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by David Truman
Chapter 3: Creating Your Own "Reality"
The birth of illusions
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
- Sir Walter Scott
To turn away from the way of love, the way of God, is to turn away from your own heart -- and the heart will not take that lying down. With every unloving choice, we hear an inner voice telling us, "This isn't right." We cannot experience much peace if we're living beneath our innate, God-given standards -- the heart won't let us. No rest for the wicked, they say, and that is true. It's true because the heart never sleeps.
So then, how do so many of us maintain lives we know aren't right, aren't true? Given that we know so much, and feel so much about what's right, you'd think we couldn't stand it. Well, we couldn't stand it if we were honest with ourselves. So instead, we lie. We build a whole set of lies to cover our shame and justify lifestyles we're not proud of. This is the birth of illusion, and of confusion.
Making wrong seem right
Throughout history, people have used lies to justify wrongdoing. We do it on a large scale, as well as small. For example, Hitler justified murdering millions of Jews by claiming that the Jews were out to destroy Germany.
During times of war, soldiers are known to demonize "the enemy" to a point that is totally irrational. They pretend that their opponents are dangerous, evil, sub-human, inferior, etc. All this, so they can somehow make sense of killing another human being. All this because they have a heart that doesn't like it -- so they need a way to make it seem okay. That's why you get sayings like,
"The only good commie is a dead commie."
"Better dead than red."
But then, when war comes to an end, and we enter into a time of peace, people will suddenly feel a new compassion for their former "enemies." They begin to see that they are human, that they too have hopes and dreams and feelings and rights. So they drop all these ugly lies about them. This normally happens immediately after it's no longer necessary (or expected) to hate or kill or harm "the enemy." If you aren't going to hurt someone, you can afford to see them for what they are: a human being, with feelings just like you. If you're not acting shamefully, you don't need an excuse. You can throw your lies away, since the lies are only there to cover up guilt.
Of course, war is an extreme situation, but people of all ages, from all walks of life, do this all the time -- lie to numb the sting of guilt, and to make our wrongs seem right.
Here's a more ordinary example, which most of us are familiar with: a child comes home from school, bitterly complaining, "My teacher hates me." Actually, the teacher doesn't hate him -- and he knows it. What happened is, he got a bad grade on an important test, and needs an excuse for why that happened.
But to his dismay, his mother won't take the bait. She responds, "Your teacher does not hate you. You got the grade you deserved. You should have studied harder."
Outraged, he yells, "You hate me too! Why do you always take the teacher's side? You don't care about me." Another lie. The parent doesn't really hate the child, and he knows it. But he'll tell lies on top of lies before admitting the obvious fact that he slacked off, and really ought to study more.
When we do things we're not proud of, or that we don't want to take responsibility for, we're quick to start thinking of excuses. We look for someone or something to blame. We think up good-sounding ways to explain our behavior.
Friends, and lovers, and wives, and husbands all over the world justify hurting each other with lies. "It's not my fault." "She made me do it." "Men are jerks!" "Women are crazy!" "Why is everybody so touchy!" All this finger pointing, just to avoid admitting that they weren't loving enough, or appreciative enough, or trying hard enough to understand each other.
True story: Nathan (The Neglectful Husband)
The truth is, most people's lifestyles are so different from what they, in their hearts, want and know is right, that if they didn't go to great lengths to convince themselves of how okay it is, and how justified they are, they'd feel like a damned fool anywhere within a mile of that lifestyle.
The chart below shows some common ways people justify bad life choices:
True Story: Scott (The Runaway Poet)
Painting the world black
Ever had one of those days when you're in a really bad mood, and the world seems to be a bad world that day? About twenty times worse than the way it seemed when you were not feeling so bleak.
The fact is, on such a day, you "need" everything to be terrible, or else how can you explain being so negative yourself?
This principle applies, not just to mood swings, but also to our general state of mind. To maintain our virtual self, with all its bad attitudes and habits, we need to conjure up a virtual world that justifies it. A world in which all those bad attitudes and habits "make sense."
For example, a person who doesn't want to be loving or generous will say: "People don't care. If you try to be nice, they'll only take advantage of you. Therefore, why should I love? Why should I give? I have to watch out for my own interests. It's hard enough in this world without having to be your brother's keeper."
