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Minnie in Minnesota

It is stories that map a place as well as a time. And yes, the same stories change over time as the old tellers die off. In stories, like about match-making, marriage, or being chosen.

It is through stories that a place as well as a time is charted, about grandsons and great-grandsons, about world events and local ones. And so this week, I contemplated the story of Jacob so much like his grandfather, and so much like what I have come to feel about my own family.

The power of a culture is based upon a shared literature instead of oral story-telling. Now these stories mostly were read privately and no one knew what you knew.

Passing on your culture with passion, and a Godspeed. So that, at least concerning a depth of both trust and love, a family was split. In such an imperfect world, a distance developed. By the fourth generation a deepness had set in. And with gratitude about how all this had come to pass, the descendants felt forced to look deeper and then try to record it.  

Stories are passed along at gravesites, for a while, about the relationships like within this particular tribe of Abraham, before the laws inscribed upon stone tablets.  And yes, the same stories change over time as the old tellers die off.  And so the stories were recorded.

A woman does express the depth of her feeling, in childbirth. Like Rachel, who made all of this possible, there is in my family a woman named Minnie. Minnie had married a man who was my namesake in the nineteenth century. She gave birth to her firstborn in 1896. A short-time later she died, like Rachel, giving birth to her second born. Minnie’s firstborn was my grandfather.

The reason for the intensity of a woman seemed to mostly come from her fertility. There is the lifetime commitment in fertility for a woman, so much like an old country’s religion. A newborn belonged so much more to a mother than to a father.

When a woman, once she had a child, could no longer be nomadic. Marked for life, so much like Rachel, a woman was expected to somehow bond, in her very own way to carry the God of Jacob further in the world, beyond the tribes and the homeland where they were born? So there was a connection of the Promised Land to fertility and these somewhat invisible women, so much like God’s invisibility, in these stories.

Woman passing on, so invisibly, the power in bonds which had come out of the collective memory of the journeys of nomads. To discover in the story somewhat unexpectedly, for grandsons who followed grandfathers, a Living God – power without domination – through the unforgettable pain of a father and son trying to understand the manner to pray, in the stories that transcends boundaries. These stories were about points of view, in a Creator’s desire for perfection, in themes of birthrights, of power and might, in comparative approaches to God by mother/fathers to sons on life and death, with all the tension in the story. Between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is the tension this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture. All along the focus in the culture seemed to be allegedly on the male and his tribe.

Did you recognize the shift by the end of the story that is now all about all of the sons of Jacob and his one daughter, if compounded belief is to stay with the descendants of Jacob and his wives? Like in a dénouement of the story, passing on the power in bonds between your own people, passing on the Spirit in some kind of Abraham-like Crazy Glue, in a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right. The goal in repeating the story is to gain access, through stories of discovery to be better, climbing mountains like Isaac, or having to cross the the ford of the Jabbok like Jacob as he met his estranged brother — in a story about receiving strength and power in a crazy belief in this God today for daughters and sons who followed fathers — with divine intervention, like at the top of Mount Moriah.  When Abraham was wrestling with the issue of what son to give his inheritance, either Isaac or Ishmael? Like with the shame of Jacob, who had stood behind all of his wives and children, as he came to meet Esau — not unlike the shame of Abraham, ready to kill Sarah’s firstborn. So was this battle really about who had carried the God of Isaac further in the world, beyond the tribes and the homeland where they were born? Or was this somehow the same inner struggle of God, in favoring one tribe of people, or just one brother? As neither of them, from their quite personal battle, originally at least on the eve of the battle, seemed to be ever coming back?  Maybe a lot like in the story of the Akedah, when Abraham took his on up the mountain to be sacrificed. Grandsons, when this battle was all over, wrestling with the unrecognized birthright question — and passing it on, with such emotion. How could God ever show favor on one brother or one nation? To keep something alive with passion, these grandsons of Abraham with a split family, as Abraham had a split family, who wanted others to have the same powerful experience, as he had had.  And so the many descendants of Abraham who thought they could do anything –inside or outside the tribe — because these people had come to know God through the faithfulness over time from a parent who was offered so much forgiveness in return for sincere offerings on the part of each generation.

