Quiz: American Dreamers

Read the seven quotations below, and see if you can match them to the seven political leaders who spoke them.

A. President Richard M. Nixon, “First Inaugural Address,” January 20, 1969.
B. President Ronald Reagan, “Remarks about the Congressional Elections,” television broadcast, October 26, 1982.
C. The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., “The American Dream,” sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia, July 4, 1965.
D. Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, introducing the Democratic Leadership Council’s report on “Saving the American Dream,” July 19, 2006.
E. Governor and President-elect George W. Bush, speaking to the Texas Legislature, December 13, 2000.
F. Senator Barack Obama, speaking at a Democratic rally in Tempe, Arizona, October 23, 2006.
G. Steve Forbes, page 5 in A New Birth of Freedom, published October 25, 1999.
1. The American Dream does not come to those who fall asleep…. We have endured a long night of the American spirit. But as our eyes catch the dimness of the first rays of dawn, let us not curse the remaining dark. Let us gather the light.
2. [T]he substance of that dream…is found in those majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, words lifted to cosmic proportions: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This is a dream. It’s a great dream…. God grant that America will be true to her dream.
3. Deep down, this country wasn’t built on fear. This country was built on hope. This country was built on a belief in limitless possibilities, on a belief in dreaming big dreams.
4. For [more than 200] years, Americans have been united by a simple, common dream that tomorrow will be better than today. The promise of American life, handed on through a dozen generations, rests on this basic bargain: All of us should have the opportunity to live up to our God-given potential, and the responsibility to make the most of it…. To remain strong in the world, the American Dream must be strong and alive here at home. And as we continue to navigate through these changing economic times, restoring the promise of the American Dream is the central economic issue of our time.
5. We believe in the American dream, because we’ve had a chance to live it. The American dream isn’t about the accumulation of material things. It is much deeper and more profound than that. The essence of the American dream is the understanding that we are here on this earth and in this land for a higher purpose: to discover—and develop to the fullest—our God-given potential. Anything that stands in the way of the dream, we must fight. Anything that enhances the dream, we must support.
6. I have faith that with God’s help we as a nation will move forward together as one nation, indivisible. And together we will create an America that is open, so every citizen has access to the American dream; an America that is educated, so every child has the keys to realize that dream; and an America that is united in our diversity and our shared American values that are larger than race or party.
7. It’s time to stop playing on people’s fears and to begin asking what we can do together to make things better. None of us can afford to play politics as usual. We love this land of ours, because it’s a special place where people are free to work, to save, to believe, to build a better future. The cynics may call it corny, but this way of life we all cherish is best summed up in three simple words: the American dream. From our beginnings as a nation, that dream has been a living, breathing reality for millions. It still is. But it faces serious threats.


Answer Key: A-1, B-7, C-2, D-4, E-6, F-3, G-5

Learning Spiritual Lessons from the Dreams You Never Forget

By Kelly Bulkeley

(This article appears in the recent issue of Dream Time, the Magazine of the Association for the Study of Dreams)

The religions of the world have found a way to disagree on almost any subject you can think of. They’ve clashed over everything from the nature of the soul to the reality of God, from sexual morality to what foods we should and shouldn’t eat. But on one small point most religions do agree, and that’s a point about the nature of dreams. Nearly all the world’s religions share the belief that some dreams are true revelations of the Divine, bringing people into direct contact with some kind of transpersonal being, force, or reality. Not all dreams are believed to have this power; most traditions emphasize that the majority of dreams are related to ordinary daily events and have no unusual, heaven-sent meaning. But almost every religion in the world recognizes that at least once or twice in their lives people have dreams that are different, that have a special energy, vividness, and intensity to them. The Mohave Indians of the American Southwest call these dreams “sumach ahot,” or “lucky dreams,” while the Jamaa church people of Western Africa call them “mawazo,” or “holy dreams.” Medieval Islamic theologians referred to them as “clear dream visions” sent directly from God, and ancient Hindu philosophers spoke of them as “dreams under the influence of a deity.”