If we paint the world black, our own black ways seem to fit much better. And that's the so-called advantage of living in illusion. If you build your own "reality," then you can play by your own rules. You don't have to submit to the social demands and moral imperatives that real life presents -- the demand for love of those around you; the demand for care; the demand for self-discipline; the ongoing demand for rightness and responsibility that all of life calls for and goads us toward; etc. If we choose to just lie about all that, and pretend everything is different than it is, we're off the hook.
So, the man who is too lazy to get a job will fabricate a world in which there are no jobs, or in which having a boss is demeaning. The woman who doesn't want to give of herself to another will say that "love is dangerous and unwise." The greedy businessman who wants to rip people off will believe it's a dog-eat-dog world, where nobody takes care of anybody, so you "have to" look out for your own interests no matter what the cost to others.
This is how virtual realities are created out of virtual selves: the worse "I am," the worse everything else has to be.
True story: Jake (The Lone Warrior)
Consciously or subconsciously, every person who does not meet their own Divinely given standards for love and rightness is gathering a list of what's bad, building a case in their own defense. So, the fearful person will tell you that no one loves anyone; that trust is for fools; that being hurt in love will emotionally scar you for life -- and on and on.
Everything needs to be bad, because a good world invalidates or illegitimatizes a bad ego-self. A good world provides no justification for a bad attitude. It doesn't work to be fearful if the world isn't frightening. It doesn't work to be mean if nobody is provoking you. It doesn't work to be defensive if no one is attacking you. Not finding the "weapons of mass destruction" was a big problem for former American President George Bush. If there are no weapons of mass destruction, Bush has to soften his belligerent stance.
President Bush had convinced Congress to declare war on Iraq by claiming that the Iraqis secretly possessed dangerous weapons. But to his embarrassment, no evidence of such weapons was ever found.
Similarly, a good man is a terrible problem for a blaming and resentful woman; he invalidates her entire strategy. If men are not evil, she has to be kinder and more loving herself. She has no excuse to be chronically mean or closed anymore.
That's what's threatening (to the ego) about a good world. And that's why, for so many, their friends, and family, and the whole world, have "weapons of mass destruction." They need excuses to justify their withholding, their self-centeredness, their paranoia and distrust. Everyone else has to be guilty, so that they can be innocent.
If you've ever tried to tell someone you love them and been met with skepticism, this is why. They couldn't accept that somebody really loved them, because then they would be obliged to change their ways, their attitudes, their beliefs. They would no longer have an excuse to be closed-hearted, or selfish, or skeptical. So, to protect their "reality," they had to deny your reality.
True story: Grace (The Boss)
When we don't want to be honest about our lives, and we choose instead to make up blaming excuses, we create a dark veil of illusions that hides reality from our eyes, and colors the world black. Blinded by our own lies, we do not see what's there anymore. We do not see the joys and beauties of life. We do not see the true heart and the real intentions of those around us. Instead, we see what we "want" to see, whatever will serve to protect and justify the behavior patterns and choices we want to maintain.
"But Annie, nobody hates you. We're just trying to help you get over your problem."
"Oh yes you do. You HATE me. You're all jerks, and I don't need your help."
True story: Anthony (The Casanova)
Love takes a beating
Probably the biggest victim of all in the game of lies is love. People are loving by nature, so we feel bad about it when we haven't loved enough. When relationships fail, when we mistreat others, when we lose someone because we didn't care enough, it is hard for most of us to admit the truth. That's why love has such a bad name: because when we fail in love, we tend to blame love.
"It's dangerous to love. You can get hurt."
"I love too much, that's my problem."
I must have heard a thousand tirades against love, against relationship, against the vulnerability and the generous spirit you feel when you really love. And surely you've heard them too. Love has become the scapegoat for all the selfish, reactive behaviors that people bring into relationships. If someone didn't handle a relationship right, if they were hurtful, possessive, jealous, cowardly, unwilling to cooperate, etc., they will generally say things like, "Love hurts. Love makes people foolish."
No, love doesn't make people foolish -- foolish people unmake love. Love is the opposite of all that conflict and pain. If the people involved had loved one another enough, or been willing to live lovingly together, they would not have hurt one another so, or behaved so foolishly.
