2. A "Wise Man", Thales of Miletus
Generally, all "thought" that is not born in the "Cradle" of "Western Civilization" -- that is, all intellectual and rational reflections prior to Thales -- are not considered as being "Ancient Philosophy"; for this very reason, everything else is classified as mythology, theosophy, animism, superstition or black magic. In the introduction, we indicated that this is simply inborn arrogance or well-bred ignorance. Of course, nowadays as byproduct of the European alma mater, even "Bantu Philosophy" is being taught at African Universities, but an African Plato or Hegel, Marx or Bloch, will never see the Visionary Light, will never leave the "Cave of Underdevelopment". With sophia or wisdom this arrogant attitude surely has very little to do. However, since the advent of Labour on Planet Earth, no matter where it was born, essentially it was generated as a non-relation, and henceforth it persists as maltreated Nature vis-a-vis perverted Society, as Alienation per se.
Labour & Original Sin!
Ever since the "Neolithic Revolution", ever since the Great Agricultural Revolution, Physical Labour -- no matter its "historical" level, also, no matter its geographic birthplace -- was directed at the Economic Exploitation of Nature, in the service of "human need", better, in the service of "human greed" for "survival" purposes. Mother Nature produced "Man" and she surely did not forget to forge the "survival gene". Labour or Work was surely not on her production and reproduction agenda. Man violated his own mother, in the style of the Virgin Mary and the Holy Ghost.
If we take the Old Testament as the "gospel truth", then, originally, the Almighty Yahweh found his non-labouring human creatures "good", and he did not plan that "Work" should be performed in the "Garden of Eden". Only later, when "Man" ate from "the tree of life" alias of "knowledge", he became a "moral" human being and could distinguish between "good" and "evil". As such he was ingloriously thrown out of Paradise, into Hell, into "History", into the coming Orwellian "1984"; only then "tilling the soil" with "sweat on his brow" Man became a historic reality. In nuce, the "Original Sin" against Mother Nature unveiled itself as Labour.
Intellectual Property is Theft!
The historical, ideological superstructure, Intellectual Labour -- no matter its specific degree of Political Domination -- was produced as the expression of maltreated Nature and perverted Society. This Non-Relation, this "and" was and still is its "Truth"; all this is euphemistically called the Patria, the Fatherland, Heimat, Culture or Civilization.
Certainly, the superstructure of the Patria on a global scale was not constructed exclusively by Oriental and European philosophers and thinkers, although the latter provided the "lion’s share", as can be verified in the "History of Philosophy". However, the privatization of thought, private property of thought, intellectual property rights, all fall in the realm of Proudhon’s excellent discovery: Property is Theft!
Firstly, a global European "discovery", robbery and colonization of "Intellectual Labour" took place; secondly, it was christianized exclusively as "European Thought", and finally, all traces and relations of "philosophy" toward extra-European intellectual sources were declared negligible, censored, carefully erased or burnt in the fires of the Inquisition. Only then, after the intellectual "holocaust" was accomplished, in the alma mater the "Wise Men", the "Renaissance", the "Reformation" and the "Enlightenment" could flourish; and surely ever since, across the centuries, there was no doubt about the superb degree of "European" intelligence and the excellence of philosophic genius, about the triumphant forward march of Reason, of the accumulation of Capital, of the construction of wealthy metropolitan capitals.
"History of Philosophy" or "History of Plagiarism"?
In the introduction we indicated that crypto-hylozoistic thought was already developed in Ancient Egypt, India, Iran, China and Japan. Now we will briefly expound some of these philosophic reflections; after all, India had been an advanced "Culture and Civilization" long before the dawn of Hellas. Millennia before, along the Ganges and the Indus, physical and intellectual labour were flourishing, were more advanced than anywhere in "Europe". However, in no way we mention this in order to glorify or deify the ancient wise Indian thinkers, or to belittle the "poor" Europeans who were practically still trying to descend from the "trees" or to leave the dark "caves". Au contraire , we are just emphasizing the even, uneven and combined development of physical and intellectual labour on a world scale towards its logical transhistoric nirvana: towards Capital, Accumulation, Profits, Imperialism, Monopoly, Oligopoly, Intellectual Property Rights, Globalization.