In reading the stories, God seemed to be doing more of the arranging in the relationship of Isaac and Rebekah, with Abraham and Jacob doing most of their own arranging with their wives, in the territory of religion called mystery. Those questions which have enduring force in their lives beyond the province of human investigation. And then there was Abraham’s idea of a relationship seen in his offering Sarah to the Pharaoh, which would not play real well these days in Peoria — if the God of Abraham, or the God of Isaac, or the God of Jacob, was ever coming back. Or if the descendants of Abraham transporting God while bearing their forefather’s name would succeed in their own transport of this God to the next so highly opinionated and so combative generation.

Leaving. Coming back. Wasn’t Exodus for Moses the same movement found in the story of Jacob, in the story of nomads in search of something. “Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. When we endow our lives with stories. To know a land and its people was to know the stories.

The son of Minnie fought in The War To End All War between old systems of monarchy controlled by arrogant kings against each other cousins’ kingdoms, for more power.  In battle with the United States Marines, the first family member back in Europe since the family had left to avoid The Great Famine was wounded.  When The Great War came to an end, he was still hospitalized from wounds, as his fellow Marines had left to return to their homes. When he clearly felt he was in a foreign land, not knowing the language of these strangers surrounding him.  And I recognize an inheritance for this young man, like for so many men willing to destroy their own life for a greater cause, just as the glorious transformation of his mother from a girl willing to give her life to create.

In the name of the father, in the name of his son, and in the name of our true holy ghosts … in my Irish-American family who so often pray about the blessed fruit of a womb, most of us have forgotten the key role of Minnie. While writing “The Event Planner” (See https://paperlessworld.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/the-event-planner-dealing-with-arrangement/ ), Minnie has been on my mind.

In puzzles, passing it on.  Yes, the riches lay not on the land but beneath it. T’is this land that takes in the overflow of people. And so the SPIRIT in the land – Delores Keane sings – that owns you. Somehow I so personally had inherited a knowledge of people who I had never known, or never seen – ancestors from Ireland, like people anywhere in time or place who had starved to death, whose spirits would come out again in another Spring.

God so made the world, visible and invisible. Minnie died in trying to increase the numbers, not far removed from the Great Famine, in her attempt with my namesake – like either Rachel or any great prophet, for the delivery of God to the next generation – to replicate God’s greatness. Like Rachel, Minnie was a woman who was expected to somehow, in her very own way, to carry the God of Ireland further in the world, beyond the tribes and the homeland where she was born.  When growth is so much the measure of success. And so the unimaginable, the inconceivable, the unthinkable story of creation and procreation ever since when, in the words of Picasso, every act of creation involves a form of destruction. And I do connect Minnie’s life with the words I heard from the great golfer Jack Nicholas 36 hours ago about the moment in his life when he realized, he said: “I must be better than I think I am.”

The Irish Times, now paperless

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http://www.stumbleupon.com/search?q=keyword, to increase the numbers.

The Event Planner Dealing With Arrangement

It is stories that map a place as well as a time. And yes, the same stories about match-making and being chosen change over time as the old tellers die off. As times change, especially from the perspective of the woman.

Growth, in almost all of human history, came through a system of arranged marriage. Was that the proclamation in marriage, when growth was the only measure of success? If you were dishonest in your reports of growth, what else was dishonest about your organization? (I once served at the age of thirty on a board of directors which allowed its president to send in money, claiming new members, trying to prove greatness to the national. Whether there was true growth, however dishonest.)

Power. Truth and story-telling, with words, in the story about power and dominion. Feel the BONDS which came from stories . . . feel the speed up, of success, in numbers while trying to increase and maintain numbers, through some kind of human arrangement. In a world of power and the story about power, you take something so private public in relationship – in either sexual relationship or in worship. That you might pray, like I prayed: did you ever realize how personal this all had been — maybe a lot like the act of reading is — or even worshiping can be?

To allow yourself to be Chosen, legitimately, like the woman named Rachel, with Jacob like his grandfather, doing the arranging – as opposed to what had happened to Isaac. Creating, then sustaining the illusion, in a parental kind of way. Power. Feel the presence of a spirit, that you might love like I loved.