These unusual types of dream are not merely the relics of ancient religious superstition. People in our society today experience dreams that are virtually identical to the dream revelations reported in a wide variety of religious traditions. Although many individuals in the modern world use non-religious language to describe their dreams, the dream experiences themselves always have a vivid intensity that sharply distinguishes them from more ordinary types of dreaming. These are the dreams we never forget-the dreams we can’t help but remember, the dreams that throughout our lives linger in our memories and haunt our imaginations.

Carl Jung referred to these momentous experiences as “big dreams,” and he said that such dreams could, if people learned to appreciate their meanings, become “the richest jewels in the treasure-house of the soul.” Unfortunately, many people in modern society have no idea what to think or do when they experience a big dream. They worry that having such strangely vivid and powerful dreams must mean there’s something wrong with them. “Where did that come from?” the dreamers nervously ask themselves, “I’ve never experienced anything like that before, whether I was awake or asleep….”

For many years now I’ve been studying these kinds of extraordinary dream experiences, trying to understand where they come from, what functions they serve, and how we can interpret their meanings. My approach, in both my academic research and my experiential dreamwork, is guided by an integration of modern psychological theories with the traditional teachings of the world’s religions. In Transforming Dreams I share the basic principles of my approach, and I show how it can provide a reliable means of making better sense of your own most vividly memorable dreams. The first part of the book, “Tales,” describes four of the most striking forms that big dreams take: dreams of reassurance, dreams of making love, nightmares, and dreams of death. The book’s second part, “Pathways,” lays out the practical methods of exploration I have found most helpful in discerning the deeper meanings of big dreams. These practical methods include reflecting on a dream’s strongest sensations, sharing dreams with other people, following particular images and themes across a series of dreams, and creatively expressing the energies of dreams in waking life. Transforming Dreams is written for people who simply want to know more about their own big dreams, and it is also intended for the various professionals (psychotherapists, social workers, educators, pastoral counselors, spiritual directors) whose work might benefit from a greater familiarity with the most extraordinary and mysterious realms of the dreaming imagination.

I am not assuming the readers of the book will share any particular religious faith or spiritual worldview. Big dreams come to all people-to religious believers, diehard atheists, and all those people who don’t belong to any formal religion but who feel a yearning to discover greater meaning and purpose in their lives. I try to respect the healthy skepticism some readers may feel toward the subject of dreaming, and I also try to honor the sincere religious convictions of other readers who feel their dreams have truly Divine origins. My focus in Transforming Dreams is on the big dream experiences themselves, and I feel confident in promising readers that no matter what belief system you hold, these vivid and unforgettable dreams have the power to deepen your self-knowledge, broaden your emotional awareness, and open your imagination to new realms of vitality, freedom, and creative possibility.

One topic I discuss in the book is dreams of snakes, and this relates to the current interest of many ASD members in the questions of whether “universal dreams” truly exist and if so how they can best be understood. I present evidence in Transforming Dreams that extremely memorable dreams of snakes have been reported by people throughout history, right into the present day. Thus, in a very broad descriptive sense, I believe snake dreams are a truly universal phenomenon, and I also believe there’s a good naturalistic explanation for this. Because venomous snakes have been a real danger to humans from the earliest period of our evolutionary history, dreaming about snakes (in vivid and highly memorable ways) serves the adaptive function of keeping us alert and vigilant against this perennial waking world threat. To put it in the simplest terms, snake dreams are universal because snake dreams have tangible survival value.

But speaking in a more interpretive sense, I do not believe snake dreams have any universal meaning. The snake dreams I describe in my book express a variety of different meanings, none of which is easily reducible to a simple formula or definition. The most important practical point I emphasize in Transforming Dreams is that each dream is unique to the dreamer, with distinctive meanings that relate directly to his or her personal existence. Although it can be very helpful to hear how other people would interpret a similar dream (hence the value of dreamsharing groups), the dreamer is always in the best position to understand the unique meanings of his or her own dream experience.

