The Ecology of Pink Floyd's 'The Wall': It's Genesis & Revelation -- Prologue.
It was in doing research on John Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row for a project that I first became interested in the idea of Ecology. Steinbeck is an old hat at building narratives around a man and his environment. It's in Cannery Row, that a man named Doc has had such an affect on his local community, that the whole town comes together to throw him a party. Well, most of the local drunks anyways. Steinbeck often gave his readers strong doses of philosophy through a character who had had a few strong drinks.
As actors in our own individual stories, we have an impact on our environment--both the outward world and more importantly our inward one. It's in the brain, the heart, and the soul that we make the private decisions second by second, hour by hour, and day by day that create our worlds.
Whichever profession: labor, professional, or technical a certain level of creativeness exists in the work. Some occupations are chosen upon how much power it wields. Historically, it's been thought that the man at the top of the tower staring down at his underlings is the powerful one. But, this control is akin to the cattle herder--steering the ship and attempting to lead stronger individuals in a direction that is unnatural to them.
There are two forces in this scenario: The Creator and the Destroyer. It's the Creative that takes a thought an idea or intuition and runs with it. He builds worlds and he creates life. In contrast, it is the Destroyer that acts as an anti-creative. He serves to piggy back off the work of the Creative. He makes shoddy replicas of imitation that serve only his purpose and work only for his gain.
It could be asked, "Who are these characters?" These forces of the 'good and the bad' exist everywhere. All one needs to simply do is observe. Watch the Creative at work in her garden on an early morning during the spring. She serpentines through the soft upturned rain soaked soil planting and pulling making art of the ground. See the Destroyer do his work on a Saturday night ranting through his house taking out the frustrations of his life out on his wife and children after a bottle of bourbon.
The Creative stands in opposition to the Destroyer. He threatens the Destroyer because of the inability to adequately place him inside of a box. If you ask a Creative to describe herself they usually can't do it.
This limitation for the Creative to accurately describe himself might be what separates him from the divine. God describes himself in the Bible, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 22.13).
In contrast, when you ask the Creative to describe his work he struggles to find the words of description--even if it is writing that is his art. Take a painter. She works night and day for a month on wall wide abstract painting. Over 160 hours of labor she has poured into an image. "What does this image convey?" asks the critic. "Simply a feeling," she responds. "But, which one?" And she can't come up with the answer.
But, the labor in her work, did have a beginning and end. Is it then, the struggle that exists during the creative process, that is the role of the Creative? Is that her world build? Her Eden to escape?
It is in the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible that God "created mankind in his own image" (Genesis. 1.27). Webster defines create as the action of "bringing something into existence". The dictionary then references Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Even the word Genesis, of which the first book of the Bible is titled, has to do with creation. It's known as "the origin or coming into being of something" ("Genesis").
Alexander Pope, in his Essay on Criticism, famously said, "To err is human, to forgive divine" ("An Essay on Criticism") Mankind has erred throughout history. Wars, deceit, and struggle are as much apart of the human race as breathing. As a fire needs oxygen to survive, so too does man need a fight to overcome.
This is where the two forces, the Creative and the Destroyer, come in on stage right and dance in the play of humanity. To truly begin this fight, man must realize that the battle field is within himself. It is then, that he can use the divine qualities that have been given to him to win the war.
The two divine qualities that the Creative have been given are:
The book of Genesis never describes the physical qualities of God. Nor is the reader told what the first two humans, Adam and Eve, look like. Rather, these characters are defined through their actions, what they do, and the creations that they make.
As Pope said mankind is good for a screwup, but God forgives. The book of Psalm's in the Bible reads, "But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared" (Pslm 130.4).
The Creative uses these two divine qualities to fight the Destroyer within himself. Creation and Forgiveness are uses in a constant cycle of are how the Creative fights the Destroyer.
Later in Genesis, God commanded Adam and Eve, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Gen. 2.16-17).
Good being defined as "of favorable character or conforming to a [certain] standard" whereas evil is "morally reprehensible" ("Good", "Evil"). The standard that good complies with is the two divine qualities: 1. to create 2. to forgive. Evil then, as seen as morally reprehensible, would mean to reprehend or to censure--being "a judgement involving condemnation" ("Censure").
Good is the aim. The act of falling short is not evil. However the act of not trying or not doing or not entering the struggle is evil as well. Because it keeps one from entering into that divine dance with the two things that the Creative works with: Creation and Forgiveness.