When it is handled right, love feeds the soul, enlivens the spirit, and creates a sense of security that cannot be found outside of a deep and committed relationship. Love helps us be who we are. Love inspires us to do good, and live well. Love helps us grow. Love is anything but destructive -- it is life.
The lies that justify are not all negative. Sometimes we sweet talk ourselves into believing that our bad choices and lifestyles are okay -- or even honorable. Many of us paint a distorted but very bright picture of our world, our relationships, our lives, and even ourselves, in order to escape the responsibility of generating true goodness.
This is true of the many rich folk who talk about how fantastic their house is, their yacht is, and all their stuff is, when in fact, they are miserable. And of promiscuous people, who are forever saying how ecstatic they are to be freewheeling and unattached, when in fact they are heartsick, and their whole trip is basically hell for them. And all the lonely people who show up at nightclubs and bars around the world, with intentions they're not proud of, and lives that make them cry themselves to sleep each night -- but what they'll tell you is, "I'm living the good life. Booze, dancing, casual sex -- freedom!"
In such cases, people are still seeking to justify their unloving ways; they're just taking a different path up the mountain. They're trying to prove, to themselves mostly, that selfishness works great, and leads to happiness and success.
Human psychology is plagued with compensatory lies. When we don't want to admit that we've created and maintained a way of life we hate, we pretend. We pretend everything is okay. When we don't want to feel the dissatisfaction and pain that comes with an egoic life, and yet we want to keep living that life, we pretend. Instead of making the changes our hearts cry for, we pretend. We pretend that things are better than they are.
Take, for example, the homeless man, proclaiming in glowing terms just how wonderful it is not to have a job; to do your own thing, wake up when you want, get drunk whenever you feel like it. Just recycle aluminum cans for a little pocket money, and be a model citizen for everyone who believes in the value of living a low footprint, low consumption lifestyle. When you're eating half-eaten hamburgers out of a trashcan downtown and you're sleeping under a bridge, you certainly can take pride in living in a truly low footprint lifestyle. You're an ecological hero!
But, most likely, he didn't end up under the bridge because he cared about the environment; and he didn't end up under the bridge because of his virtues. No. He ended up there because he was impossible to get along with, and so no employer, lover, or friend wanted him around.
Here are some more, very common examples:
• The woman who suffers along in a terrible marriage, but continually tells everyone how great it is, and how everything is just fine at home. She doesn't want to do what it takes to improve her life, so instead she tries to "improve" her perceptions -- just see things a little differently.
• The starry-eyed fanatic who claims that his life has been changed since he found religion -- but to all his friends, he just seems like the same old jerk. His marriage hasn't improved, he doesn't treat his workmates any better, and he doesn't even seem truly happy himself.
• The lonely woman who tells everyone just how fabulous it is to live alone. She boasts about how happy she is to have all that quality time with herself, to take bubble baths or whatever else she feels like doing. Not having to answer to anybody. She's deluding herself that the life she's created is IDEAL, when inside, she is lonely, and suffering.
Each of these people are talking about how great their life is, when they're actually hurting inside. They're trying to cover up their sorrow, their disillusionment, their pain, with this ludicrous veneer of excessive, over-the-top justification and self-talk about how fulfilling their unloving choices are. None of those choices are truly fulfilling. Our hearts were made to love BIG, and they will be empty and dissatisfied in a life built around any other value.
You see, a truly good life, and truly good relationships take more love, more ego-transcendence, and more effort than most people are willing to give. For example:
You can have a fake "happy relationship" without giving much, but you can't have a real happy relationship unless you give generously, love unstintingly, and make a strong effort to overcome your selfish habits and tendencies.
You can pretend to be happy without living right, but you can only really be happy when you live according what you know and feel in your heart, obeying your spirit's directions and your heart's impulses.
You can have a pseudo relationship with God by accepting some religious dogma, or reading some scripture. But you can only have a genuine relationship with God if you really love God, listen to God, and surrender to God.
So, it doesn't matter whether the illusions we hold are positive or negative. They all fulfill the same purpose -- to vindicate the decision to do it my way instead of God's way.
Being true to who we are and what we feel is the basic requirement of a healthy happy life -- and who we are is love, and what we feel is rightness. And those are exactly what the MyWayer has turned away from when they decided to do things "my way" instead of God's way.