Between these two positions-universal dreams, yes, universal meanings, no-lies a great deal of territory for creative exploration and discovery. Indeed, this gets to my basic belief about the essentially spiritual function of highly memorable dreams: these dreams provoke greater consciousness. Big dreams relate directly to our personal lives and they connect us to the universal cares, concerns, and desires of humankind. In this way big dreams truly expand consciousness, stretching our awareness to include an ever wider sphere of experience and meaning.

Transforming Dreams Learning Spiritual Lessons from the Dreams You Never Forget. By Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D. (John Wiley & Sons, February 2000)

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0471349615/kellybulkeley
Download this article as a pdf file

“The most skillful interpreter of dreams is he who has the faculty of observing resemblances.” Aristotle, On Prophesying by Dreams

International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD)
DREAMWORK ETHICS STATEMENT

IASD celebrates the many benefits of dreamwork, yet recognizes that there are potential risks. IASD supports an approach to dreamwork and dream sharing that respects the dreamer’s dignity and integrity, and which recognizes the dreamer as the decision-maker regarding the significance of the dream. Systems of dreamwork that assign authority or knowledge of the dream’s meanings to someone other than the dreamer can be misleading, incorrect, and harmful. Ethical dreamwork helps the dreamer work with his/her own dream images, feelings, and associations, and guides the dreamer to more fully experience, appreciate, and understand the dream. Every dream may have multiple meanings, and different techniques may be reasonably employed to touch these multiple layers of significance.

A dreamer’s decision to share or discontinue sharing a dream should always be respected and honored. The dreamer should be forewarned that unexpected issues or emotions may arise in the course of the dreamwork. Information and mutual agreement about the degree of privacy and confidentiality are essential ingredients in creating a safe atmosphere for dream sharing.

Dreamwork outside a clinical setting is not a substitute for psychotherapy, or other professional treatment, and should not be used as such.

IASD recognizes and respects that there are many valid and time-honored dreamwork traditions. We invite and welcome the participation of dreamers from all cultures. There are social, cultural, and transpersonal aspects to dream experience. In this statement we do not mean to imply that the only valid approach to dreamwork focuses on the dreamer’s personal life. Our purpose is to honor and respect the person of the dreamer as well as the dream itself, regardless of how the relationship between the two may be understood.

Prepared by Carol Warner
International Association for the Study of Dreams
Spring, 1997

Is Dream Interpretation a Sin?” (article)

Penelope as Dreamer: The Perils of Interpretation” (conference presentation)

Dreaming Beyond Death: A Guide to Pre-Death Dreams and Visions (book)

Dreaming Beyond Death – Newsweek 2005

Dreams of Healing: Transforming Nightmares into Visions of Hope (book)

Transforming Dreams: Learning Spiritual Lessons from the Dreams You Never Forget (book).

Links


Sacred Sleep: Scientific Contributions to the Study of Religiously Significant Dreaming” (book chapter)

The Origins of Dreaming: Perspectives from Science and Religion” (book chapter)

Dreaming in the World’s Religions: A Comparative History” (book)

“Dialogue with a Skeptic: A Conversation with Frederick Crews” (book chapter)

The Varieties of Religious Dream Experience” (introduction to Visions of the Night)

Reflections on the Dream Traditions of Islam” (article)

Snakes” (chapter 2 from Spiritual Dreaming)

Is Dream Interpretation a Sin?” (article)

Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming (edited book)

Visions of the Night: Dreams, Religion, Psychology (book)

Spiritual Dreaming: A Cross-Cultural and Historical Journey (book)

The Wilderness of Dreams: Exploring the Religious Dimensions of Dreams in Modern Western Culture (book)

Dreaming in the World’s Religions: A Comparative History

Main findings: overview

Back cover description

Blurbs

Table of contents

Publisher’s Weekly review

Dream Institute events in fall of 2008

Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions

Other writings on dreams and religious studies

Celeste Newbrough, poet and indexer extraordinaire

Main findings: overview

1. Dreams have strongly influenced the beliefs and practices of religious traditions all over the world, throughout history.