After the Neolithic Revolution, in toto, "mankind" has entered a historic level of production and reproduction which necessarily created materialist and idealist conceptions of the world. Of course, related to its level of physical production, Ancient India had brought forth its own "Wise Men", teaching panpsychic or hylozoistic materialist doctrines. A superficial survey of the collections of ancient Indian hymns or prayers, of the Vedas, dating back to 3000 B.C., will reveal caustic anti-dogmatism, atheistic and materialist tendencies. It is of interest to note that the concept "veda", in Sanskrit, does not mean "prayer" or "hymn", it denotes "knowledge".
The above tendencies are especially emphasized in the older Upanishads,
among them, Isa, Taittiriya, Svestasvatara, Chandogya, Brhadaranyaka, Kena and Katha. In these Vedas a strong anti-Brahmanism with materialist ideological undertones can be detected. The Rgveda, X, 129 states:
"Who knows from where Being came?
The Gods only came into Being after It already existed. –
Who can say from where It came?"
This perpetual materialist-idealist, natural-social contradiction in Indian philosophy can be traced even in the old epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, also in the "Laws of Manu". From their very inception, Jainism and Buddhism had criticized Brahmanism. Until as late as the 4th Century B.C., these philosophic schools had attacked each other with the same scientific-philosophic stringency that we are accustomed to in Platonism, Aristotelianism and Atomism. Numerous Indian philosophers were hated by the Brahman establishment; they were persecuted and their works destroyed.
"In the Beginning was Water"
Nevertheless, today still, we can read in the Brhadaranyaka-Upanishad that "In the Beginning was Water", not the "Word", simply Water. Hence, so original, so archaic, Thales was in no way! The Upanishads were downgraded to theosophy, and "ariston men hydor" was upgraded to philosophy. According to the above veda, to ancient Indian knowledge, Brahman, the Gods and the World Itself, all originated from Water. Furthermore, the soul originated from water, air, earth and fire, and it returns to these elements.
Here we have the complete ancient Greek Philosophy-Chemistry, which formed the material basis of the Carvaka doctrines. The burning philosophic issue which had given the Ionians headaches, that is the problem of sense-perception and cognitive knowledge, was already debated in Ramayana, by Rama and Jabali, the ancient Indian materialists. Ancient India had its own "Seven Wise Men", one of them, the famous Brhaspati, was a kind of "Thales", a hylozoistic materialist, who stated : "Life originated from Matter" – c’est-a-dire, from prakrti. Seen from this angle, there was really "nothing new under the philosophic sun" in Ancient Hellas.
In this militant, optimistic, philosophic "spirit", we shall now display some philosophical reflections about Thinking a n d Thought; thereafter, we will introduce the natural a n d social environment of the "First Philosopher", of the "Wise Man", Thales of Miletus.
Towards Philosophy: Thales
Thinking a n d Thought: cogitare et cogitatio
Cosmos and Thinking
Within the eviternal boundless cosmic process, Thinking commences somewhence, nowhence, everywhence; somewhere, nowhere, everywhere; somewhither, nowhither, everywhither.
According to "modern scientists", some twenty-five million years ago, on the "Dark Continent", with the advent of the Ape Man or Man Ape, Proconsul, towards homo sahelanthropus tchadensis, some seven million years ago, the melodrama of "human history" had begun. Thus, in the bosom of "Mother Africa", the seeds for cogitare (Thinking) and cogitatio (Thought) were born. Nonetheless, in the alma mater, officially we are being taught that around 600 B.C., with Thales of Miletus, scientific and philosophic Thinking and Thought began.
A Question par excellence!
However, it is certain that the Milesian philosophic "synthesis" was filled with "cultured" and "civilized" Aurora; measured by "continental" standards, not all ancient global ones, it was new and original, id est, it was primeval, primogenital, primordial. Now, what was the "subject" matter of this Milesian archaic thinking? Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes wanted to know: what is, what is the arché ? What is Being? What is the Essence of Being, of Things? What is Human Being? What is the Essence of Human Being?