It should also be asked, "Why would God put the tree in the Garden of Eden to begin with?" The answer can be seen through the eyes of the parent. God was the father his own creation. If God made man and woman in his own image, then he would've had to have wanted them to know the things he knows and to have learned how he learned. But, to learn means letting go of control, and when a father lets go of his rope of protection a child can grow up, but gain also get hurt.
Maturing is wonderfully painful process as it is only when innocence is lost that one can truly become whole.
A parent wants their child to learn to walk. And this difficult action is only learned through trial and error. A child begins to slowly crawl on their stomach, then begins pulling up, standing for short amounts of time, and finally running around in mayhem.
So too, would God want his children to know both Good and Evil so that they can learn to be like him and begin to use the two divine tools: Creativity and Forgiveness.
In Greek mythology, after a loss in an all-time battle the god Atlas was condemned to hold up the world. In such a manner, man and woman have been given the responsibility to contend with this world after their 'fall' from innocence.
It's in both the left and right hand that we labor with the two divine ideas: forgiveness and creativity. The thought of either being heavier or carrying more responsibility is uncertain and manifests itself differently with each individual. However, my concern with this work is focus on the former. It's the divine element of creativity that will control the direction of the narrative that I'm building. Forgiveness is not unimportant, its significance is of such note that in fact it is the only way to get to a state of being creative. The first battle for the artist is that of the self. It's inside his mind that the wheels of the 'knowledge of good and evil' spin feverishly leaving rubber tracks on the asphalt of his inner world.
If the creator of man is in need of study--as religions of the world have done for millenniums; than is not the creator living and walking and dying in this world in need of it as well?
Dr. Gerald Marten describes ecology as being the "the science of relationships between living organisms and their environment." Human ecology, he declares is, "about relationships between people and their environment."
A young woman walking to her office on the sidewalks of Downtown Los Angeles makes a choice when she passes through Skid Row. She can look down her nose in disgust at people much like herself, who once had a dream but lacked the necessary support to achieve it, or she can look through the lense of her own experience as the Creative does and empathize with the downtrodden. Then realizing that for too many dreams end without the ability to hold both of the divine gifts: Creativity and Forgiveness.
The man in rural America walks through his rows of corn in the late July sun. A dry summer kills yield--even more so with the farmer who cannot afford artificial irrigation. What could be seen as the appropriate answer? Does he curse God? Do the inner demons that the Creative carries around as constant companions: negative self-talk, self-doubt, the inner critic, or perfectionism build up such a wall in front of him to prevent him from reaching his goal of a proper crop? A choice remains to be made. To add bricks to the wall of defeat or to take a sledgehammer and tear it down.
The ‘knowledge of good and evil’ requires an understanding of evil first and the depth of that knowledge can only be measured by the individuals understanding of how evil they can be. Once the dark is understood and identified then can light be brought to the darkness. Good can only come once the idea of evil had been established. Without the idea of evil to compare good to—wouldn't 'good' simply mean to be?
If God is indeed creator of heavens and earth, then he is the maker of both good and evil things. Could this be because he knows the value of struggle and that only under pressure can a man be made great?
It was the former Secretary of State, Henry A. Kissinger, that said, "A diamond is a chunk of coal that is made good under pressure." My question for you dear reader, and therefore of myself, is that if man did not 'fall' would we have had the opportunity to become good at all?
As the experienced Creative knows, it is only through failure that he can learn. DaVinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’, Mozart’s ‘Symphony No. 40’, or Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ came only after years and years of failures. And, I willing to wager if I had the chance to sit down with each of them, that they would be quick to pick out errors in their work. Error's that the naked eye would never be able to notice.
The third chapter of Genesis reads, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Gen.3.11)
Taking that application of the word 'naked' from the passage in Genesis and applying it to the Creative in example of DaVinci's 'Mona Lisa'; without his previous failures at making art and the struggles that he learned from it--he wouldn't have learned to be capable to produce such a timeless work as that painting.
The knowledge of what was good or bad, of 'good' or 'evil'; allowed DaVinci to create something that was worthy of outliving himself.
And that brings us to the third and final divine quality that the Creative attains:
3. Eternal Life
Bret Urick, of the thewallanyalasis.com, describes the The Wall as a concept album, "in which its tracks hold a larger purpose or meaning collectively than they do individually" ("Concept Album"). It's also known as a rock opera, or "a collection of rock music songs with lyrics that relate to a common story. The use of various character roles within the song lyrics is a common storytelling device" ("Rock Opera").