But, as I said before, the heart never dies. A human being will always be dissatisfied with what is unsatisfactory. The clarion call to a higher and better life will always sound within the human soul, and we will always hear it, we will always feel it. Whether or not we act on it is our choice, but it never goes away.
The most powerful of all lies
Of all the lies we tell, the most potent are the lies we tell about ourselves -- who we are and what we're capable of (or incapable of).
If we're committed to living in ways we feel bad about, it's convenient to believe that we are flawed, limited, weak, incapable of true goodness or love. A child who doesn't want to do math will claim, "I can't do math!" and then he will throw down his pencil and refuse to go on. In the same way, to a person who doesn't want to be responsible for love, caring, rightness, etc., the idea of being incapable becomes a handy excuse.
Inability is wish fulfillment for the unwilling.
A bad self-image makes bad behavior seem natural, predictable, and excusable. It is better to say, "I can't help but do wrong," than to say, "I don't want to stop doing wrong." And it's better to say, "I can't love," than to admit, "I won't love." Therefore, to reduce guilt, we often try to convince ourselves and others that we're incapable of things we simply don't want to do.
"I can't handle relationship. I always mess it up."
"I'm too weak to resist temptation."
"When my temper flares up, I have no choice in the matter. I can't help but blow up."
"When it comes to emotions, feeling, vulnerability, I'm a coward. I don't know how to stay afloat in those deep waters, so I have to avoid them."
"I just keep hurting people. I don't know how to stop. This is just the way I am."
There are even times in life when a person becomes desperate to be considered bad right now, in a hurry. For example:
Someone is being criticized by a friend. Tired of it, they blurt out, "All right, I admit it: I'm the worst person in the world! Now leave me alone!"
With that statement, the person avoids moral accountability entirely: they don't apologize, much less improve their behavior. All they do is defend their wrongness against criticism, and crush any expectation that they will ever do better. They are taking refuge in their professed "badness." Running for cover, hiding behind a negative self-image.
"Don't ask me to change. This is just the way I am. I can't change."
In popular Christianity, we find great emphasis on the idea of the "fallen" nature of man. The idea is, "I'm a sinful creature, and I'll always be that, because God created me that way." This doctrine helps irresponsible people cope with the inherent guilt of their ongoing and willing deviance from what they know is good, true, and right. It conveniently exempts them from the moral imperatives that religion ought to impose on them.
But clearly, this is not an exclusively Christian problem, or even a religious one. People of every age, race, and religion invest in low self-image as a way to avoid facing and correcting lifestyle choices they're not proud of. The long faces you see on people everywhere are due to the fact that they've convinced themselves they're bad, because they need to justify not loving enough, or living up to their soul's standards. And as far as they know, the best and only way to do that is to believe they can't.
So it becomes incumbent on them to enter into this biggest lie, which is the lie against oneself, about who I am. If you accept your true identity as a child of God, then you have no excuse not to love generously, abundantly, and consistently. Children of God can and do give great love. So, if you need an excuse for not loving enough, you need a new identity. And of course, this is the primary motivation to concoct a virtual identity, different than the one God made.
But forever, we know in our hearts that we are good. A man can say, "I'm no good," and even live as if that were true. But give him three glasses of whisky or some truth serum, and he'll be pounding the table saying, "I'm a very good person at heart, goddammit! Who says I'm no good? I know I'm good!"
In reality, no person is bad or weak, or lacking in the necessary virtues that life and love require -- never was, never will be. Our discomfort with our shortfalls proves that we're not who we think we are. We are good, and good people have strong feelings of guilt and shame when they do wrong, or fail to do right. If you really were as bad as you think you are, would it bother you the way it does?
At some point, friends, we need to stop and look where we're going with all these lies. Our lies create tremendous pain for us, and pain matters. By refusing God's way, we accept death and dysfunction, loneliness and unfulfillment as an inevitable fact of our existence. If we would stop trying to get out of what we know is right, we could be free of all this suffering, and live a better life, a fulfilling life, a beautiful life. Wouldn't that be good?
True story: Genevieve (The Loner)
You believe what you want to believe
Most people think their beliefs were caused by the lessons of bitter experience. Many people will point to one or more events in their life and say, "This is where my negative beliefs came from. This is why I decided not to love, not to trust, not to give anymore."