Of course, a posteriori, it is well-nigh impossible to decipher what exactly the Milesians were thinking, what their concepts precisely denoted, but some erudite scholars have tried to throw light on this sphingid labyrinth. We do not know what else Thales said; also not against which postulates, the "good" one, or, the "better" one, he stated that water was the "best". Unfortunately, we have to depend on the "official" interpretations of these experts, who generally affirm the "Western", "Cultured", "Christian", "Civilized" status quo; notwithstanding, negating them, by taking them with us, in omnia mecum porto mea * style, we will reorient their elucidations with our own supersensitive, oscillating magnet needle of thinking and thought. As we indicated in the introduction, concerning Ancient Greek Philosophy, the maxim, ex oriente lux, ** definitively merits academic, educative consideration.
Miletus: Cradle of Western Philosophy
Fiat lux! *** Let us spotlight ancient Miletus. Many ancient cities, like Babylon, Athens or Rome, are world-renowned, strange enough, the birthplace of Western Philosophy is nearly unknown. Yet, between the 8th and 5th Centuries B.C., Miletus was a flourishing sea-port, which reflected the original primitive accumulation of capital in Asia Minor.
From the harbour of the "Ornament of Ionia" (Herodotus), the Milesian ships sailed in all directions in the Mediterranean region, a colossal merchant navy, protected by an invincible war fleet. They were fully laden with merchandise, with fabrics woven and dyed in its local industry, with decorated garments carpets and pottery. Its woollens were highly in demand in Athens and Southern Italy. The famous cloak of Antisthenes of Sybaris was produced in Ionia; its zones of exotic flowers and beautiful pictures was a Milesian mistresspiece of embroidery in Oriental style. On all ancient Mediterranean markets Milesians were present.
Ancient Beverly Hills & Haute Couture
Miletus was a mighty colonial power, it conquered commercial cities from the Hellespont to the Black Sea (Euxine). Ionia was also the cradle of "high society" and "culture". About the ruling classes, A. Jarde, a French scholar, gave us a vivid picture:
"Phocacea, Ephesos, and the other great towns of Ionia, peopled, like Miletus, by a busy throng of merchants, craftsmen, and sailors, were all the scene of the like activity and the like wealth. Everywhere there was the same taste for luxury, the same love of fine fabrics and rich jewels; everywhere there were the same banquets and festivals. The courtesans of Ionia were models of elegance and culture, and all antiquity would marvel at the friend of Pericles, Milesian Aspasia."
Well, Ionia had its Miss Cosmos International beauty contests, its own "Irene Saez", the beloved courtesan "wife" of Pericles, Aspasia. Xenophanes of Colophon vividly portrayed this wealthy class, whose honoured members were strolling on the Agora "clad all in purple, with their hair beautifully dressed, shedding the perfume of subtle ointments." Of course, the waterfront workers and the slaves were not depicted by Xenophanes.
Water and Capital
Now, what has the "accumulation of capital" got to do with the "hydor" (Water) of Thales of Miletus? Not only was Miletus a sea-port, its wealth came from overseas, came from water. It was the first Greek city to use coined money, as exchange value in trade. All merchandise could be exchanged across this medium. Furthermore, the famous Temple of Apollo at Didyma was not only a "Vatican", the shrine of worship for the whole region, it was also the Ionian "Bank of Ambrosia". The wealthy temple authorities minted coins, acted as employees of a type of "Central Bank"; they held deposits, and supervised the whole Mediterranean commercial business.
Another highly prized commodity was "speaking-tools", slaves. The traders captured "barbarian" slaves in Asia Minor, and they were sold across Hellas. The slave-owning merchant and ship-owning classes of Miletus became so rich, that even the legendary wealthy King Croesus of Lydia came to its "CEO's" and "billionaires" for funds. Ionia, especially Miletus, was certainly the most suitable birthplace of capitalism and of its ideological superstructure, of Western Philosophy. In commerce, coined money was the best exchange value; in philosophy, water was the best arché into which everything could be changed, "rechanged" and exchanged.
A wise Man
Beyond any reasonable doubt, as our alma mater teaches us, for any scholar of the "History of Philosophy" Thales of Miletus was a "Wise Man", a sophós; in fact, he was the first philósophos, the Arch-Lover of Wisdom. Let us illuminate this ancient "Age of Wisdom", the natural habitat and the social environment of this famous hylozoist, of the Father of Philosophy. As we know, only Ancient Greek "Mythology" had some Mothers of Wisdom like Gaia, Athena or Minerva, Aphrodite, Venus or Diana.