Power. When you are born into something. When you as a child had no choice and you had to live with it – in the outside world, in the inside world. When at one point in life you were able to run away, and in a sense discover your own inner power, but you now at this point could not run away.

Power. Restlessness. Shame. The visible and the invisible, as busy men and busy women did not understand power — the power of just keeping company as chosen people. There is the craziness of men who feel empowered, in the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe.

The ordering, the separation, growing suspicion, and the doubts about each other, when you were young, bound by the family rules. Rules that started to look, oh, too confining. About the ordering of society, where families had been identified within a community. With rules about power.

The movement in the story of power. Listen once again through the stories in the power in connection as the invisible birthright was passed on again in a family: That this God is somehow connected to me. The inheritance, based upon goodness, did not involve “luck.” To realize how – wired to the community –that through institutions of learning and books, but mostly through stories, God is connected to me.

Exodus was the movement in the story of Jacob, not so unlike the story of banishment sustained by Adam and Eve. Upon the advice of his mother, Jacob was having to take decisive action, to survive, suddenly leaving upon receipt of birthright which came out of nothing but deceit — in this case, based upon his mother’s decree, just when he might have wanted to stay home, Jacob left Abraham’s homestead, for Rebecca’s homestead. And hadn’t Jacob really been a Momma’s boy?

With an Irish intuitive sense of what was happening, what is called in German fingerspitzengefuhl – the fingertip feel that maybe your pitching coach understood — for me the story, still, was all about Abraham’s old plan. He who was never coming back, you know. Home. To Sarah. Not after he killed her son, in sacrifice on Mount Moriah. As the past and the future were at odds, when reflected upon. And neither he nor his descendants could outlive this personal shame. Here so much was a living sacrifice by Isaac in role of a loving son; now, Jacob somehow was now being offered and given up as a living sacrifice to Rebecca’s family? And did you get the sense that Jacob was never coming back?

Note the vexation by Rebecca’s brother – Rachel’s father – not so unlike Abraham’s vexation with his son, Isaac. Once again there was a bit of the spirit of vexation: damage which is suffered in consequence of the tricks of another. Hoodwinking, not unlike Abraham getting Isaac to go on this three day journey, there was these stories of another trick on another journey. Over and over in the story of family, there is mention of hoods, of hiding, of idols. So all along, is God hoodwinking people to come to believe that they somehow are Chosen? What of the concept of unconditional love from the Covenant in the story of Jacob, as Jacob and Rachel gave up a belief in unconditional love to marry? Neither monogamy is present, nor was belief in monotheism shared for these two.

To know a land and its people was to know the stories. Have you ever left home thinking, maybe on a trip with Abraham to Mount Moriah, you were never coming back? Would you over time come to feel a shame over the greatness that you were born into? Did you ever feel the power in this story which comes from personal sacrifice while on the receiving end of all this deceit and the pretension in the every day aspects that took up every moment of your life. Did you ever note the separate belief connected to a place – to a land – like you discovered in a relationship with an outsider? Did you ever note how connected by belief you were as you shared a place in time, maybe somewhat like with a classmate?

Note the irony of the son of Isaac, marked for life by a mother, and the hostility of a mother with power in reduplicating Truth, in the arc of generational injustice based upon family pride. Like Jacob’s own mother had, there was Jacob living within a tribe, learning the mystery, as an outsider. Leaving home and not knowing if you ever would get back. Not knowing how long you would be gone. Like when you were drafted. Note the serious indefinite departures, after all this sex that the nuns failed to point out that Jacob had with one wife, two handmaids and now a second wife. Did you feel a hostility as an outsider, when you missed a feel, either within or not, for holiness?

Nice guys. Like in the insurance industry, there was a human resource department filtering out the people who just would not fit with the company, as it appeared in the public eye. Looking in the old days for guys, like Jacob, who every woman wanted to sleep with; a nice guy like Jacob, without any retribution. Leah. Leah’s sister. Their handmaids. I had failed to notice until relatively recently that there had been a lot of sex going on in Jacob’s bed, with his birthright. And Jacob, now with all of these wives and all of these children, and his belief in one blessing, with his one true love Rachel?