2. Dreams and reason are not mutually antagonistic.

3. Dreaming is a primal wellspring of religious experience.

4. The pan-human prototypes of dreaming are rooted in the brain, the body, and the evolutionary history of our species.

1. Dreams have strongly influenced the beliefs and practices of religious traditions all over the world, throughout history.

Each of the ten chapters of the book is devoted to a different religious tradition (or family of traditions) and its historical teachings about dreams, including Hinduism, Chinese religions, Buddhism, religions of the Fertile Crescent, Greek and Roman religions, Christianity, Islam, and the indigenous cultures of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas. In every case, dreams appear as a powerful medium of transpersonal guidance offering the opportunity to communicate with divine beings, gain wisdom and power, heal suffering, and explore new realms of existence.

2. Dreams and reason are not mutually antagonistic.

Voices of critical questioning and naturalistic analysis have risen up wherever and whenever humans have explored their dreams. It might be a surprise to those who assume that modern scientists were the first to explain dreaming as the mental by-products of sleep, but many ancient traditions recognized exactly the same psychophysiological dynamics at work in people’s dreams. The skeptical perspective did not come after religious perspective, nor even before it. Historically speaking, the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. They have coexisted from the start. The prototypical experiences of dreaming have provoked not only religious and spiritual experience but also a deeply human capacity for rational thought and critical reflection. Dreams have stimulated the power of reason to become increasingly aware of deceptive appearances, hidden connections, subtle perceptions, and cognitively impactful emotions.

3. Dreaming is a primal wellspring of religious experience.

This means that dreams, by virtue of their natural emergence out of the immensely complex, internally-generated activities of the mammalian brain during sleep, offer all human beings a potential source of visionary insight, creative inspiration, and expanded self-awareness. The abundant evidence of cross-cultural history proves that we are indeed a dreaming species. Through dreams humans have discovered the deepest realms of their psyches and grown in awareness of the powerful relational bonds that connect them to their families, communities, natural environments, religious traditions, and ultimately the cosmos itself. Whether dreaming came before religion or religion came before dreaming is an impossible question to answer. But we now have evidence strongly suggesting that the natural rootedness of dreaming in the human brain-mind system makes it a universally available source of experiential awareness of precisely those powers that people have historically associated with religion. To accept that evidence does not mean abandoning science or pledging faith to some religious creed or dogma. Rather, it means acknowledging the reality of an autonomous visionary capacity within the human brain-mind system, a capacity driven by an unconscious intelligence deeply rooted in our biological nature yet continuously striving for transcendent understanding and insight.

4. The pan-human prototypes of dreaming are rooted in the brain, the body, and the evolutionary history of our species.

In almost every known cultural tradition, people have described certain types of intensified, highly memorable dreams (e.g., flying, falling, being chased or attacked, meeting a dead relative, having sex), and I refer to them collectively as prototypical dreams Prototypical dreams are not universal in the sense that every single person experiences all of them. Rather, they are latent forms of dreaming potential. They reflect innate predispositions to dream in certain ways that, when actualized, make unusually strong impressions on waking awareness. In contrast to the vast majority of sleep experiences that fade into oblivion, prototypical dreams are actually quite easy to remember. Some of them are literally impossible to forget, remaining a vivid presence in people’s memories for the rest of their lives.

My basic argument in the book is that highly memorable prototypical dreams have played a powerfully creative role in virtually all the world’s religious and spiritual traditions. The consciousness-provoking impact of dreaming has not been sufficiently recognized by scientists or religious studies scholars, and my hope is to present a compelling case for taking dream experiences more fully into account in the comparative study of religion.

