Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Fallen Leaves

By Will Durant

An almost secret and unknown project that even Durant's heirs didn't know about, Fallen Leaves could be considered his most important book. A distillation of his 60+ years of study, contemplation, and writing; it became a synthesis of his insight, understanding, and wisdom. Thinking of himself as, "a drop of water analyzing the sea," he began writing it in 1968 and "finished" it when he was 95 years old in 1980. It wasn't discovered and printed until 30 years after he died. While almost all his other books took on a more objective, academic, and historical approach; this one revels in his personal opinions, contemporary comments, and long-life-learned lessons.

Themes

Themes: Old Age

Quotes from Fallen Leaves

“A man is as young as the risks he takes.”

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“Above all, [capitalism] seems by its very nature to stimulate repeated concentrations of wealth, leading to contractions of purchasing power and to depressions... Repeatedly in history, this natural concentration of wealth has led to a pathological, almost cancerous condition.”

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Themes: Greed Capitalism

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“Art without science is poverty, and science without art is barbarism. Let every science strive to fulfill itself in beauty or wisdom, and let us rejoice when a science becomes an art.”

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Themes: Poverty

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“As for the girl, it will avail her nothing to know a foreign language, archaeology, and trigonometry, if she cannot manage a home, a husband, and a child: fidelity is nourished through the stomach, and good pies do more for monogamy than all the languages that have ever died. One tongue is enough for any woman, and a good mother is worth a thousand PhDs.”

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“But our exciting capitalism is showing dangerous defects. It is poisoning our air, our waters, perhaps even our food. It has been killing the fish in our streams and seas and the birds in the sky. It has been using at a reckless rate the mineral resources of our soil.”

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Themes: Capitalism

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“But what if the play is never better, always revolving about suffering and death, telling endlessly the same idiotic tale? There's the rub, and there's the doubt that gnaws at the heart of wisdom and poisons age.”

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Themes: Doubt

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“Civilization is a fragile bungalow precariously poised on a live volcano of barbarism.”

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“Death, like style, is the removal of rubbish, the circumcision of the superfluous... We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life; we die and drop away that life may remain young and strong.”

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Themes: Death and Dying

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“Desire, not experience, is the essence of life; experience becomes the tool of desire in the enlightenment of mind and the pursuit of ends.”

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“Every solution bares a new problem. The progress of science has brought new evils with new boons, and its latest victory has given frail minds the power to destroy Western civilization... I morn when I see so much scientific genius dedicated to the art of massacre, so little to the organization of peace... Meanwhile I breathe air and drink water and eat food polluted by the products of science: by the burning of fuels in factories and cars by industrial waste poured into our rivers and seas, by dangerous chemicals used in growing or processing foods or disguising their decay.”

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“Following the suggestion of Plato, we may expect to find pagan and puritan periods follow in mutual reaction... Every age reacts against its predecessor... we should expect our present moral laxity to be followed by some return to moral restraint”

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Themes: Change

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“Health lies in action, and so it graces youth. To be busy is the secret of grace, and half the secret of content... Let us play is as good as Let us pray, and the results are more assured.”

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Themes: Medicine Pleasure

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“Here is history, a futile circle of infinite repetition: these youths with eager eyes will make the same errors as we, they will be misled by the same dreams; they will suffer, and wonder, and surrender, and grow old... All life living at the expense of life, every organism eating other organisms forever.”

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Themes: Impermanence

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“history as man's rise from savagery to civilization—history as the record of the lasting contributions made to man's knowledge, wisdom, arts, morals, manners, skills—history as a laboratory rich in a hundred thousand experiments—history as our roots and our illumination, as the road by which we came and the only light that can clarify the present and guide us into the future... your face is your autobiography; you are what you are because of what you have been”

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“History sees the newborn child as the product of millions of years, during most of which he was a hunter fighting for his food and his life against beasts stronger than himself except for his use of weapons and tools. Those years formed the basic nature of our species: acquisitiveness, greed, competition, and pugnacity tending to violence.”

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“I am not sure that I would want our sexual sensitivity to be reduced, for it is half the zest of life. Probably our sense of beauty is an offshoot of that sensibility; all other forms of beauty seem to be derived from the beauty of woman as the object of male desire and female envy”

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Themes: Beauty

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“I am not sure that I would want our sexual sensitivity to be reduced, for it is half the zest of life... To condemn sexual sensitivity would be to outlaw esthetic feeling and response, and so to cut the richest roots of art.”

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“I am quite content with mortality; I should be appalled at the thought of living forever, in whatever paradise... We must make room for our children.”

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Themes: Immortality

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“I breathe air, and drink water, and eat food polluted by the products of scien used in growing or processing foods or disguising their decay.ce : by the burning of fuels in factories and cars, by industrial waste poured into our rivers and seas, by dangerous chemicals.”

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“I cannot look at any green shoot sprouting from the soil without feeling that in that mystic presence I am closer to the essence of reality than when my grandson tries in vain to explain to me the marvels of the atom.”