“Something that is yours forever,” wrote Chaim Potok, “is never precious.”

In the Jacob story, note the outsider, exiled from the world of theory, living at some point with now only memories but somehow wanting to make them your own. It was Jacob who thought a father with one wife had just one blessing to give. But Jacob was with his two wives and their two handmaids and eleven sons and one daughter.

It is stories that map a place as well as a time. What did the birthright of Jacob mean to the outsiders? To Laban who wanted his daughters connected to his sister’s family, so much like Abraham once had this same desire? There was the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe, to others far away. It was part of the craziness of men who feel empowered. Did you feel the personal shame in the story of men who felt deeply inside that they were created to travel: men like Abraham, who felt so deeply inside that they had been created to travel the world? Men like Jacob who were never coming back to the nuthouse which had been the homestead of Abraham, thinking, then trying to kill within his own family, his son?

Yes, men like Jacob, hostile to and leaving that tradition behind. Before his attempt to return home, had Jacob really ever felt the presence of God directly, outside his youth? Beyond Canaan? Or outside his immediate family? And with Rachel, from Laban’s family with a belief in neither monotheism nor monogamy. Looking for the divine in all relationships even with superstitious women, looking for union with God, through their own flesh and blood. How could a man have a favorite child? How could a father or a husband with bonds, as the dogma of currency, show favor? Yes, how can Jacob have just one wife he loved the most? Or one son? Or one God?

What were the suspicions of this beautiful woman named Rachel, the young shepherdess grown, who had been born into this culture of deceit. Often in covert operations, a damage is suffered as a consequence of the tricks of another. And like Eve and Adam were punished by their cleaving, reproducing more people like themselves, so the story of Jacob and his wives.

When you were no longer so young, but still bound by family and the feelings which had come out of your family. What of the old rules which started to look, oh, too confining? Note the waiting in the story, to cleanse the influence of strange gods, from your native land, if that influence could ever be cleansed of the pretensions of the every day aspects that took up every moment of your life like a slave. A young shepherdess considered to be the lowest of the low – a shepherd girl willing to give her life for her sheep – on the receiving end and the giving end of all of his deceit, with Jacob who had wanted a piece of the institutions which had sheltered a civilization back home.

Power. Did you ever feel the power in this story – or the illusion of power — or the connection of the story of Jacob, in the story of the Promise Land, to the coming of a messiah? Have you ever left home thinking, as a child, you were never coming back? So much like Rachel, who was never coming back . . . but her children somehow find God in the story. These stories do not float free but are connected to a place – to a land. To know a landscape was to know the stories. So in this male dominated world, there had been Rachel, in shame over her fertility and infertility, another barren woman, the progeny of Jacob’s mother’s family, looking to bear a child to prove their worth. As if fertility came just from herself. As if she alone controlled fertility.

And what idol exactly had Rachel stolen from her father, Laban? (For all of these women in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, merging lives between two tribes while facing sterility as a human condition.) How unusual was it for Rachel to be allowed to name her first-born son, Joseph, noting that God “has taken away (in Hebrew ASAPH) my disgrace”? Finally, after all of the messy arrangements, with her father, her sister, her servant, her husband. Yes, her disgrace was to allow Jacob to have so many wives, to have been a collaborator with her father in the marriage of Leah? From the world of fertility at harvest time, there is this second-born daughter Rachel, from the tribe of Laban and Isaac’s wife, caught up in the generational injustice based upon family pride. Jacob, hoodwinking each of his wives to come to believe that they somehow are Chosen?

Exodus. What did it mean in the way of institutional thinking, to give up personal ambition to rejoin the tribe, with a desire to return to the world that he knew had always been mostly more honest? So the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe, in his return not so much to an institution but to the home and way of life which had formed Jacob.

Though the etymology of Canaan is uncertain, one explanation is that ‘Canaan” has an original meaning of “lowlands”, from a Semitic root kn’ “to be low, humble.” Though Canaan included what today is Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, northwestern Jordan, and some western areas of Syria, in Biblical usage the name was confined to the country west of the Jordan, the Canaanites being described as dwelling “by the sea.” The Biblical narrative makes a point of the renaming the “Land of Canaan” with “Land of Israel” in marking the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land. Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock in a certain subsistence mode. Wikipedia report that evidence of this moving — between-pastures cycle of agriculture — has been found showing shepherds staying with their flocks during the wet season and returning to graze them on the harvested stubble, closer to water supplies in the summer. There was a polarity between coastal towns and agrarian hinterland, illustrated in Canaanite mythology by the struggle between the storm god and the god of the sea.