Each of the four prototypes I discuss is clearly associated with a distinct kind of carry-over effect of dreaming experience into the waking state. With sexual dreams the carry-over is a physical orgasm, of both the male and female varieties. With aggressive dreams it’s the hyper-activation of the fight/flight response—extreme fear, racing heart, rapid breathing, and full-body sweat. With gravitational dreams it’s the horribly realistic sensation of falling and waking up with a sudden gasping start. With mystical dreams it’s the blissful, ultra-realistic sensation of flying or the profound joy of being reunited with a deceased loved one. These kinds of direct emotional and bodily continuations of the dreaming experience into the person’s waking life are perhaps the strongest and most easily observed instances of the deeply rooted interplay of dreaming and waking consciousness. The palpable carry-over effects associated with prototypical dreams are clues to the specific processes by which dreaming contributes to healthy brain-mind functioning. Aggressive dreams reflect an adaptive concern with identifying and responding to threats in the waking world. Although emotionally disturbing, such nightmares have the beneficial effect (in survival terms) of stimulating greater waking-world vigilance toward similar threats. The evolutionary logic is simple: the more often and more intensely you dream of various kinds of threatening situations, the better prepared you’ll be to react effectively to those situations if and when they occur in waking life. Likewise with gravitational dreams, which accurately reflect and simulate the existential dangers of entropic destruction. The intense fear and horror generated by these dreams activates the fundamental instincts of self-preservation that must always be ready to respond immediately should a comparable danger arise in the waking world, whether it be falling off something high, getting in a car crash, or losing physical mobility. Sexual dreams prompt the reproductive system and envision a variety of possible ways of satisfying its desires. Their stimulating and taboo-defying effect on the erotic imagination is, I suspect, self-evident to most readers. The impact of mystical dreams is less directly tied to evolutionary biology, and more to the emerging spirit of human creativity. Dreams of the mystical prototype have the effect of enlarging people’s sense of life’s possibilities, expanding their awareness from a narrow fixation on what is to a broader consideration of what might be. Such dreams stretch the mind by pushing it to become more conscious of its own powers and the realities that extend beyond what is immediately present in normal perceptions of the waking world.

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Back cover description

From Biblical stories of Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams in Egypt to prayers against bad dreams in the Hindu Rg Veda, cultures all over the world have seen their dreams first and foremost as religiously meaningful experiences. Dreaming in the World’s Religions provides an authoritative and engaging one-volume resource for the study of dreaming and religion. It tells the story of how dreaming has shaped the religious history of humankind, from the conception dream of Buddha’s mother to the sexually tempting nightmares of St. Augustine, and from the Ojibwa vision quest to Australian Aboriginal journeys in the Dreamtime. Dreaming in the World’s Religions offers a carefully researched, accessibly written portrait of dreaming as a powerful, unpredictable, often iconoclastic force in human religious life.

Kelly Bulkeley is a Visiting Scholar at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and is a former President of the Association for the Study of Dreams. His books include The Wilderness of Dreams: Exploring the Religious Meanings of Dreams in Modern Western Culture, An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming, Visions of the Night: Dreams, Religion, and Psychology, and The Wondering Brain: Thinking about Religion with and beyond Cognitive Neuroscience.

New York University Press
July 2008

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Blurbs

“A pleasure to read, well written and full of fascinating examples. It combines a sensitive and sympathetic understanding of the religious meanings of dreams with a state-of-the-art treatment of the insights that cognitive neuroscience and evolutionary psychology bring to our understanding of them.” –Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago, and author of Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities

“Offers a sophisticated, yet easily accessible and engaging discussion of how and in what way dreams and a broad range of the world’s religions have enjoyed mutual influence throughout history. . . . This book is unique in that is provides a valuable resource for the serious scholar of religion, yet has equal potential for non-specialists interested in exploring how their own dreams may find relevance for their own lives, religious or otherwise.” –Nina P. Azari, Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopaedia of Sciences and Religions

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Contents

Introduction
Dreaming
Religions
Histories
Dream Science

1. Hinduism
The Vedas
Fiction and Reality
The Upanishads
Mythic Literature
Modern Spiritual Movements

2. Chinese Religions
Shamanic Origins
Founding Empires
Confucian Teachings
Butterflies
The Golden Age
Dreaming in Modern China

