Stones Have A Voice
Stones Have A Voice
I just returned
from a trip to Central America. I used the opportunity to visit
the site of a very important Mayan archaeological ruin in the Yucatan,
named Chichen Itza (no, not Chicken Pizza). Many thoughts occurred
to me during and after that trip. I will now present some of the
information I learned as well as those thoughts.
Farewell To Dinosaurs
Most of this
document I am presenting is in the context of history and philosophy.
However, before I get started on that, I will go further back and
recall a pre-historical event. That event was one of the single
most important ones leading up to man's existence. One day, about
65 million years ago, a huge asteroid set on a collision course
with Earth found its mark in the Yucatan. The remnant of that impact
is evident at the Chicxulub Crater. The most current evidence points
to this being the impact that caused the major extinction event
of 65 million years ago. Although this probably was not the only
cause, it was the main culprit for the extinction of the then dominators
of Earth: the dinosaurs. Out of the void that was created, a small
furry creature emerged from its hole and spread into niches previously
occupied by giant reptiles. Eventually, that little furry creature
gave rise to man.
I was cognizant
of the fact that I was close to the site where a major turning point
in human evolution took place. Through an astronomical accident,
the equivalent of a car running a red light, evolution directed
a new path. It was a path that brought humans, higher intelligence,
and civilization into this world. It is a humbling experience to
be close to such a site.
fell asleep at the wheel (as usual) and when he woke up from the
sound of the accident, in order to save face he said: "Let
there be a big crash, which will wipe away almost everything I created
and nurtured for hundreds of millions of years. Then, let there
however not just yet. Let there be a small mammal that
will slowly transform into man. It will take about 65 million years,
but that's okay, I can be patient."
"I meant to do that."
With that evolutionary
and pre-historical reference to Yucatan's significance noted, it
is time to direct attention to its historical importance.
A Brief Background
The Maya were
a civilization of Native Americans that inhabited Central America
for three millennia. They had numerous cities, the most important
of which was Chichen Itza. It is in the middle of a jungle. This
city was built in phases from the 6th century until the 11th century,
during which time it served as the major cultural and religious
center of the Maya. After the 12th century, war caused its decline,
and by the time of the Spanish Conquistadors it was abandoned.
The Maya were
fascinated with Astronomy, Astrology, Mathematics, and Architecture.
They did not just keep track of time. They were obsessed with it.
Theirs is the most accurate calendar ever conceived. This extremely
accurate calendar was a prerequisite for their aforementioned interests
as well as for agriculture. There is an ancient observatory as well
as numerous other buildings scattered in the site. The main feature
of the ruins is the 75 foot tall Pyramid of Kukulcan (one of their
main Gods, which is a serpent God). They revered certain animals,
namely the eagle, jaguar, and the snake. The Pyramid is aligned
in such a way that twice a year during the Spring and Fall Equinox
the rising and setting sun sets a perfect shadow of repeating isosceles
triangles of shadow and darkness along the sides of the pyramid,
resembling the slithering body of a snake. The bottom of each side
of the pyramid has a large statue of a snake's head, so the shadows
form its body. It is quite astonishing.
The pyramid of Kukulcan
motifs and statues are found throughout many rooms. As far as the
eagle, it is depicted as an acoustic tribute. If one stands directly
in front of the center of the pyramid on any of its four faces and
claps one's hand, the echo of that clap returns not as a simple
clap, but as the cry of an eagle. Everyone else that's not standing
at that precise location, however, hears only a clap. This is very
intriguing. I kept clapping and moving side to side. I heard a clap,
then an eagle, and then a clap.
What Is A Stone Carving Of A Persian Doing
In The Yucatan?
The very first
room that our guide showed us was a room that was meant to pictographically
depict the world. From top to bottom, and side to side the entire
room was filled with stone carvings of mostly human images. I was
astonished when the guide pointed out the different people. From
left to right, first was a Persian, then a Roman, then an African,
then an Arab. Above were images of North American natives. All around
were images of the Mayans and the other tribes of Central America.
In the very center was the image of a Viking and his ship. They
must have revered the Vikings as demigods, judging by the way they
were depicted in this room. Their dragon shaped ships must have
played a factor in this. The Viking carving was at the center of
the room, with all other cultures facing directly at the Viking.