Men who felt deeply inside that they were created to travel, like Abraham and Jacob had traveled, much like Cain had desired to travel, as his brother had gotten to. Jacob, soon to be renamed Israel, just before Rachel dies. Note the nomads as itinerants who still were a member of a community of people who move from one place to another. In trying to pass something in the way of spiritual power on– in the way of conversion through spiritual journeys. Note the humility, like a shepherd’s, in accepting a certain kind of authority until kids grow up and did not want to just obey what had always been the authorized commandments which belonged to someone else. There was an innate need for explanation about beginnings and endings. You needed others to tell stories of this migrant – otherwise if you just stayed home you would go, over a time, crazy.

Did you ever see the connection of these stories to past stories, or a connection of yesterday to today? As the past and the future were at odds…hoodwinked to believe that you were chosen, or hoodwinked to believe that you were born into a world that always had mostly seemed more honest. In an innocent view of a child.

Did you see the very same shame in the story, like the hostility of the son of Eve, in the stories? So Jacob, the allegedly just man of his generation who, like his grandfather before him with his family ego, wanted to return with some revolutionary ideas about relationship? Abraham had had a concept about only marrying within the tribe, one women. And there was this grandson of Abraham who had discovered the one true God, marrying his mother’s niece — or then two of her nieces, for God sake! Can you imagine the shock of Isaac when he heard the story about two of their nieces marrying one of his sons? Or the neighbors when Jacob returned, if he would safely return, to Canaan, with some degree of shame. Did you connect this to the hostility of Eve which she had to finally recognize in her son –even if a parent never came to blame themselves, their neighbors would. Hadn’t Eve eaten the apple out of an unease if not a hostility toward the Creator?

“Why are you going back to the ‘Land of Canaan’, Jacob? With two wives, when that seemed the norm only within the tribe of Laban.”

Yes, how old were you when you felt the growing shame in the story? And so the shame and disgrace in these stories of firstborns and the world’s systems. Did you see the sacrifice of Rachel, forced to travel in her finals days of gestation? In the story of unconditional love, what kind of man would make their so pregnant wife travel, even when all the forces of the world came down on you? Did you wonder about the connection of false gods — false idols so much the center of this trip — to what exactly Jacob thought he was returning? Contrast Rachel, who had upheld her tribal rules, waiting to marry Jacob after seven years as her father finally gave his consent, with Jacob who had not his tribal rules. So Rachel had honored her father, as Jacob at this point really had not? And what of the shame of Jacob, in having to still address what he had done to all of the firstborn: Esau, Leah, and the systems that favored firstborn. After Jacob had hid with his family — with what was supposed to be the future — placed in front of him for some kind of protection, as either one or both of Isaac’s sons faced annihilation, just like on Mount Moriah?

Exodus and the relationship conflict: Did you have a the ringing in your ear in certain words connected to this story not so unlike the initial conflict of Adam and Eve facing banishment? From that stated belief of Rachel with a birth of her first son: “God had taken away my disgrace”? Chosen. ‘Favored’ sons, with ‘favored’ wives and ‘favored’ sons. Note the hostility of those things which get in the way of either God or independence. Note, in the beginning, the hostility toward insiders – people using people – if growth was the only measure of success, when you were dishonest in your reports of growth, what else was dishonest about you and your organization, out for material gain and personal profit? Suspicions perhaps between women . . . envy between sisters, like between brothers: Esau and Jacob. Cain and Able? Were these the first pair of sisters mentioned in the Book of Genesis, who until this point in the story lived by the rules of their father, who allowed themselves to be Chosen. As Jacob prepared to meet Esau, were the word of Cain ringing in your ear, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”?