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“I distrust the astronomers when they calculate the distance of the fixed stars, and the geologists when they tell us the age of the Earth or its strata. I am a bit dubious of the changing pictures by which the physicists represent the inside of the atom... I think that biology has been misled by applying too widely the notion of mechanism and hesitating to credit living things with inherent, guiding will.”

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“I hate travel and love my home.”

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Themes: Travel

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“I know that life is in its basis a mystery; a river flowing from an unknown source and in its development an infinite subtlety, 'a dome of many-colored glass,' too complex for thought, much less for utterance.”

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“I laughed at Freud's dream theories as soon as I read them. His resort to symbolism in interpreting dreams seemed to me merely the bizarre and unconvincing feat of a diseased imagination. I felt that he had exaggerated sex, and had underrated economic troubles in generating neuroses”

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“I mourn when brilliant writers... tell us that we should yield to every impulse and desire, and 'be ourselves'! What jejune nonsense! Civilization... is at almost every moment dependent upon the repression of instincts, and intelligence itself involves discrimination between desire that may be pursued and those that should be subdued.”

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Themes: True Self

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“I mourn when I see so much scientific genius dedicated to the art of massacre, so little to the organization of peace.”

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“I would ask our doctors to devote as much time to preventive as to curative procedures, and to put less curative reliance upon drugs and more upon natural cures by diet and physiotherapy”

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Themes: Health

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“I would rather contribute a microscopic mite to improving the conduct of men and statesmen than write the one hundred best books.”

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Themes: Meaningfulness

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“I would rather have America lose her empire than have her forfeit all the inspiration that she has meant to mankind... I believe it would have been cheaper, as well as more humane, to export food and technical aid to impoverished areas to advise threatened governments to become welfare states, to prod the great landowners in those countries to allow a wider distribution of land, to persuade industrial magnates that higher wages make for expanding markets, rising profits, economic stability, and political peace.”

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“If anything is clear in the experience of mankind, it is that successful revolutionists soon behave like the men they have overthrown.”

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Themes: Warriors

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“If the founding Fathers could come back, they would be amazed at the degree to which we have reduced poverty, drudgery, illiteracy, and governmental tyranny. a large part of the utopias described by Thomas More, Samuel Butler, Edward Bellamy, and H. G. Wells has been materially realized, along with the universal education, adult suffrage, freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion which were among the hopes and dreams of 18th century philosophers.”

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“In evolutionary theory, those organisms that felt the strongest urge to mingle their seed bred most abundantly, so that, in the course of the generations, the sexual instinct grew to an intensity surpassed only in the quest for food... Nature is mad about reproduction and makes the individual a tool and moment in the continuance of the species.”

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Themes: Prostitution

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“In my Utopia, every family, including philosophers, would apply half of its working hours to growing its essential vegetables on a plot of land around or near its house”

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Themes: Gardening

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“in the world of life, the male is a tributary incident, usually subordinate, sometimes superfluous... No biologist could think of God except in feminine terms”

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“increasingly familiar with the historical and geographical diversity of moral codes and their human origin, the inherited code had been weakened, and much doubt has been cast upon its allegedly divine sanctions and source”

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“Industrial competition among corporations and individuals has strengthened the profit motive and other individualistic instincts, and has broken down moral restraints in the conduct of business.”

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Themes: Competition

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“it is harder to produce food that to beget children; so in nearly all ages the growth of population has outrun the production of food... But how long can we defer the explosive confrontation between the limited productivity of arable soil and the uncontrolled reproductive ecstasy of men?”

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“It is quite possible to admire a hundred women or men while remaining resolutely faithful to one. In that way we may get the best of both—the transient ardor of sexual emotion and the quiet content of lasting love.”

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Themes: Strategy

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“It was to meet the challenge of communism, as well as to end a critical depression, that Franklin Roosevelt, in the most brilliant statesmanship of the 20th century, devised the welfare state.”

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Themes: Economics

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“Let me, before I die, sing a hymn in praise of women... if anywhere there is divinity it is here... Catholics have been right in praying chiefly to the mother of God... The grace of her movement is poetry become flesh”

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“Let me, before I die, sing a hymn in praise of women... time and again I have longed to approach a woman timidly and thank her for being such a joy to behold... usually they win by instinct all that the male has acquired by intellect... they are all, even if so briefly, miracles of form, features, and alluring grace... No biologist could think of God except in feminine terms.”

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“let the student realize how old our current problems are, and for how many centuries the nature of men has played havoc with the ideals of philosophers and saints.”

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“Life is that which can hold a purpose for 3000 years and never yield. The individual fails, but life succeeds. The individual is foolish, but life holds in its blood nd seed the wisdom of generations.”

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Themes: Meaningfulness

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“Life is that which can hold a purpose for three thousand years and never yield. The individual fails, but life succeeds. The individual is foolish, but life holds in its blood and seed the wisdom of generations. The individual dies, but life, tireless and undiscourageble, goes on, wondering, longing, planning, trying, mounting, longing.”

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“Nationalism overrides morality, defers social reform, and becomes a religion stronger than any church.”