The carving also included a Viking ship next to him, with the serpentine
motif of the Viking dragon well emphasized, as it extended outward
from the ship and surrounded the figure of the Viking warrior.
I was amazed
to see that the Mayans obviously had contact with all these people
somehow. The question is, did these people travel to America and
meet the Mayans, or did the Mayans travel there? There is no historical
mention of all these civilizations traveling to America (except
the Vikings) in the first millennium, so it is probably more likely
that a group of Mayans traveled to Asia. The Maya were not sea fairing
people, however. Either way, this is an enigma.
I could not believe that I was looking at a stone frieze of a Persian
in a sacred room of a Native American city in the middle of a jungle
in the Yucatan. There was no mistaking that carving. He was clearly
Persian, as depicted by the ancient Persian clothing and spear.
He looked also a little like the Immortals guarding the stairway
in Persepolis. The Mayans obviously knew about the importance of
the Persians in the world. The fame of the Persians (as well as
some other cultures) had reached the New World almost a millennium
prior to Columbus. Is this not amazing?
Now that I've
dispensed the pleasantries, I shall move on to the horrors.
Religion's Ugly Face Is Omni-Present
a few of the beautiful and marvelous substances of the Mayan civilization.
However, no civilization is without its malice. Malice is no stranger
to the American Natives, including the Aztecs, Incas, Mayas, and
The ruins have
an awe and magnificence about them. However, I am reminded of the
horrors they presented long ago, in addition to their beauty. I
am reminded of the purpose that most of these structures served,
and the events that took place there. Almost all of these ruins
served a religious purpose. In the case of the Mayans (and even
more so with the Aztecs), human sacrifice played a central role
in their religion.
of the sun was seen as an event that corresponded to the sun battling
the forces of the dark during the evening. As the sun arose the
next day, they believed that it was weakened by its battle, and
that it required nourishment. That nourishment was in the form of
blood, of course.
They also believed
that in order to keep their Gods happy, human offerings would have
to be made. Offerings to Kukulcan (the Snake God) were made to him
atop a pyramid, whereby a priest ripped the victim's heart out,
and the body was tossed down. Offerings to Chaac (the Rain God)
were made by drugging teenaged girls, placing heavy jewelry and
clothing on them, and then making them jump down a well. Infant
girls born on certain Holy days were handed by the parents to the
priests and were raised by the priests for the sole purpose of sacrificing
them when they got older. From infancy, these special children were
taught day in and day out about the Rain God and how some day they
would have the honor of going to meet him.
The Rain God, Chaac
The Snake God, Kukulcan
Many of the
victims were prisoners of war. No doubt these sacrifices served
mainly a religious purpose. They probably also served a political
purpose. Human sacrifices propagated psychological terror against
their enemies as well as their own masses. Such brutality terrorized
all into submission and acceptance of the power of the ruling elites
and religious class.
Does this sound
familiar? The ruling class, in conjunction with the religious class
oppressed the commoners via terrorism and violence. This was of
course justified by invoking imaginary Gods, and using superstition
to instill fear. It is religion's nature to create a lie, and then
conveniently allow the keepers of that lie (the religious authorities)
to control and oppress the population without the population ever
being the wiser.
were obviously sacrificed involuntarily, but there were also many
voluntary victims. For them, it was an honor to be sacrificed to
these Gods. It goes to show the grip that religion and superstition
can have on a brainwashed society.
If one is to
be sacrificed to the Gods, why not make a whole production out of
the event? Let's play ball
The Cosmic World Cup
the modern World Cup of football, the Mesoamericans had their own
special game of football, mixed with some basketball and lacrosse.
The rules were similar to the modern game of football, in that any
part of the body except the hands could be used to hit the ball.
They held special rackets and bats in their hands with which they
could hit the ball. The difference was that the goal was a ring
only slightly larger than a Basketball ring. This ring is positioned
on a wall, about 25 feet high, and rotated 90 degrees so that the
axis is parallel to the ground (instead of perpendicular to the
ground as with modern Basketball). Also, a 5-foot high wall sits
in front of the main wall and under the goal, so that a direct angle
of approach is not possible from the player to the goal. The ball
must be bounced off of the wall in order to enter the goal.
difficulty of the task of scoring a goal! The players cannot use
their hands. Plus, the goal is directed sideways (not up and down
like a basketball hoop), making an arcing drop impossible. Plus,
the goal is very high up. Plus, the lower wall prevents a direct
shot, and any successful goal must be via a ricochet.
