Explorations (**BD2 Movie Spoilers!**)

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Re: Explorations

Postby December » Mon May 17, 2010 7:40 pm

Openhome wrote:I realize that a red-eyed vampire is essentially no different than a blue-eyed hamburger eating human -- both kill to eat.

*giggle* OK, I had definitely better not try to reply until the morning (it's past midnight here already). I just misread this as an observation about a blue-eyed hamburger.

You know, the kind of hamburger who thinks nothing of eating human. Just like the red-eyed vamps....

Did I mention recently how much I love this thread?

*drags befuddled carcase upstairs to bed*

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Re: Explorations

Postby Jazz Girl » Mon May 17, 2010 9:59 pm

December wrote:This is simply FOUNDATIONAL to Stephenie’s own world view -- and more important, to the world view which Twilight both presumes and articulates. And it’s a view that many of her readers share. For many (including Stephenie) this is a view with theological underpinnings, but I think it can be intelligible to the non-religious as well. Maybe I would want to extend the definition of “humanity” to embrace other thinking, feeling, living -- and dying -- forms of life (Star Trek Federation-style).* But the idea that life, if you like, is precious, and that vampires are not quite alive any longer -- that these beings are not just tormented by murderous desires; they are frozen in a barren and static changelessness -- certainly makes sense to me. The quiet joy of being alive, of seeing the seasons change and changing with them (as Bella puts it), is lost to the Cullens forever. This is what gives Edward pause in NM (enough that he leaves); this is what gives Bella pause in Eclipse (enough that she is tempted by the human alternative Jake presents); and I think it’s what gives Stephenie pause in BD, and drives her to snatch from Bella the chance of deliberately walking down the road she chose in Eclipse (ie coldbloodedly laying down her human life for Edward).


In a way, I am in agreement with Knives. But, for me, it was never one I traced to SM or her work, but more to the fans of the series making the argument/distinction that, when Bella made the choice between Edward and Jacob, she was in fact choosing between life and death. It was always and continues to be the only argument I have never been able to at least see both sides on. To me, it is an argument full of hubris and superiority. In merely determining that Bella is choosing "death" in choosing to become a vampire, we automatically assign certain characteristics to the concepts of life and death. And, in arguing that one is better (in the case of this argument, most seem to believe that she should have chosen "life"), we intentionally devalue those characteristics associated with the other choice.

In truth, what are the differences between the vampires and everyone else seemingly lumped together on the "life" side? The only true difference seems to be their frozen state. Where the humans, the shapeshifters and everyone else still display all the physical markers of "life", ie heartbeat, circulation, respiration, growth, aging etc, obviously, the vampires do not have that. Even in their suspended aging, the wolves still exhibit those same processes. But is that what defines life? Are simple electrical pulses and basic biological functions what we define as being alive?

That seems to me an extremely limited and prejudicial view. It's seems to discount what, in my opinion, is the more important and definitive aspect of life. Vampires, all vampires, think, feel, have relationships, care about others and have others who care about them. They all have the instinct for preservation of self and others. In short, they live. And, they fight to preserve and protect that life.

In arguing that, in choosing to become a vampire, Bella is choosing death over life, we automatically devalue those markers of life and say that only the beating heart and the breathing lungs are truly important. Only those that can grow and change and participate in those biological processes are truly alive. Unfortunately, by extension, we also devalue those who cannot participate in other biological processes. That is a slippery slope to start down.

Regardless of how one feels about Bella's choice between men, her choice was not between life and death. In my eyes, it was between life in two separate forms. Whether one believes in a judeo-christian beliefe system that places life above all other concerns, or maybe reincarnation where one moves up or down the ladder of life based upon their behavior in their previous life, the result should still be the same. ALL life is precious, whether you approve of the form it takes or not. It is what we do with our thoughts and emotions, how we live our lives in relation to the people in them, that truly defines the quality of that life. But, saying someone is dead merely because they do not function biologically in the same way is, to be frank, assinine.

December brought up the "Star Trek" definition of life. I think it's an interesting extension of the argument. Let's say that a few decades in the future, we do encounter sentient, intelligent life that exists without the biological processes we are weakend by. Do we automatically dismiss and devalue that lifeform because they do not have a pulse? In the Twilight universe, does Bella's heart ceasing to beat make her any less Bella, any less intelligent, any less loving, any less loved?

I think it is, for me, the one insult SM paid to her vampire heroes in NOT allowing Bella to make that final choice. In preventing her from entering into that next life with Edward, the life she so desperately sought and fought for, SM made the same mistake we seem to over and over. She assumed that their life was of less value than those of their human counterparts.
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Re: Explorations

Postby Openhome » Mon May 17, 2010 11:40 pm

Jazz Girl wrote:In a way, I am in agreement with Knives. But, for me, it was never one I traced to SM or her work, but more to the fans of the series making the argument/distinction that, when Bella made the choice between Edward and Jacob, she was in fact choosing between life and death. It was always and continues to be the only argument I have never been able to at least see both sides on. To me, it is an argument full of hubris and superiority. In merely determining that Bella is choosing "death" in choosing to become a vampire, we automatically assign certain characteristics to the concepts of life and death. And, in arguing that one is better (in the case of this argument, most seem to believe that she should have chosen "life"), we intentionally devalue those characteristics associated with the other choice.