The Wall as an album is a collection of tracks that work together to build a story.
The natural arc of a story begins with a stasis, or a composed world, then something happens and the action rises and rises and rises some more. At the point in the story upon which no end is in sight a climax is reached and the action falls doward towards a resolution.
The tracks of The Wall work together to create a character who is well developed. He begins in childhood and then grows to be a man with many things to overcome. The action rises through the album from the first disc into the second as the tension builds to a wall high climax and final destructive and cathartic resolution is reached.
The idea for the story of The Wall is said to have come from an incident during a Pink Floyd tour when frontman and bassist Roger Waters, "[had] grown so disillusioned with stardom and the godlike status that fans granted [him], that he spat in the face of an overzealous concert-goer. Later, after being disillusioned by his own actions, "Waters drew from the well of his alienation and the loss of his own father during World War II to flesh out the fictional character of Pink" (Bret Urick).
The Wall follows "the life of the fictional protagonist, Pink Floyd, from his boyhood days in post-World-War-II England, to his self-imposed isolation as a world-renowned rock star", and to an ending in which he destroys 'The Wall' he has built around himself (Bret Urick).
In its essence, at it's purest form, The Wall is an album about a creative. It's character Pink Floyd, acts as a fallen hero that we cheer on through each track--it's this struggling everyman who works to create a life upon which he is satisfied to live that makes the album such a strong allegorical listen. It's through allegory, "the expression by means of symbolic figures and actions of truths about human existence", that Water's lyrics bring the fictional character of Pink to life. And it's in that character that the Creative sees himself.
Pink Floyd's The Wall is a journey. It invites the listener to enter into its story. The character of 'Pink' portrayed in the album and the Creative, that ideal that I will be working with throughout this book, both fall into the trap of building a false wall of protection around themselves. This is an active act of participation by--a sequential process, track by track, brick by brick; that they both assemble 'The Wall' of their own condemnation.
Pink Floyd's The Wall contains 26 songs--two CD discs:
In the Flesh
The Thin Ice
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)
The Happiest Days of Our lives
Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)
Goodbye Blue Sky
One of My Turns
Don't Leave Me Now
Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3
Goodbye Cruel World
Is There Anybody Out There?
Bring the Boys Back Home
The Show Must Go On
In the Flesh
Run Like Hell
Waiting for the Worms
Outside the Wall
The Wall is split up in two halves, Disc 1 and Disc 2--it is organized in way to designate a beginning as it works towards it's end.
"The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures that Jews and Christians consider to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans" ("the Bible"). It's a collection of 66 books, the narration beginning in Genesis with the creation of man. Man begins his story in paradise of what is known as the Garden of Eden.
But, the first man known as Adam is alone, and God attempts to solve this problem. "The LORD God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him'" (Gen.2.18). And God creates Eve, the first woman, and it is good.
Then came the tree of knowledge incident that I eluded to earlier.
It's after this knowledge is attained by the first couple, when they realize that they are 'naked', that the idea of sin leaves its mark on their descendants.
The fourth chapter of Genesis leads, "Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, 'With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.' Later, she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast" (Gen. 4.1-5).
It's in John Steinbeck's East of Eden that his narrative discusses the relationship between God and Cain in detail. It's the two characters contained inside the book, Lee and Samuel, that dispose the density of Genesis 4:7:
"'Do you remember when you read us the sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis and we argued about them?'
'I do indeed. And that’s a long time ago.'
'Ten years nearly,' said Lee. 'Well, the story bit deeply into me and I went into it word for word. The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have—and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this—it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ It was the ‘thou shalt’ that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin.'
Samuel nodded. 'And his children didn’t do it entirely,' he said.
Lee sipped his coffee. 'Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, ‘Do thou rule over him.’ Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order. And I began to stew about it. I wondered what the original word of the original writer had been that these very different translations could be made.'
Samuel put his palms down on the table and leaned forward and the old young light came into his eyes. 'Lee,' he said, 'don’t tell me you studied Hebrew!'
Samuel sipped the drink. 'I want to know why you were so interested,' he said.
'Well, it seemed to me that the man who could conceive this great story would know exactly what he wanted to say and there would be no confusion in his statement.'
'You say ‘the man.’ Do you then not think this is a divine book written by the inky finger of God?'
'I think the mind that could think this story was a curiously divine mind. We have had a few such minds in China too.'
'I just wanted to know,' said Samuel. 'You’re not a Presbyterian after all.'