The Mayan version of Football / Basketball
was played in this court. Note the high ring, its position, and
the decorative wall in front of the main wall.
the game with a rubber ball. In fact, this is the first occasion
of the use of rubber in all history. Rubber is a major resource
of the Yucatan, harvested from the indigenous trees. When the Europeans
first observed the Mayan rubber ball, they were both appalled and
intrigued. Most thought that the ball was evil and the creation
of the Devil, since it bounced and this was unnatural to them. In
the typical manner that religion instills ignorance, they called
that which they did not understand as the work of the Devil. Eventually,
they imported the ball to Spain, which also awed the native Europeans.
The rest of the world then grasped the concept of rubber and the
The game was
symbolic of the Cosmos. The ball (about 4 to 10 lbs, and made of
rubber) was symbolic for the sun and the court was symbolic for
the Galaxy. The game would end when the first goal was made, giving
whole new meaning to the term "sudden death." Even so,
since it was close to impossible to score a goal, the game could
last anywhere from hours to days.
Once the goal
was made, the winning team was overcome with jubilation, as a special
treat awaited the captain of the winning team. He would have the
special honor of being decapitated by the captain of the losing
team, and have his head held up for all to see.
There is some
controversy as to who did the decapitating and who was decapitated.
Most Westerners hold that it was the captain of the winning team
that decapitated the losing captain. There is no direct evidence
for this, and it is only from the stone carvings that it is inferred
that one captain decapitated the other. It is only an assumption
that the winner killed the loser.
The Mayans themselves
believe that the loser decapitated the winner. Again, there is no
direct evidence for this, other than the oral traditions handed
down. Given the character and beliefs of the Mayan civilization,
however, I find that it is more likely that the winner is the one
that got decapitated.
One would expect
that the winning captain would decapitate the losing captain, but
that carries with it the assumption that their goal was life and
avoidance of death. However, that was not the ultimate goal. The
goal was to have the honor of being the chosen one to meet the Gods
that day and rejoice in the afterlife. Furthermore, they wanted
to offer their best to their Gods. The Gods wanted their winners,
not their losers. In either case, both teams voluntarily participated
in the game, meaning that they were all prepared for the event of
being sacrificed to the Gods. There was tremendous clout to be a
participant in the game.
5-foot high walls that are immediately in front of the main walls,
thereby blocking a clear shot at the hoop? They served another purpose
as well. On both sides of the court, onto these stone walls is a
long displayed carving of the final act of the game. There are seven
players of one team on one side, facing the seven players of the
opposite team on the other side. In the very center, directly underneath
each goal, are the captains. The loser has a knife in one hand,
and the severed head of the winning captain in the other. Seven
sprouts of blood are dripping downwards from that severed head,
merging into seven snakes. Opposite him is the decapitated body
of the winning captain. Seven sprouts of blood are emerging upwards
from that body, emerging into seven snakes and vines of flowers,
fertilizing the world. The blood of the winning captain is seen
as life giving, and rejuvenating for their society.
The relief on the lower wall of the court.
The losing captain has beheaded the winning captain, holding his
head in his left hand. In his right hand is a knife. Opposite him
is the decapitated body of the captain. Seven streams of blood are
squirting from both the head and the body, continuing on as snakes
the number seven is a motif for this game. The pyramid of Kukulcan
has seven triangles of light on its side at the equinox, resembling
the twisting body of a serpent. Seven players, seven sprouts of
blood from both the body and the neck, flowing into seven snakes
and flowers. The best part is the following, again involving acoustics.
If one claps one's hands in the field standing between the two main
walls, one will hear the echo of that clap bounce off the walls
exactly seven times.
as I found the game, I could not help but be reminded of a similar
concept in our modern world: the concept of the Shaheed and suicide
between those ball players and suicide bombers is that at least
those ball players did not seek to destroy and kill everyone around
them, including women and children. That task is unique to the suicide
bombers and Jihadis.
between them is that they both look forward to death. They both
want to be sacrificed. They both rejoice to meet an afterlife. What
has brainwashed, corrupted, and lied to both of these men? What
has made them choose death over life? The answer is religion.
is the main lie that is the pillar of every religion. Without it,
almost every religion would fail. It provides the false promise
that makes almost any act seem palatable. The number of people that
would choose death over life would drop astronomically if the belief
in the afterlife did not delude them. This delusion has facilitated
submission to countless acts and ideas of cruelty, abuse, and needless
modern, loving, and peaceful ones have replaced that type of pagan,
barbaric religion. Have they really?