Between the 7th and 6th Century B.C., a hybridous process between Cosmogony and Philosophy was ushered in: the intra-systemic, patrian, qualitative leap from magical beliefs to "scientific knowledge". It is well-known that the most important cosmogonic sanctuary in Ancient Greece was the Oracle of Delphi, the Temple of Apollo, the Sun-God, who had extradited the ancient Great Mother, Gaia. It had the wise inscription: gnothi seautón (Know Thyself!). This is surely a wise "Commandment" to remember. This oracle ordained sophía, Wisdom; and its Divine Superintendent was the Goddess Minerva (Athena). It is pertinent to note that the ancient "Seven Wise Men" still had their genesis and sanction in Greek feminist mythology and cosmogony. In this sonorous group always appeared: Thales of Miletus, Solon of Athens and Bias of Priene. Other interchangeable erudite thinkers were Pittakos of Mytilene, Periander, the Tyrant of Corinth, Epimenides of Crete, Cheilon and Anarcharsis, the Schyte.
Knowledge is Power!
Obviously, the Greek Sophos was a pagan, a chthonic artisan, a banausikos, a handicraftsman, who also involved himself in matters of the Polis. He saw his social task as not to be "banausian", not to be a vulgar member of the community, on the contrary, he wanted to be active, cosmic, praxical. This is the fons et origo of the future businessman, of the homo faber. His praxical real life experiences the Sophos reflected and reproduced in his mind, in his intellect. Here we note the archaic relation between action and thought, between praxis and theory, that as production unfolds, progressively will be transformed into dualistic, clashing physical and intellectual labour forces.
This mental product he expressed as a gnome (Latin: sententia), as a guide for future social praxis and theory. Truly, this still has nothing to do with goblins or dwarfs, or, in a modern sense, it has not yet the coming ideological relation to the capitalist Gnomes of Zurich, Switzerland, or to the CEO's of Corporate America. These wise, ancient gnomes were somehow still inspired by gnosis, by "Know Thyself"! In essence, however, knowledge was already related to "human" power, to social power. If we exclude the gifted Athenian courtesan, Aspasia, the hetaira of Pericles, we have to realize that the ancient seven "WISE MEN" were already well on their way towards patriarchal empiricism, to patrian positivism, to "Knowledge is Power" (Francis Bacon).
Early Fiery Flashes of Prometheus and Heracleitus
Surely this intellectual process reflected severe economic and social tension and conflict in Hellas, especially in the "colonies" of Asia Minor, particularly in Miletus and Ephesus, the flourishing commercial and cultural centres. They, social expressions of the primitive accumulation of capital, generated the revolutionary seeds, the agon and agony of the future intrasystemic, formal-logical and dialectical "negation", of the slave revolts, of the artisan and peasant unrest: the archaic, patrian roots of Spartacus, Thomas Münzer, Danton, Robespierre, Babeuf, Blanqui, Bakunin, Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Che, Castro, etc.
Thus, permanently, social conflicts had haunted Miletus, the birthplace of Thales. They did not only involve the wealthy social classes, even more so, they shook the very foundations of ancient labour, of the "free" population, the slaves, the "wretched" of Ancient Greece. In their eternal wrath and sempiternal frustration, the latter social classes occasionally killed aristocratic wives and children; in revenge, in the style of the coming Inquisition, the tyrannical, aristocratic or democratic rulers publicly burned the plebeian underdogs and "witches" alive on the market squares.
Crucifixion, Coming "Gas Chambers" and "Extermination of Vietcong"
Everywhere in the ancient Greek colonies such burning, living, "non-human" or "sub-human" torches were serving as horrendous warnings against any future attempts to change the status quo, the then slave-owning society. Later this practice was continued in the Greco-Roman Empire, by means of crucifixion, in the "Third Reich" as gas chambers for "dirty, filthy Jews", and in the Vietnam War, as extermination of the "communist" or "terrorist" Vietcong. The ancient Greek slave hirrient death-cries, and the hesternal Spartacus sparks in agony, were destined to reach the contemporary colonial, neo-colonial and anti-imperialist emancipatory movements. In this macabre atmosphere Thales and "Western Philosophy" were born, and its modern up-graded, neo-fascist, globalized version still flows in this ancient "river of blood", in this "master and slave" vale of sorrows.