Lee dampened his tongue in the black brew. 'I respectfully submitted my problem to one of these sages, read him the story, and told him what I understood from it. The next night four of them met and called me in. We discussed the story all night long.'
Lee laughed. 'I guess it’s funny,' he said. 'I know I wouldn’t dare tell it to many people. Can you imagine four old gentlemen, the youngest is over ninety now, taking on the study of Hebrew? They engaged a learned rabbi. They took to the study as though they were children. Exercise books, grammar, vocabulary, simple sentences. You should see Hebrew written in Chinese ink with a brush! The right to left didn’t bother them as much as it would you, since we write up to down. Oh, they were perfectionists! They went to the root of the matter.'
'And you?' said Samuel.
'I went along with them, marveling at the beauty of their proud clean brains. I began to love my race, and for the first time I wanted to be Chinese. Every two weeks I went to a meeting with them, and in my room here I covered pages with writing. I bought every known Hebrew dictionary. But the old gentlemen were always ahead of me. It wasn’t long before they were ahead of our rabbi; he brought a colleague in. Mr. Hamilton, you should have sat through some of those nights of argument and discussion. The questions, the inspection, oh, the lovely thinking—the beautiful thinking.
'After two years we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too—‘Thou shalt’ and ‘Do thou.’ And this was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ ‘Thou mayest rule over sin.’ The old gentlemen smiled and nodded and felt the years were well spent. It brought them out of their Chinese shells too, and right now they are studying Greek.'
Samuel said, 'It’s a fantastic story. And I’ve tried to follow and maybe I’ve missed somewhere. Why is this word so important?'
Lee’s hand shook as he filled the delicate cups. He drank his down in one gulp. 'Don’t you see?' he cried. 'The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ Don’t you see?'
'Yes, I see. I do see. But you do not believe this is divine law. Why do you feel its importance?'
'Ah!' said Lee. 'I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.' Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.
Adam said, 'Do you believe that, Lee?'
'Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. And do you know, those old gentlemen who were sliding gently down to death are too interested to die now?'
Adam said, 'Do you mean these Chinese men believe the Old Testament?'
Lee said, 'These old men believe a true story, and they know a true story when they hear it. They are critics of truth. They know that these sixteen verses are a history of humankind in any age or culture or race. They do not believe a man writes fifteen and three-quarter verses of truth and tells a lie with one verb. Confucius tells men how they should live to have good and successful lives. But this—this is a ladder to climb to the stars.' Lee’s eyes shone. 'You can never lose that. It cuts the feet from under weakness and cowardliness and laziness.'
Adam said, 'I don’t see how you could cook and raise the boys and take care of me and still do all this.'
'Neither do I,' said Lee. 'But I take my two pipes in the afternoon, no more and no less, like the elders. And I feel that I am a man. And I feel that a man is a very important thing—maybe more important than a star. This is not theology. I have no bent toward gods. But I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed— because ‘Thou mayest’” ("East of Eden").
It's the choice, the 'Thou Mayest', that Steinbeck highlights in his narrative, that the Creative has to the power to hold.
The Creative has to grasp hold of two things: 1. Responsibility 2. Belief in Himself.
First, the idea of responsibility can be noted in many different ways. For my purposes, for this project, my intention is to note the idea of personal responsibility for the Creative as an individual entity. The Creative is born a bit different from the rest of society. Something extra is placed inside her soul. Something that begs to be fed, watered, and nurtured to a mature state. Until that egg is brooded upon, the action of the mother sitting upon it--the Creative has no idea of the power that they hold within themselves.
The idea of responsibility is at it's core about discipline. The Creative must reach the self-maturity to discipline himself to work on his craft when he is the only one that cares about what he's doing. It's the Los Angeles native poet Charles Bukowski that said, "Some people like what you do, some people hate what you do, but most people simply don’t give a damn.” But, let me say that the Creative has to give a damn, because at first no-one else does.
Second, the idea of belief in oneself, is one of the hardest things for the Creative to grasp. The act of being creative is vulnerable in it's inception. A work is made and is submitted for approval by an entity outside of the Creative's control--it's then that he waits in anticipation.
This act of waiting is a Purgatory by nature, known as "an intermediate state after death for expiatory purification; specifically a place or state of punishment wherein according to Roman Catholic doctrine the souls of those who die in God's grace may make satisfaction for past sins and so become fit for heaven" ("Purgatory").
So, if the waiting period for the Creative in known as Purgatory, then acceptance should be seen as Heaven, and therefore rejection can be deemed as Hell.