Stones Have A Voice
Peaceful Arrival To The Americas
Most are aware
of Islam's savage and brutal expansion by force. Was Christianity's
spread very different? Most historians would say no.
When the Spaniards
arrived in the Americas they did not bear flowers and gifts, and
they were not known as Los Amigos. They were warriors, they bore
guns and swords, and they were known as Los Qonquistadores, meaning
conquerors. The religion they brought with them was forced upon
the tribal Native Americans in the same way that Islam was forced
on those cultures that it conquered.
Conquistador bearing the Cross
Conquistadors bringing their wonderful
religion to America
It is always
sad to see one culture forcefully overwhelmed and subjugated by
another. I am particularly sensitive to it, as I am aware of the
forced subjugation that occurred to the Persians under the Taazis.
In a somewhat similar way, the Christian Europeans subjugated the
Mayans and other American civilizations. Of course, they did not
sink without a fight.
Let me share
a story I learned from a Mayan I met.
Since the Spaniards
had technological advantage, they conquered the Native Americans.
Their Christian clergy attempted to convert the Mayans to Christianity
by preaching the word of God. The Mayans, however, would not budge.
So then the Christians approached the Mayan religious leaders, since
they knew that the communities respected their religious leaders
above all and would probably listen to them. The Spaniards told
the Mayan clergy that they had better go to their people and tell
them that they must abandon their pagan religion and convert to
Christianity. The Christians threatened to kill these Mayan religious
clergy if they refused. Being the weasels of any society, the religious
clergy were the first ones to roll over for a foreigner in order
to save their own hides.
So, they did
as they were told, and went to their people and tried to convince
them to convert. The Mayan people, when faced with this treachery
by their own religious leaders, instead chose to put the religious
clergy to death themselves. Eventually, most did succumb to Christianity's
show of force and coercion. However, I found this to be an interesting
story, since they first killed their own religious clergy for betraying
their own religion. Centuries of brain washing will do that to a
people, and will turn them against the preachers of a religion if
those preachers ever turn against the religion. I suppose that's
a form of poetic justice.
With that story
behind, let us continue with the interaction of Christianity and
the Mayans and others.
used the Native Americans' practice of human sacrifice (and occasional
cannibalism) to justify their need to be converted to Christianity.
They found these acts appalling and intolerable. They criticized
the practice of human sacrifice to the natives. In fact, it was
this abhorrence for the Mayan way of life that caused the Christians
to burn and destroy almost all of the Mayan scrolls and records.
Their contempt for a foreign culture caused them to destroy that
which they did not understand. The Christians destroyed numerous
Mayan scientific, astronomical and mathematical records. I am reminded
of the Persian literary, historical, and scientific documents that
were destroyed by the Taazis upon their conquest.
were puzzled by the Europeans' abhorrence of sacrifice. They explained
that their Gods had created the universe out of an act of sacrifice.
In Mayan and Aztec mythology, various Gods sacrificed themselves
so that the Earth, the animals, and humans could be created. The
Mayans were simply repaying a debt. They were returning a favor
that their Gods had bestowed upon them. How could such sacrifices
be seen as evil, when in fact they were done out of the goodness
of the subjects?
I suppose that
if one accepts the mythology of their Gods, then one cannot view
these acts as evil but as good. So then, the folly lies with the
original idea of these Gods and with their story of creation. Logically,
one cannot refute such a concoction while accepting a different
concoction and hold that there is any more truth to that than the
Mayans'. How is it more far fetched to accept the existence of Kukulcan
and Chaac instead of Yahweh or Allah? Is there any more evidence
for the existence of Allah than there is for Kukulcan? Is Yahweh
more likely to be real than is Chaac? I think not. In this respect,
I think that no theist can criticize the practice of the Mayans
or Aztecs on a logical basis.
is the concept of human sacrifice really foreign to these allegedly
more civil, monotheistic religions? What did Yahweh ask Abraham
to do to his own son, but then allegedly stopped him at the last
second? As asked, Abraham supposedly was going to sacrifice his
own son to a God. The only difference with this mythology and that
of the Mayans is that the Hebrew God was being dishonest with his
subject in his initial appeal for a human sacrifice.
believe that God sent his only son to Earth just so he could be
humiliated, tortured, and then killed by humanity for humanity.