But what we need to realize is, we have selective focus, and selective memory. The person we want to be, and the things we want to do in life, will determine the kind of facts and memories we focus on, and the kind that we ignore.
For example, if you want to be a racist, you look at all the bad experiences you've had with black people, or white people, or yellow people, and ignore all the good ones. If you want to be a loner, who avoids people and depends on no one, you can focus on all the times you were hurt by someone, and ignore all the beautiful experiences you've ever had with another human being. If you want to hate men, you can easily come to the conclusion that "men are pigs" by focusing on all the bad things you've heard or experienced with men, and forgetting the times a man was honorable, kind, or loving.
In the world of ego, the actions of friends and intimates are often treated to that same selectivity. People can use selective focus to justify all kinds of unloving behaviors in relationships.
For example, if you want to be an unloving person, you'll look very critically at everything around you, and have a tremendously selective memory for what everyone in your life does -- and for everything they do in relation to you, in particular. You'll exaggerate some things and invalidate others, and by the time all this distortion is done, it will seem entirely necessary and excusable for you to act like a jerk.
And by the way, it's not that the facts in the collection are all untrue -- not necessarily. Instead, let's put it this way: figures don't lie, but liars figure. In other words, many of the facts used in the defense of wrongdoing may be true. However, their significance is changed when we carefully select and collect them to create a false overall impression of reality.
Let's take a very good person, like for example, Mahatma Gandhi. No one is perfect, right? Right. Now, what if you examined Mahatma Gandhi's life very thoroughly, and collected every instance of wrongdoing, illustrating every flaw the man ever had, every wrong judgment he ever made, and put them into one big pile. Using that pile as your resource, you could assemble those facts into a long presentation about Mahatma Gandhi. Without a doubt, the resulting presentation would make Mahatma Gandhi look like a monster, a reprobate. Such are the results of bias, of distortions of truth, of selectivity in general.
And interpretation is part of this. You can interpret things any way you want. For example, you could say, "Gandhi did things that were apparently good, but he did them for bad reasons. He had a lot of self-interest in it. He wanted to make himself into a hero." And obviously, when it comes to motivation, nothing is provable. So the ego can have a field day with that. It can say anything about anything.
Likewise, if you are very biased, you will distrust any truly good experience that comes along. That's why the expression, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is," is so popular. And that's why you hear people say things like this:
"This man gave money to the poor." "Oh, I guess he just wanted to look good."
"That couple looks happy." "Oh yeah, I wonder what they look like when they're at home. Probably not so happy."
"These people are all smiles. What have THEY been smoking?"
"She seems like a happy person. She must really have her head up her ass."
This, then, is how bad belief systems are created: a selective review of facts, an exaggeration of the negatives, a dismissal or diminishment of the positives, and you end up with a skewed view of life.
Clearly, experience doesn't create our beliefs. It's what we choose to focus on that creates our beliefs.
People have a large variety of experiences. Out of what we focus on, what we hold tight, we generate beliefs. As you know, ten people can respond in ten different ways to the same upbringing, or the same traumatic experience. We've all met people who had a hard childhood, or a serious accident, or a personal setback, and turned out all the stronger and more positive for it, not emotionally and socially crippled. So obviously, experience itself does not determine our response; we do.
Take a look at these charts. Each one shows two different responses to the same experience. The blue line shows the more positive response; the orange line shows the more negative response:
Here's another, more ordinary experience -- disappointment in intimacy:
Generally, people are living the lives they have because they want to live that life. Because, every year, every day, they interpreted their experiences in a way that reinforced the position they chose. And out of that, they created a world in which, for example, "there is no love," "you can't trust anyone," "nothing good happens for me," "I'm left out," "God doesn't love me."
This is how people imprison themselves: we sort our experiences into valid and invalid, into beliefs and disbeliefs. The things a fair-minded person would use to build a true vision of reality are discarded, or interpreted wrongly, until all of truth and life doesn't matter. All that matters is what we want, and we will believe whatever we need to believe to support that. So we weave ourselves a web of lies, and we get caught in it.
Love is the answer to negative experience
If we really paid attention to the facts, we would see that love and goodness have never hurt anybody. It was always unlove, it was always the failure to love or do right that created the pain and problems. There certainly wouldn't be so much pain in the world if people were more loving, if people listened to their souls and did what is right. There wouldn't be so much greed, or hatred, or cruelty, or loneliness. Don't you agree?