This book will contain 26 chapters of 'The Wall's' tracks and the project will be split into two halves.
The first half, will be much like the Bible's 'Old Testament', which is it's first half, the first 13 chapters will be:
In the Flesh?, The Thin Ice, Another Brick in the Wall, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Another Brick in the Wall (Part II), Mother, Goodbye Blue Sky, Empty Spaces, Young Lust, One of My Turns, Don't Leave Me Now, Another Brick in the Wall (Part III), and Goodbye Cruel World.
The second half, will be similar to the Bible's 'New Testament', the second part that completes the Christian Bible, and the last 13 chapters will be:
Hey You, Is There Anybody Out There?, Nobody Home, Vera, Bring the Boys Back Home, Comfortably Numb, The Show Must Go On, In the Flesh, Run Like Hell, Waiting For The Worms, Stop, The Trial and Outside the Wall.Followed an epilogue.
I will follow the album chronologically, but I will pick appropriate Biblical stories and passages to correspond with the specific song and chapter of the work.
The point of this project is to uncover what it means to be creative. What it looks like to be one. And what gets in his way. I will do this through literary criticism.
As a magnifying glass is used to take a look at a subject in greater detail, the stories of the Bible will serve us to highlight the complexities of The Wall.
The three things that I'm trying to answer:
1. What does it mean to be creative?
2. Is the Creative trying to be divine?
3. What is 'The Wall'?
The project will be organized around a central conflict:
The characters of the Creative vs. 'The Wall'.
In exploring this struggle, the sub-conflict will emerge represented of the fight between the Creative and the Destroyer within himself.
Followed by identifying what it is that the Creative is attempting to do by the act of creating. In her attempt to create, she is acting as God himself did in the book of Genesis, and she achieves this by attaining the 3 divine qualities: 1. Creativity 2. Forgiveness 3. Eternal life.
Afterwhich, the two ideals that the Creative has to grasp will be discussed they are: 1. Personal Responsibility 2. Belief in himself.
This work will have a structure. I have developed a language, a vocabulary, and references in how I will organize this book.
1. Human Ecology
The idea of human ecology, as earlier referenced as the study of the relationship between man and his environment, will gain a specific focus on the Creative and his relationship with himself and his work.
2. Pink Floyd's The Wall
Pink Floyd's album will be referenced in italics as: The Wall. In contrast, when the struggle that the Creative faces is eluded to I will refer to it as: 'The Wall'.
With the majority of this work being centered around Pink Floyd's album, The Wall is the focal point--driving the narrative, with help of the tracks written by Roger Waters, through each song focusing on the struggle of the Creative and how he can overcome his 'Wall'.
3. The Bible
The Bible has been an authority of truth for thousands of years. Regardless of the individuals interpretation of the literal truth contained within it, the fact that of how the world has consumed its text alone gives its content validity.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Bible as "the world's best-selling and most widely distributed book. A survey by the Bible Society concluded that around 2.5 billion copies were printed between 1815 and 1975, but more recent estimates put the number at more than 5 billion. By the end of 1995, combined global sales of Today's English Version (Good News) New Testament and Bible (copyright for which is held by the Bible Societies) exceeded 17.75 million copies, and the whole Bible had been translated into 349 languages; 2,123 languages have at least one book of the Bible in that language" (“Best-Selling Book of Non-Fiction”).
It has been said, "We don't see things for what they are, but rather see things as we are." Meaning, what is something truly if we don't have anything to compare it to?
The Bible is the lens through which I will interpret the work of Pink Floyd. Comparing The Wall to specific Biblical stories to give the tracks relevance and truth relating to the Creative as a being. The Creative as seen through the individual. The Creative in both you and me.
The final part of the title of this work: It's Genesis and Revelation; addresses both the beginning of the Bible and the all encompassing narrative of The Wall itself. Pink Floyd's album has a beginning and an end. As does the Bible--as too does the life and the work of the Creative.
The creative cycle acting as a constant series of birth and death. Creating acting as the beginning and Forgiveness representing letting go of a project and allowing it to die to outside opinion.
4. The Creative
The attempt to get to the bottom of what it means to be creative is at the heart of this book. That is my goal and that should be the readers focus.
This work will be thorough, detailed, and will have a goal in mind.
What does it mean to be creative? What does a Creative look like? Can we find that out through other works of art--such as Pink Floyd's The Wall and the Bible?
Of course we can. Just read on dear reader. Read on--and I'll keep writing.
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