Biographic Data: Thales
To Learn About Life, For Life
Let us continue displaying the natural habitat and social environment of Thales of Miletus. Before, we explained the essence a n d existence of philosophic gnomes. Generally, as we understand this term, making it our own, a gnome should express historically the essence a n d existence of the science a n d philosophy of a specific natural a n d social actor a n d thinker: for example: pánta rhei (Everything Flows! - Heracleitus) or omnia mecum porto mea (All I have I carry with me. - Bias); also, our gnome: Do a n d Think AND Excel, All Of, By and For Yourselves, Not Here, Not Now, But Anywhere, Anynow, Anyhow! Thus, similarly, Thales formulated his own sententia: ariston men hydor (The Best is Water).
Of course, for us as scientists a n d philosophers, in the Patria, many of these wise gnomes are praxically a n d theoretically valid; after all: non scholae, sed vitae discimus, we learn not for the school, but for life, for our life. However, we have to be watchful; "wise", formal-logical statements like "What Will Be, Will Be" , "Everything Is Possible" and "I believe that ...", after a while, have an ideological tendency to become, not watchwords, but catchwords, to become petrified slogans, losing all their specific dynamite or dynamism, that is, if they ever had something of the like. Definitely, naked theories or intellectual nudities cannot grasp a multilogical cosmic a n d ontic "reality", they cannot historicize or emancipate patrian class-ridden living circumstances and conditions.
There are no capitalistic, industrial "extracts" for the Relation "Cosmos a n d Einai", "Nature a n d Society" or "Praxis a n d Theory"; no Nescafe, no Nesphilosophy can substitute Thinking and Thought. The latter can never ever be produced as "Intellectual Property" in a Factory of Platonic Education, not in an industrial society, not in a post-industrial mode of creation, nowhere where human greed, egoism and megalomania, where Labour, Capital and Profits reign. Nowhere else, except in History, in Emancipation, this wise, ontic don, this free, invisible, invincible, invulnerable gift has its dialogical natural a n d social modus operandi e t vivendi.
But, let us return to our epicentral philosophic venture; the precise, concise, original formulation of the Thalian gnome is not preserved. Only through second-hand information we know about its existence. It was Plato (427-347 B.C.), Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) and Herodotus (484-425 B.C.) who have informed us about its philosophic existence.
In his Metaphysics, Aristotle stated that Thales had taught that the arché was water. Concerning his historic life, Herodotus (I. 75 and 170) told us that Thales had prophesied the total eclipse of the sun of May 28, 585 B.C., at the time of the Ionian Wars between Lydians and Medes. Besides similar fragmentary information, we know very little about him, it is not even sure whether he ever had written anything.
Aristotle has explained to us his philosophic method of reasoning. According to him, how did Thales come to the philosophic gnome that Water is the Original, Archaic Principle? By using his simple "common sense", he argued, because "wood swims on water", consequently, "the earth rests on water"; furthermore, because a magnet can move iron, hence it must have a psyche, a moving force.
We could smile at this type of simple philosophical logic, but we cannot deny its childlike, not childish, auroralike nature. Still in the 20th Century, the general natural scientific hypothesis was prevalent that hydrogen is the arché; this element forms two-thirds of water, and water forms about four-fifths of the human body. Relevant for us is that Thales did not explain the Cosmos as a divine product, neither as a gift of Olympus, nor as a material excrement of the World Spirit or Absolute Idea, but he tried to explain Being-Out-Of-Itself, Cosmos-Out-Of-Itself.
He was not the first in human history to do this, however, as far as Western philosophy is concerned, he is the father of hylozoism and panpsychism. That he postulated only Being, a sole Being, only Water, a Single Principle, that is another story, which we will relate elsewhere.
Plato reminded us that Thales was a sophos, "an able craftsman", the originator of "many skilful discoveries in the arts and other activities". In modern terminology, Thales was the following, all in one: engineer, navigator, mathematician, geographer, meteorologist, chemist, physicist, viticulturer, panpsychologist, merchant and statesman, et hoc genus omne. **** Well, no problem, this is precisely what a philosopher should be, and surely, still much, much more. At least, it was still a relatively young Milesian patrian time, when philosophía did not yet become feudalist, absolutely royal, not yet religious and aristocratic, not yet the theological "Queen Of All Sciences", not yet seated in the "Ivory-Tower" of the Orwellian "Republic Of Intellect And Reason".