Jacob with his birthright, who somehow was above all other men. When you had it all, and you wanted to keep it? Jacob, with his two real wives and their handmaids, all caught in a borderless land, between the borders of the past, between two places, between customs of favoritism granted to firstborn sons/daughters in their tribal world, with handmaids, just like Hagar. The revolutionary Jacob, re-named Israel, for what he had done to the systems that favored the firstborn. And what of the shame of Jacob, in having to still address what he had done to all of the firstborn: Isaac, Esau, and Leah. What he had done to the people he had once loved, or based upon the system that he was supposed to? Did you feel the pride in the story, just as Jacob was returning to the world he knew, to the home with a return to a way of life — his old way of life — like an old institution which had formed Jacob, Rachel died delivering her second-born. In the movement in the story, with power in reduplicating Truth, in the generational injustice based upon family pride — Jacob now more and more like Abraham – note the perspective changes to the next generation?

Did you ever feel the power in this story, in Jacob’s discovery of a Living God, after he intended to wage battle to kill Esau, as Cain had killed Abel? Did you feel a connection of the story of Jacob, in the story of the nomad with the physical disability after his battle in the night – when a disabled nomad could not travel without pain. Note the humility in the story, which does give a certain power as all the force of the world seemed to come down upon you, as he gave up his perceived birthright, by sending flocks of his livestock to his brother in recompense of his crime. Had Jacob asked the Living God to bless his shame, as he prepared to meet his brother, in a battle between old tribal beliefs and what was missing for all other powerless beyond-the-firstborn people?

To lose either what you once had or what you once longed for and had waited, comes the discovery how to really pray, with a communal perspective. With the need to save the entire tribe. In one story of conversion, note those living with the system built for the human spirit of vexation. What Jacob was doing in the story was bringing HIS family back, feeling a command from Y*w*h to “Return to the land of your forefathers and to your birthplace, and I will be with you.”

Note the personal transformations in the generational injustice based upon family pride, in the dénouement of the story. Note the change in Jacob as a result of the death of his true love, with the power of his great love which in the end involved no deceit. Just as there was a hostility toward a brother who tried to take a birthright, just as Jacob thought his father had just one blessing to give, was there a hostility toward a God who tries to take life – like Abraham had once tried to take from Isaac –if you had never come to know the one true God? It seems that it was the power of unconditional love for Rachel, for his brother, that so moved Jacob to find a Living God, transforming hostility to love. As Leah was left having to care for Rachel’s sons?

“Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of  The New Yorker. As a birthright grew to the twelve tribes and some knowledge how to pray. Did you feel a growth in the suffering of one man, living with the system built for the human spirit of vexation, in the need for a larger place, for a Promise Land, for a place to freely pray and to try to love Isaac’s one true God unconditionally, and to atone for what he had done and what he had failed to do? Did you feel a presence still in the first recorded death of a woman in childbirth, in the human creation process, trying to prove greatness to God, which foretold so much of the history to come, as you were forced to somehow start over, with such a long learning curve, of a people shamed by what they had to endure. The leaving, the coming back informed and engaged in the world, to a place that it was believed God would return, in the “lowlands” called Canaan, with a Semitic root meaning “to be low, humble.” And there was Jacob, dealing with loss, wondering what would be the reception from Isaac and Rebecca, as to an anger and blame which went towards those who left you. And did you see an irony that by giving his blessing which came from the sacrifice scene on Mount Moriah, Isaac ends up with his birthright sacrificing his son Jacob for twenty years. Would Isaac come to see a growth of the concept of “Chosen” in the family of Jacob, as his own son had not come to banish the sons of the handmaids of his two wives?

There was Jacob, in the days with a need for support. . . with his large family. To go home, to gather together, with Isaac to grieve. Together, a hoodwinked people who come to believe that they somehow are Chosen, but still having to contend with death, accepting God’s support and a support of one another, in times of grief? Friedrich Nietzsche said that it was the stories passed on from generation to generation about the deepest of all suffering –stories about love — which made life worth living.

So what was the connection in the bonds of a grown shepherdess to God Who made all of this possible? With the two children delivered by Rachel who would deliver a generation from hunger, what was Rachel’s connection to Moses, to the City of David, to a Promised Land and the long-line of Chosen People — as vast as the stars in the sky?

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