Sounds like the Christian God has an appetite for human sacrifice,
if he wanted his own son to be so sacrificed in order to relieve
humanity of its sins. If his own son had to be thus tortured and
killed in order for humanity to be saved, that exactly meets the
definition of sacrifice. Such a human sacrifice is no different
than the sacrifice that the Aztecs and Mayans offered their Gods.
of course are the most notorious for demanding sacrifices. Their
Shaheeds and suicide bombers are no less a human sacrifice to their
God of War, Allah. What's worst is that usually it is not just the
suicide bomber that's being sacrificed, but also the unwilling bystanders.
How about the
concept of killing itself? Do the Christians or Moslems have any
more righteousness in this respect than the Mayans? I heard someone
say that the Europeans did their killing during battle, while the
Mayans did their killing after battle. Instead of killing their
victims on the field, the Mayans took them captive and killed them
It seems to
me that the morality of the Christians and Moslems is not very different
than that of the Mayans or Aztecs. Nevertheless, my visit to the
Mayan ruins forced me to re-evaluate the concept of morality itself.
Morality Is Challenged
There is no
question that there is something inherently wrong with human sacrifices.
Nonetheless, considering the circumstances present in the Mayan
civilization, something was eating away at me regarding the concept
of morality. The reason for that will become clear once I briefly
re-explain my concept of morality.
I have tried
to simplify this rather complicated notion as much as possible.
Keeping a concept as simple as possible helps its comprehension
as well as adherence. My simple notion of morality consists of the
following two concepts.
morality is the practical manifestation of a human emotion: empathy.
It is empathy that allows one to imagine the pain and suffering
of another, and to do that which avoids the suffering of others
because one feels others' pain along with them. I believe that the
entire foundation of morality relies upon this point.
morality as it arises from empathy must naturally entail spreading
happiness to as many as possible, while preventing misery, pain,
and unhappiness to as many as possible. It is empathy applied on
a grander scale, to all of mankind instead of just an individual.
two simple concepts do not and cannot define all circumstances of
morality, I believe that they encompass almost all of it. Although
quite comprehensive, at some times there may be an occasion that
may put these basic notions into question.
Of course, my
visit to the Yucatan happened to be such an occasion, which is the
reason that I mention the concept now. So what was it about the
Mayans that rocked my foundation? Simply, that considering the culture
that existed, the voluntary human sacrifices did not technically
go against the concept of morality that I hold.
can argue that the involuntary sacrifices that they held, such as
that of captured POW's were indeed in conflict of my concept of
morality. Those victims and their families were subjected to pain
and suffering, since their preference was to not be killed.
area of problem arises when considering the voluntary victims, such
as the captain of the football team that wants to be sacrificed,
and plays to win so that he can have such an honor. Even if one
contends that it was the losing captain that was decapitated, the
concept is the same, because he joined the game for having the honor
of either sacrificing another or himself being sacrificed.
Where has the
concept of morality as I hold it been violated? The people of the
community are happy, because they received their entertainment and
pleased their Gods. The sacrificial victim is happy, because he
believes in the afterlife, considers it a great honor to be sacrificed,
and thinks that he will soon meet his beloved Gods. The family of
the victim is also happy, for the same reasons. Empathy does not
preclude such actions, because these people consider it a desirable
end to be offered to their Gods this way.
It would seem
that if morality is viewed in this way, then the voluntary Mayan
human sacrifices do not violate my concept of morality, and that
they therefore did not act immorally. It seems that I presented
myself with a dilemma. This dilemma popped into my head during the
time of my visit to the site, and was eating away at me during the
latter part of my visit. "Those damned Mayans," I thought.
"They have shaken me and my concept of morality with their
uniquely twisted culture." It wasn't until my bus ride back
from the site to the city that the solution presented itself to
me. Halfway through the bus ride I realized the solution to this
dilemma, after which I was finally able to relax, nap, and enjoy
was not unique. I already had it stored in my mind, I just had to
reach in and locate it. The solution lies with not looking at only
morality to guide one's life. The solution lies with "the good
life" as a whole. One's pursuit of the good life involves morality
as a cornerstone, but the good life does not end with morality.