All sophia, gnosis and episteme, all science a n d philosophy, were still represented in the hylozoistic "Democratic Commonwealth of Knowledge". Those were still the "good", old, patrian days, before Humpty Dumpty fell from the Wall. The industrial epoch of Charlie Chaplin scientifically putting caps on Coca-Cola bottles, of being master of this one and only trade, was still far away off. But, as we were told, the viticulturer Thales very carefully had mixed the necessary pecuniary ingredients of science and philosophy with those of the ancient olive industry, and with superb marketing success, he had already indicated how Intellectual Labour could improve financial profits. Ab ovo, even Thales, launching intellectual labour, was already on the dawning, primitive capitalist Information Highway! He transmitted a transhistoric deja vu to us, to explain, in the final analysis, what Logos, Deus, Ratio and Geist, what Western philosophy, are all about.
Demythologization of the Princes of Darkness
The Labour Process, at the level of Ancient Greek Slave-Owning "Society", necessitated a new ideological superstructure, innovative Intellectual Labour, a brand new "Philosophy". Thales had the "historic" task to introduce this intellectual novelty, to erect its philosophic, materialistic base. Later Plato would decorate the idealistic deck for this future kleptocratic, megalomaniac Ship of State. The primitive accumulation of Capital in the Ancient Mediterranean Region could not prosper under the outdated, pre-Ptolemaic, cosmogonic ruling world outlook of Homer and Hesiod, under obsolete relations of production. A new geocentristic Weltanschauung was urgently needed. Earthly money, chthonic exchange values, were already on the order of the day in the ancient Greek colonies; hylozoism, cryptic materialism had to reflect this flourishing, ocean bound, commercial economy in its ideological superstructure. The slave-owning logos, ideal Intellectual Labour, that abhorred manual slave labour, had to hold water, had to express itself in a maritime philosophic fashion.
Mythological chimeras and phantasmagorias, dwarfs and goblins, were no more suitable to explain the functions and objectives of a "modern" Milesian fleet of trading ships and its protective "invincible" navy. In everyday life, no manna or nectar was raining from topos ouranios, from heaven, from the Olympus; on the contrary, hard cash was flowing, and so did the rivers and the seas, in one word, everything was flowing, money coins were everything, were everywhere, and in Ionia, in Miletus, they were flowing like water. Small wonder that "ariston men hydor"!
Water: In a Nut Shell!
What did Thales discover, think? Exactly that what a child of his "time", a healthy body a n d a sane mind logically would deduce in his era of primitive accumulation of capital, in the commercial whirlpool of exchange money and values. In the philosophic field, sensuously Thales had noted that water is wet, is damp, and that seeds germinate in dampness; that what seeds, insects, plants and animals nourish on are usually damp and wet; it is water which gives rise to wetness, to dampness, which brings about ice in rivers, which evaporates as "air", it is water which comes from the heavens, and from the bowels of the earth, from the womb of the mother, in which a child is born. What a keen, a key, a scientific observation, void of sacred things, holy ghosts, evil devils, divine saints, angels and gods! It is filled with Agatha Christie and Sindbad The Sailor. Western Labour still at its "aristos", at its best: water, water, everywhere!
Obviously, for the Patria, and therewith also for us, Thales is exceptional: he laid the foundation for the One and Only, for the Unomnia, for the Hen kai Pan, for the One Great God, the One Great Idea, the One Great Man, the One Great Race, the One and Only "Chosen People". He taught us unilogically how to identify, to affirm; to perceive non-relations, to sense things at rest, moribund relations.
Why is Thales consecrated as the "Father of Philosophy"? Simply because of his intrepid patrian statement that the arché is unitary, uniform, unique, universal, only flowing in itself, in flux at rest, alive in death. Motion, Change, can only come from Inside, from Repose, from the Status Quo. He is the Father of Political Reformism, of Capitalist Democracy, which only progresses from within, moves from within, which forever evolves and revolves on the very same spot, in the very same moment. He laid the cornerstone of a Single Unitary Being, a Unified One Principle, for all patrian philosophers, for all future Roman Catholic "Latin Lovers", for all A-Men, here and now, and forever more: Amen!
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