December brought up the "Star Trek" definition of life.

I think it is, for me, the one insult SM paid to her vampire heroes in NOT allowing Bella to make that final choice. In preventing her from entering into that next life with Edward, the life she so desperately sought and fought for, SM made the same mistake we seem to over and over. She assumed that their life was of less value than those of their human counterparts. [/color]


Perhaps I'm not following, but I don't think the argument was about life or death, but that the Cullens missed their human lives. They saw their humanity not as a lesser state, but as a precious gift that was lost to them. This is in the context that most of the fandom sees vampires as living in a state of perpetually sparkling bliss; we were arguing that SM saw the Cullens as living with constant struggle. I may be totally misunderstanding you, though. Like December, my carcass needs to be put to bed.

In my last post, I did concede the fact that all sentient life should be held as precious. My original concern was the idea that humanity and human existence is often looked at as a bad thing in many works. SM's views, perhaps because of her faith or for other reasons, sees the human state as a good thing. I misinterpreted a statement made by Knives.

As a counterthought, from the beginning, SM constantly showed us that Bella was willing at a young age to sacrifice herself in many ways for the needs of others. The very first words in Twilight expound on this. She really is willing to be the sacrificial lamb, and it is her selflessness that causes Edward to pause in MS. I think, and I may be wrong in this, that SM had Bella suffer terribly and be torn apart while trying to save one she loved, her baby, as a way of paying penance and earning her right to her happiness. In the end, I believe that SM saw all that Bella had endured and given up as the redemptive cost for her vampirism. (Yep, I used that word again). In other words, Bella became a vampire and had her HEA because she earned it, just like Carlisle. She didn't hand over her life, she laid it down to bring her baby into the world.
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Re: Explorations

Postby rollie715 » Tue May 18, 2010 12:47 am

Jazz Girl's remarks on Life vs. Death, where human life may be considered as a heart beating mortal being which Bella and Jacob were and Edward was not has got me thinking. It appears that both Edward and Jacob seemed to hold to that definition of life as "sacred" as they both objected to Bella losing her mortality to become a vampire. On the other hand, I'm not sure that Bella held the same view. She may have chosen to view things just the opposite where a vulnerable human being could grow old and would eventually die whereas a vampire could "live" on forever. I'm not completely clear on Bella's view on the "afterlife" subject of where a human might go after they die. In a twist of the Life vs. Death discussion, I can see a view where some might subscribe to the idea that to be a human is to be subject to Death especially if it included the idea that we cease to live on after we die, but to be a vampire is the choice leading to Life. The quote "I think, therefore I am" from the philosopher Rene Descarte reminds me that life, just as might be defined in Star Trek, may go beyond the realm of growing tissues and beating hearts and include more of the elements of awareness and consciousness which the Cullens all possessed. What is Life and what is Death? Good question.
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Re: Explorations

Postby andypalmer » Tue May 18, 2010 11:39 am

Whew! More posts! I was worried there for a bit that I’d killed the thread :-)

Knives. Being a former agnostic and big fan of Sci-Fi, I completely get the “all sentient life is equal” view. The argument made in Twilight, and also in a not insignificant amount of Sci-Fi work is that sentient life with a moral/ethical foundation is, in many regards, a “higher” form of life than those without and that respect for the sanctity of life of fellow sentient beings is viewed as a prime example of this moral foundation. While Ender defeated the Buggers, his realization of their sentience combined with his inherent morality resulted in his self-imposed “exile” as told in the books that follow Ender’s Game. Star Trek’s Prime Directive has this as a foundational principal as well.

In Twilight, the “typical” vampire is portrayed as certainly sentient, but lacking that moral/ethical foundation as illustrated by their disregard for the sentience of humans. To them, humans are considered as typical humans consider sheep, cows, or pigs.

Stephenie Meyer uses the Cullen’s as the bridge between the two species, in effect, granting them a higher form of sentience through their respect for the sanctity of human life, effectively recognition of human sentience and moral equality. A similar treatment was done in SG-Atlantis (albeit poorly done), when Michael was created as a Wraith-Human hybrid; there are in fact many parallels between the Wraith and Meyer’s vampires – sentient life without the moral foundation to respect other sentient life.

