: 

You know, I always thought that men and women should just carry around signs.  If you're poor and you can't afford it, you would make yours out of cardboard and string.     
And if you're rich, you could have it lettered in gold leaf or pounded out of tin by craftsmen.  It doesn't matter.  But you wear them around your neck, see?  And they say things, like ''shallow''…

Sometimes people do wear signs or labels that tell us who they are.  Often though, they are telling us how they wish to be perceived.  T-Shirts and tattoos tell us who others support, where they belong, what they have been through, and what they believe.  Sometimes we learn things that let us know another better.  Sometimes we learn that which we turn into judgment based on a label.

The idea is that people express who they are or wish to be through labels as well.  Some are sincere, some entertainment, and some wishful.  All of them tell us something about the person if we look beyond the label to what it teaches us about them.

These signs are an opportunity.  They are the chance to learn and perhaps find a way to know someone better.  Too often, we choose instead to use the signs worn by others to divide them into people we would know or reject.  They become dividers instead of uniting us.  They are an invitation to see something about a human we are supposed to love.

Some of these signs create a division that is harmless.  We must pity the person wearing the Clemson shirt at Sanford Stadium.  They are simply proclaiming their loyalty to a lost cause.  We must not take the proclamation as an excuse to disrespect or reject a human.  What we must do is see past the orange to the person who is there.

Even the signs that represent hatred and evil are carried by those the Father loves.  There is where our opportunity is found.  Forewarned of their love of evil, we can respond out of our love for God.  We can walk through the hedge they put around their world and show them the love of Christ.  This is how we are supposed to live.

There is a reason Dear Reader that I did not say which symbols.  We all have signs and labels that represent hatred to us.  They are different depending upon your world view.  What is a sacred symbol to some is heinous to others.  Our obligation is to love them beyond the signs they carry.  No matter if the sign is a warning or a joyful proclamation, my obligation is to see it as knowledge of the person that will allow me to love them more meaningfully.  It is just another chance to show the Father’s love.  

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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24 February 2020

Read the Label ~ My Label Maker


Greetings Dear Reader,

I own one of those cool label makers that have a small screen and will print out a label for you.  I purchased it at a yard sale with four different kinds of ribbon for just a few dollars.  I like to label things where I cannot tell the difference between items easily or where knowing the contents without opening it is advantageous.

For example, I have a set of external hard drives on which I store movies, music, writing, and other data.  Since they are identical to the eye, they are labeled with names they have been assigned on my network.  Over the years, this has proven quite valuable in troubleshooting and when rotating out drives near end of life.

Similarly, I have a few storage bins that match.  They are opaque but not transparent.  I cannot always make out the contents so I have labeled them.  Unfortunately, I will occasionally put things in one of those bins that does not match the category.  The contents change but the label does not. 

We do the same with people and that too is unfortunate.  We put a label on the individual and determine that he or she is that.  Even when that person learns and grows, we see our affixed label and not the content of the heart.  We go by our recall from the label and not the current contents of the package.

It is clear that we do not want to be seen by others through the labels of our past.  Another aspect of my DYMO label maker is that it is easy to remove labels when I need to change them.  When dealing with people, we should first be very careful about the labels we affix.  As important is that we must remove them when we see change.  We must always be looking to see if the contents have changed.

The danger of labels when affixed to humans is that we reduce them to that alone.  We put them into neat little labeled boxes.  Sometimes, we even put those boxes on a shelf declaring the humans unworthy of our love and kindness.  We convince ourselves that the love we show to others is enough.  Those we have labeled unworthy get relegated to the attic.

When we label others in this way, they become the “least” that Jesus spoke of.  They are never that from his perspective but surely that have become so from ours.  He is clear that how we treat those we have labeled unworthy is how we treat him.  I know clearly how I have labeled some people.  If, however, I hope to follow Christ, I must read the labels he assigns every human.  The label he puts on everyone is this, “worthy of my life.”   He loves every human no matter their state as deeply as he loves you and I, Dear Reader.  This means that our labels fade in comparison.  If we hope to follow well, we must read only the labels assigned by Christ.  They all command us to love others as he loves them.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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23 February 2020

Read the Label ~ Opening Thoughts


Greetings Dear Reader,

When I was teaching information technology, I had a student plagiarize the answers for his weekly study question by copying them directly from an internet page to his work.   He paid so little attention to what he copied that he captured the comments on the answer as well as the answer.

The question was one of those that had to do with network security and how to lock down the device.  This particular device happened to have a very clear and understandable user manual.  One of the comments was in Serbian.  Translated it simply said, “Why not just read the manual?”