As demonstrated by the Mayan example, if one looks only to morality
one may occasionally be fooled into accepting the unacceptable.
What is the
good life? As Russell defines it, it is the pursuit of love guided
by knowledge. As I define it, it is similarly the pursuit of love
guided by wisdom and supported by knowledge. Love and empathy alone
are not enough. The desire for general happiness and avoidance of
misery is not enough. By extension, morality alone is not enough.
Wisdom must also be present.
The folly of
the despicable Mayan practice of human sacrifice lies in the absence
of wisdom in this instance. Everything is justified and falls into
perfect place if one accepts the existence and nature of the Mayan
Gods. It is this initial step, the acceptance of such made up entities
that sets the entire misguided cascade into motion. Wisdom is not
applied, since figments of imagination materialize into such solid
belief systems. The most crucial mistake is acceptance of that which
is baseless and has no basis of evidence. That mistake is faith,
to believe that for which no proof exists.
claims are accepted as facts based on faith, the result is always
disastrous. How can it have a different result? If a system is based
on falsities at its starting point, sooner or later it will clash
with the truth and reality. Sooner or later far fetched demands
will be placed on the members of that community and will preclude
them from pursuing their potential for the best life possible; the
good life. Some, indeed most, will live and die unaware that they
have missed their one and only opportunity for a good life.
The Mayan religious
belief, which was contrary to wisdom and knowledge served to undermine
their good lives. A failure of wisdom, and not a failure of morality,
was the culprit for such depravity.
Science is a
practical equivalent of wisdom. The basic components of each are
very similar. Therefore, to deny science is to deny wisdom. To deny
wisdom is to accept faith and religion, the results of which are
human sacrifices, suicide bombings, oppression, intolerance, holy
wars, persecutions, etc.
when one visits a site such as this one cannot help but feel a powerful
connection. Does that really make sense? What does a Persian living
in the US care about a lost Native American civilization?
The World Is Our Heritage
archaeological sites for which I care most about are the ones located
in Iran and its vicinity. Being heir to such an old and marvelous
civilization as that of the Persians leads me to appreciate not
just that of the Persians, but others as well. A deeper appreciation
of other magnificent and ancient civilizations is at my grasp, as
I imagine that it is for others as well. For example, the Mexicans
showed up in record numbers to view ancient Persian archaeological
displays at one of their museums recently, for the exact same reason.
Appreciation goes both ways.
Middle East fascinates Mexican museum goers
Iran, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Acropolis in Greece, Giza in Egypt,
and the countless other ancient archaeological sites are a treasure
to be relished not just by the indigenous people of that nation,
but by the whole world. We all have connections to those sites,
regardless of ethnicity or nationality.
When any of
those sites are compromised, it is not just the people of that nation
that suffer, but the whole world. When intolerant and ignorant members
of the Taliban blew up the magnificent statues of Buddha, it was
not just Afghanistan that lost a marvel. When the Taazis in Iran
drown the priceless Persian archaeological sites near Pasargad by
erecting a dam, the people of Iran won't be the only losers. The
whole world will lose part of its heritage and part of its identity.
This picture needs no description
It was my intent
to bring some of the experiences from my short journey to the Yucatan
to a few readers back home. Many visit the archaeological sites
of Chichen Itza each day. For each, there must be a unique experience
and a myriad of different thoughts, most of which I cannot imagine.
Most will look at those ruins, simply think "eh, nice pile
of stones," and move on to the gift shop. Others will measure
the core of their existence against such ruins.
This was a journey
from an astronomical accident, to the extinction of the dinosaurs
and rise of man and evolution, to the historical background of the
region, to the glory of Persia in the far reaches of the world,
to architectural and acoustic wonders, to mythology, to a real sports
game that would humble any work of fiction, to religion, to suicide
bombers, to cultural extinction, to philosophy, to morality and
the good life, to the importance of archaeological sites in general
and the need for their safeguarding worldwide.
have a voice, if one is only willing to listen.
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a comment about this article? Then
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Stones Have A Voice (Discussion Thread)
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