3. Buddhism
Queen Maya’s Conception Dream
Dreams of the Awakening One
The Questions of King Milinda
Buddhism Becomes Chinese
Japanese Dream Diaries
Tantric Buddhism in Tibet

4. Religions of the Fertile Crescent
The Rise of Civilization in Mesopotamia
Gilgamesh the King
Royal Divination
The Ancient Egyptians
Jewish Interpreters

5. Religions of Ancient Greece and Rome
Myth and History
Classical Philosophy
Dreaming in the Polis
Asclepius, God of Healing
Dreaming and Empire
Oneirocritica

6. Christianity
Novum Testamentum
Converts and Martyrs
Fathers of the Church
Theology Contra Dreaming
Popular Piety

7. Islam
The Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an
The Hadiths
Classical Typologies and Interpretation Manuals
Istikhara
Sufi Visions
Dreams in Contemporary Islam

8. Religions of Africa
King Shabaka’s Paradoxical Interpretation
The Dark Continent
Diviners and Ancestors
Conversion
African Independent Churches

9. Religions of Oceania
Age of Exploration
Tjukurrpa, or Dreamtime
Soul Journeys
Christianization
Cargo Cults
The Changing Pacific

10. Religions of the Americas
Missionary Encounters
Cultures of Dreaming
Vision Quest
Dreamer Religions
Manifest Dreaming

Conclusion
Comparing Religious and Scientific Evidence on Dreaming
Dream Books

Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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Publishers Weekly review

Dreaming in the World’s Religions: A Comparative History
Kelly Bulkeley. NYU, $23 paper (320p)
ISBN 978-0-8147-9957-4

Arguing that “dreaming is a primal wellspring of religious experience,” dream researcher Bulkeley delves into original sacred texts and stories to trace the ways dreams have been regarded, interpreted and acted upon across human history. He defines his terms carefully, then draws out both common themes and cultural differences in religious traditions originating in Africa, Oceania and the Americas as well as from the Fertile Crescent, South Asia, China and the Mediterranean. Providing ample evidence that doubt about the reliability of dream information was common in ancient times, Bulkeley examines such intriguing phenomena as prophetic and prototypical dreams, paradoxical dream interpretation and dream incubation techniques. Each chapter starts with a provocative idea related to the religious tradition to be discussed and ends with a helpful summary of key themes. The scope of Bulkeley’s knowledge is impressive, as is his skill at synthesizing ideas from a variety of source material. The author makes a persuasive case that “[t]he study of dreams is… a necessary source of insight for our knowledge of what it means to be human.” (July)

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Dream Institute events in fall of 2008

This fall the Dream Institute of Northern California will host two events involving discussions of Dreaming in the World’s Religions, one on Friday evening, September 19 and the other on Saturday afternoon, October 4. The Dream Institute, founded by Meredith Sabini, is located at 1672 University Avenue, Berkeley, California. For more information, call 510-845-1767.

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For more on research involving religion and science, see the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions, edited by Nina Azari and published by Springer Verlag. http://refworks.springer.com/SciencesReligions

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Other writings on dreams and religious studies

Sacred Sleep: Scientific Contributions to the Study of Religiously Significant Dreaming” (book chapter)

“The Origins of Dreaming: Perspectives from Science and Religion” (book chapter)

Dialogue with a Skeptic: A Conversation with Frederick Crews (book chapter)

The Varieties of Religious Dream Experience” (introduction to Visions of the Night)

Reflections on the Dream Traditions of Islam” (article)

Snakes” (chapter 2 from Spiritual Dreaming)

Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming (edited book)

Visions of the Night: Dreams, Religion, Psychology (book)

Spiritual Dreaming: A Cross-Cultural and Historical Journey (book)

The Wilderness of Dreams: Exploring the Religious Dimensions of Dreams in Modern Western Culture (book)

Celeste Newbrough, poet and indexer extraordinaire

The index of the book was created by Celeste Newbrough of Academic Indexing Service ), and I highly recommend her services. She is also an accomplished poet, and a sampling of her works may be found here.

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