When confronted with the plagiarism, the student responded that he was not sure how the comment was in his paper because he did not read Serbian.  He saw it all as a big joke.  The rules required that we take up the issue with the academic dean.  In a single day, this student acquired a new label.  He was now considered a plagiarist by the faculty.

I saw the guilt and shame change him.  Once he realized that no one saw him the same, he became more withdrawn, less talkative.  I offered to help him get back his footing.  He blamed me for his problem and would not accept that help.  The next semester he did not return to school.

The label that he carried in that college community was one he could not endure.  He was guilty of the act.  It was the branding that did the greater harm.  It was the affixed label that he saw whenever he was on campus. 

We seem to all carry label makers with us and we assign tags to each other without fully understanding the impact of that act.  We talk about the labels we have assigned to people with each other.   We develop stories about those labels and speculate as to the character of the people we have labeled. 

For good or for ill we assign these labels.  We may even have good intentions.  Still, like the Pharisees, we build a hedge around who people are when we label them.  I am not talking about comments like “he is a great guy.”  There is no problem with recognizing that about a person.  When we move on to “he is a superior fly tier”, we set an expectation in the minds of those we tell.  I am not saying that this information has no value in the proper context.  I am pondering that we may have become too free with our assignation of labels.

I am going to ponder this for a few days as I try to hone my conversation about others to understand how I use my label maker.  You see I am sure I do not actively seek to label anyone negatively.  I am just as certain that I apply positive labels when perhaps I should let others discover the amazing qualities of an individual.  Please walk with me through this Dear Reader.  We are in need of an honest look at how we use our label makers.  Your thoughts and questions always benefit my journey.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Contacts for Aramis Thorn:
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22 February 2020

Natural versus Narrow ~ Closing Thoughts


Greetings Dear Reader,

The natural way of things is to look out for ourselves and neglect others to do so.  The nature of humans is to get their wants and needs met.  When I say this, I include my own motivations and desires.

The narrow path, however, can be learned through honesty and discipline.  Let us return to the understanding of our hard deck.  We are to love the Father with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  We are to love others as the Father loves them.  Last night someone asked me how we live that out practically.

My answer helped clarify the natural versus the narrow path for me.  The narrow path is to see the love of the Father in every situation.  It is to choose to let that be the focus.  Here is the example I gave my friend.

When sitting in a restaurant waiting to be served, I consider the things in front of me.  There is cutlery rolled in a napkin with that little paper tape around it.  I have also have a large cup of Diet Coke.  How do I show my love for the Father in that moment?  In that space, it begins with my thoughts and their attunement toward gratitude and grace.

First, let us consider the rolled bundle of cutlery.  I unwrap it.  As I do, I recognize that hardworking servers have to roll those bundles as part of their “side work” during their shift.  That neatly rolled knife and fork in that napkin are the product of a server creating a certain number of them at the beginning or end of her shift.  If I am going to focus on loving the Father, I have to express gratitude for the work that goes into that small convenience. 

Further, a dishwasher made sure that the knife and fork were clean.  Someone ordered quality napkins to roll them in and the paper band used to seal them and create an air of fancy.  I like to play with the paper bands.  It is gratitude and love that are to be my focus. 

My drink, a Diet Coke with no ice and a slice of lime, was delivered exactly as I requested it.  Sometimes, due to the automatic nature of putting ice in a beverage glass, this is not true.  I think grateful thoughts that our server is attentive and accurate.  I take a moment to pray for her wellbeing.  I watch as she attends other tables.  I can see how busy she is and make sure that we are all ready to order so we do not cause her to make extra trips.  It is in this intentional observance of what is going on around us that we show love to the Father

Loving the Father with all that we are is the narrow way of painting a very broad stroke.  That stroke is capturing every thought, action, attitude, and emotion to serve his desire that we love all that he has made.  When the server does not get the drink right, my response must be one of kind patience.  When the food is not right, one does not blame the server. 

Commands such as the one to think of others better than ourselves are not to demean us.  They exist to teach us to narrow our focus to loving others so that we are unoffendable.  It is letting the things that come at us be met with our impenetrable armor of love and faith.  In recognizing that we can capture every thought to direct it toward love for the Father, we can then live out a life of walking the narrow path of love for our fellow travelers. 

This is my sole intent.  I fail every single day at some point.  I do, however, determine to reset my thinking each time I do and work toward building loving kindness and being lovingly unoffendable.  It is hard.  It requires discipline.  It is, however, the most peaceful thing I have ever done Dear Reader.  You are always welcome to join me in the effort.  I treasure your presence as we travel together.