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Themes: Nationalism

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“New material no longer seems to find room, and recent impressions fade as rapidly as a politician's promises, or the public's memory of them... The ability to learn decreases with each decade of our lives, as if the association fibers of the brain were accumulated and overlaid in inflexible patterns.”

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Themes: Forget Memory

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“no person is educated, or fit for statesmanship, who cannot see his time in the perspective of the past”

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“Normally it is harder to produce food than to beget children; so in nearly all ages the growth of population has outrun the production of food...”

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Themes: Agriculture

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“Nothing learned from a book is worth anything until it is used and verified in life; only then does it begin to affect behavior and desire. It is Life that educates, and perhaps love more than anything else in life.”

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Themes: Books

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“Ovid wrote beautifully about the gods but lasciviously about love.”

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“Perhaps our national vitality depends upon a continuing tension between youth and age, whereby innovation meets tradition, and the ardor of experiment fuses with the coolness of experience.”

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Themes: Paradox

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“Perhaps the basic skill that we should ask a teacher to impart to his pupil is the ability to discipline himself; for in this stormy age every individual, like every people, has in the long run only two choices—effective self-government, or practical subjection”

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Themes: Perseverance

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“Psychology has seemed to condemn every inhibition, and to justify every desire.”

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“Seldom has an incredible philosophy been so graced wit style—metaphors flashing light upon abstractions, words molded into hypnotizing music. Read and beware!”

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“The Church had overlaid the incomparable ethics of Jesus with a complex structure of incredible dogma echoing St. Paul and mostly unknown to Christ and with an omnipresent incubus of organization and theocratical police lying heavy upon the human mind, ready to stifle any independent thought by using the power of the state to imprison confiscate, and kill.”

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“the horror of lynching, the humiliating rejection from hotels and restaurants, the hopeless poverty... the South, so far as its need of annual laborers would permit, encouraged the black man to go north. He went, dreaming of justice and plenty. For a time he found work where muscle was needed and servility was required; or he lived for a while on public aid, and alarmed the whites with his fertility... Meanwhile the progress of technology deprived most black men of a place in industry; they became dependent upon charity or their wives—who cleaned white homes to maintain black hovels... Do we not owe it to conscience and justice that every person—irrespective of their race—has full and equal opportunity to enter into the promise of American life?”

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“the same Goethe who held that, in the end, personality is everything, warned us that limits are everywhere.”

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“There is an anarchist in all of us that inclines us to sympathize with a felon who is desperately and cleverly eluding the police; nobody loves a policeman until he needs one.”

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Themes: Crime Crime

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“There is much pleasure in the simple work of the hands, and, as the old rabbis taught, even the scholar will find that the possession of a trade may save him from selling his conclusions for an income.”

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“They looked at each other silently; but in his heart the young man said, 'There but for the lack of time , go I.' and in his eyes the old man said, 'I, too, was once young like you; hungry for knowledge, hopeful of achievment, eager for change.”

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Themes: One Taste

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“Thirty generations passed, and Leonardo da Vinci—spirit made flesh—scratched across his drawings (drawings so beautiful that one catches one's breath with pain on seeing them)... Leonardo failed and died, but life carried on the dream.”

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“This tree—I see it pushing its roots ever more deeply and widely into the soil yet lifting itself up to the sky as if in prayer for light and warmth... I feel in myself the same lust for light and growth; this tree and I are kindred souls sharing the same hunger and the same life.”

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Themes: Oneness

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“War is the Darwinism or natural selection of states, and not all our tears will wash it out of history until the people and governments of the world agree, or are forced, to yield theri sovereignties to some superstate; and then there will be revolutions and civil wars.”

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Themes: War

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“We are living flames of desire until we admit final defeat. Will is desire expressed in ideas that become actions unless impeded by contrary or substitute desires and ideas. Character is the sum of our desires, fears, propensities, habits, abilities, and ideas.”

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“We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life... In truth we are not individuals and it is because we think ourselves such that death seems unforgivable.”

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Themes: Egolessness

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“we give too much time to news about the transient present, too little to the living past. We are choked with news, and starved of history.”

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Themes: Illusion

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“We must give courage to our leaders to lead us, to re-create for us a Christianity that would be intelligible to Christ.”

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“We preach Christ to them and then cheat so much in business that the government has to intervene to protect the consumer against deceptive labels, dangerous cars, poisonous drugs, chemicalized food, and shoddy goods, while the government itself competes in corruption and mendacity.”

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Themes: Business

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“What do they care about death? They will learn and grow and love and struggle and create, and lift life up one little notch, perhaps, before they die. And when they pass they will cheat death with their children, with parental care that will make their children a little finer then themselves. Life wins.”

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“What is old age? It is a hardening of the arteries and categories, an arresting of thought and blood; a man is as old as his arteries, and as young as his ideas.”

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Themes: Longevity

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“Which of us, if really alive, was not a rebel in his youth? But extremes often cancel themselves into moderation, and the chaos may compel new forms of discipline... the radicals of today will become the liberals of tomorrow and the frightened conservatives of declining years”

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