So then, why should we believe that unlove or withholding will protect us from pain? Why should we call that wise, given all the evidence that is stacked up against it? Why should we take all the pain in the world -- which was almost all caused by unlove -- as a good reason not to love? That makes no sense at all.
The decision not to love is the cause of nearly all human suffering, and here's what that means: ONLY a personal decision to be LOVING could improve experience -- including your own experience.
A person who is loving may not be able to convert the entire world into being loving; but they can create a microcosm, a little world around themselves, in which they live in the bosom of love. And according to the birds-of-a-feather theory, that will happen. It does happen.
Each individual's experience is unique. We create our own experience mostly. We create the way the world responds to us. We create our own destiny. And we do it all out of our commitment either to love or to selfishness. End of story. Cause of story. Beginning of new story, if you like....
True integrity: the key to freedom, love, and happiness
They say, integrity is sticking to your beliefs, being consistent with what you believe -- but what if your beliefs are not true? What if your beliefs were created for bad purposes? It only pays to be consistent with your beliefs if what you believe is what you know, in your heart, is true.
As we've seen:
Many beliefs exist ONLY because of a lack of integrity.
They exist because we wanted to do something we KNEW wasn't right.
It was a lack of integrity that caused the beliefs even to be created.
People have all kinds of beliefs that they know better than. They disagree with those beliefs, but they won't stand up for what they know.
You will find that it is usually not to preserve integrity that a person wants to "stick to their beliefs." The reason they want to stick to their beliefs is probably to defend the very way of living the beliefs were created to support in the first place. So, the more deviant their life and love style is from the way of the heart, the more fervently they will "stick to their beliefs."
In that case, when a person stands up for their beliefs, they're actually becoming a greater and greater hypocrite. Because to stand up powerfully for things you know are false is a dishonest, hypocritical thing to do -- the exact opposite of integrity.
True integrity would renounce the lies and the sin they exist to justify. True integrity would lead us to examine our beliefs, to bring them into the light of consciousness, where false can be seen as false. And then, if a belief is seen by us to be untrue, true integrity would dissociate from it, repudiate it, throw it away.
When you've asserted a known falsehood as your "belief," true integrity is to:
• stand up against what you would tend to assert.
• stand up against what you would ordinarily say you "believe."
• stand up against your own false "beliefs."
In that light, let's go back to the example of the child who got a bad grade on his test. For that child, integrity would be to say,
"I failed that test because I didn't study for it. I am tempted to believe my teacher hates me, because that might explain my failing grade. But that's ridiculous. He doesn't hate me, he just gave me the grade I deserved."
"I know that my mother doesn't hate me, even though I might have a better excuse for my own failings if she did. She only took the teacher's side because the teacher was right."
You see? Since the kid realizes that his mother does not hate him, it is a matter of integrity to admit, "I know you do not hate me; you love me."
Normally, a person's pride will prevent them from admitting that they are wrong. Once they have chosen, and asserted, and lived by a certain belief, they will stick with it till the end -- or at least, until long after they realized it was wrong. People destroy their lives, their relationships, and their well-being this way, and they call it integrity because they are "staying true to their position."
But staying "true" to a false position does not make you a person of integrity; it makes you a liar.
So I say, "Integrity is standing up for what you believe -- but only as long as you actually believe it; only as long as it's what you know is true." Or, a simple way to put it is this: Integrity is standing up for what you REALLY believe.
Who are you willing to be?
The soul has its knowing. We think our lies will get us off the hook, but we don't take into account that, no matter how many lies we tell ourselves, we still know the truth. In our heart, in our gut, in our soul we know it. And therefore, we can't get off the hook, because the "hook" is our own heart, our own inner knowing, our own moral conscience. How can we escape from that?
Your spirit always knows what is true, and your ego (or false persona) always asserts falsehood. The quality of your life and love will be determined by which you stand up for at a given time -- ego or spirit.
If you want to be free, if you want to be happy, if you want to love, resist the temptation to tell lies in defense of wrongdoing. Confess the truth instead -- the truth of what you feel, of what you see, and of what you want. And then, live as your heart would have you live. The road to hell is paved with lies, but your heart and conscience are pointing the way to heaven. Listen to them, and turn back. It's never too late.
by David Truman
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