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) – Green Day

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

So take the photographs and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

It's something unpredictable, but in the end, it's right
I hope you had the time of your life

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

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21 February 2020

Natural versus Narrow ~ Mirkwood


Greetings Dear Reader,

In The Hobbit, Gandalf very clearly warns the Dwarves and Bilbo that they should not stray from the path whilst passing through Mirkwood.  His warning is serious and stern.  Our troop of heroes, of course, do not listen.

They talk themselves into running off the path through failing to believe Gandalf that the pass will see them through the forest.  They then add departure from the narrow path to their unbelief. They become trapped by giant spiders and captured by Elves. 

In this case, that departure does not lead to a broader way.  It leads to deeper darkness and further delay toward their goal.  Too often I have known the path to take and have chosen something that I knew would not lead me home.  Unlike our treasure seekers, the path can be found again easily.

When we leave the path of faith and following, returning to it is as easy as choosing to do so.  The difficulty is that this does not immediately mitigate the damage done whilst we were on some other false path.  Forgiveness by the Father and restoration to his path are instant.  The damage we have done to others in our poor choices does not simply disappear.  All of our choices to pursue darker paths damage others. 

Part of regaining our footing on the journey home is seeking reconciliation with those we wrong whilst we pursue our own darkness.  It is not necessary for us to seek the Father again.  It is vital to us doing so with a clear vision and clean hearts. 

The need, Dear Reader, is to step out of whatever darkness we have created for ourselves.  I have had to face things long avoided once I did.  I have had to confront all of my failures and seek out those harmed by them.  I find the path by loving those I seek no matter their reaction to my recognition of my failure.

Some have been loving and gracious.  Others have rejected me further.  My response must be to love them all as deeply as I am able.  My obligation is to leave the door unfettered from my side and allow for them to find the path that is intended for their journey.  My desire to control situations and force outcomes is part of that darker path that I can no longer travel.

What I do see is that it does not matter where you are.  You can return to the path and find your way home from wherever you are.  Our obligation when you do is to love, forgive, and encourage you along the journey.  In doing this, we may find that we travel better together than we ever did. 

Come as You Are – Crowder

Come out of sadness
From wherever you've been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
Lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are

There's joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far

So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
(͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Contacts for Aramis Thorn:
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20 February 2020

Natural versus Narrow ~ Past Paths


Greetings Dear Reader,

There are turning points in my past that I would change if I could.  I imagine how things would be were I to have gone right instead of left.  I work out beautiful endings that would be if I had only made a better choice.  I increasingly realize what a waste of creativity that is.

If we keep with the metaphor of travel, I recall a vignette from a dear friend of mine.  When he was young his family had a regular vacation spot at the beach.  It was a six-hour drive from his home to the beach where they would take long summer breaks.  It was a great time for his entire family.

One year, as the family headed toward vacation, his mother became convinced that she had left the iron on, laying on the ironing board.  She told his father who reassured her that it was not on and that all would be well.  It is important to note that the family was already two hours down the road toward their destination.

My friend watched his parents argue.  His dad offered to call the person caring for the family cat and have the iron thrown into the yard.  This was not good enough.  Fully frustrated, the dad turned the family van around and headed the two hours back to home.   The iron was not on but it did get a final resting place in the back yard.  My friend related that he developed a life-long aversion to irons that day.

We make mental and physical choices every day that are the next step in life.  We choose them for good or ill.  The difficulty is that we allow the wrong ones to hold us prisoner for far too long.  The past has power and it is supposed to have it.  The difficulty is that we give it the wrong power and too long a lease in our minds.

The purpose of the past is to serve as a reminder of blessings, lessons, and to be a prologue to what is ahead.  Regrets should be momentary and fleeting; dismissed by the truth of forgiveness and focus on the future.  The other improper power we give the past is that we carry false guilt that is never ours to carry. 

The past is there to teach us but is not supposed to harm us.  No matter who else tries to use it to do so, Christ wishes us to journey by grace in freedom from the past.  As we travel, we are not supposed to try and retrace paths we can never find again.  We are instead supposed to learn from them so that we make the right choices on the path ahead. 

As we travel together, Dear Reader, let us agree that we will not use the past to harm ourselves or each other.  We will not measure people by their history but by where they are in the story of Christ.  We can journey forward without guilt and shame.  We can be free to love others and be lovingly unoffendable by those who would use the past to harm us.  We can forgive more deeply and fully.  Our burden will be lighter and there will be more joy to share.  I am in and I hope you are as well. 

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a homeowner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store.”
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