So, part of what Meyer is trying to portray in Twilight, admittedly with strong religious overtones, is that the typical vampire is a lesser form of life than humans because they lack that moral foundation and respect for the sanctity of life of a fellow sentient species. The Cullens are shown as both a contrast and to show the potentially higher form of life that Vampires could, and arguably should, aspire to be. Whether taken as a religious, moralistic, humanistic, or scientific argument, the argument is that the highest form of sentient life is one in which other sentient life is respected.

Jazz Girl. I completely agree with you; Bella’s decision was NOT about life vs. death, but between life in two separate forms. One argument, Edward’s argument, was that the vampire form was inferior, that it lacked the moral and ethical foundation that humans have and spiritually, that it was a spiritual dead-end, with no possibility of a positive after-life, if any after-life at all. Bella believed/believes that vampires have equal potential to humans and are merely another form of life.

I do, however, have to respectfully disagree on your view of Bella’s decision and how SM handled it. My only personal “beef” is that she was allowed to “have her cake and eat it, too”, that she was allowed to have the best of both forms, bear a child and still gain the benefits of “vampirehood”, that in the end, she had to make no sacrifices. i.e., it was too well wrapped up and not tragic enough, especially when you throw the Jacob-Nessie relationship in there – a very happy and emotional ending, makes us all feel good but in “real life” things never work out THAT well :-)

I don’t see Bella’s choice being taken away at all, nor any slight on the Cullens. She made the choice to become a vampire and then that decision was overridden by the decision to risk her … existence, to save the life of her child. Had she not, it would not have been consistent with who Bella was (and certainly not with who SM is), but I don’t see it as cheapening the Cullens at all. Looking back, knowing Renesmee as they do, none of them would question her decision after-the-fact, even if Bella had not survived to make the change. They had feared the fetus would grow into something without morals and ethics, something that was representative of the worst aspects of “vampirehood”. Had they known from the beginning of the outcome in that regard, none of them, not even Edward, would have begrudged Bella the right to risk her life to bring that life into the world. As they view “sentience”, as in sentient life with that moral foundation, they wouldn’t have been able to condone ending an innocent sentient life to save another, not and still be who they are.
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Re: Explorations

Postby December » Wed May 19, 2010 4:28 am

Hope you all don't mind, but I'm moving the last few posts to the the time-honoured TUGPM thread (that's: Twilight Universe Grand Philosophical Musings, for those of you who may not remember it in its glory days *grin*) -- because we're getting a bit too far from the subject of this thread. Before posting on TUGMP, please be sure and read the introduction there -- it's an idiosyncratic thread with a long and distinguished past.
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Re: Explorations

Postby December » Wed May 19, 2010 6:48 am

Jazzgirl wrote:...fans of the series making ]the argument/distinction that, when Bella made the choice between Edward and Jacob, she was in fact choosing between life and death. It was always and continues to be the only argument I have never been able to at least see both sides on. To me, it is an argument full of hubris and superiority. In merely determining that Bella is choosing "death" in choosing to become a vampire, we automatically assign certain characteristics to the concepts of life and death. And, in arguing that one is better (in the case of this argument, most seem to believe that she should have chosen "life"), we intentionally devalue those characteristics associated with the other choice.

Interesting. As one of the most notorious proponents of this view of Bella’s choice, I wonder if there's any way I can help you to see that other side. Explain how it is that, though an ardent (and pro-Bite) Swoonygirl, I’ve nevertheless always taken it as axiomatic that Bella’s dilemma in Eclipse wasn’t about choosing between the warm russet boy and the cold, pale one -- it was about choosing between life or death.

I guess maybe my starting point is right there in that last sentence. It just never made sense to me that after everything we’ve witnessed in TW and NM, Bella Swan could simply fall in love with another boy.

Or to put it another way: how could Stephenie possibly have thought it a testimony to the staggering, transcendent strength of Edward and Bella’s love for each other, that Bella nearly falls in love with another boy? How could the events of Eclipse be a confirmation and fulfillment of Twilight’s dazzling love story, unless -- as Stephenie insisted in her FAQ -- there’s much more at stake here?

So for me, this wasn’t about some kind of species-chauvinism, or a personal belief in the sanctity of being human -- much less a preference for Jake or werewolves! (God forbid...*grin*). It was about reconciling myself to the love triangle and TGDS: convincing myself (and a number of distraught Swoonies who found it very hard to forgive Bella and Stephenie!) that Bella’s weakness for Jake (if I can put it that way) wasn’t a stain on her love for Edward. That it was, in a roundabout way, witness to the obliterating strength of that passion.

Seriously, all the thinking I’ve done about whether becoming a vampire does mean losing something infinitely precious -- as Edward would insist -- comes back to this. I prefer to see Bella’s sudden moment of wavering as the moment when the truth of what Edward’s been trying to tell her comes crashing down on her: what she is giving up for him is her life. Yes, she will still be a sentient and indeed moral being. But this is not just about swapping membership in one species for another; what she is choosing is a kind of death: exchanging her human birthright of friends and family, of eating and sleeping and weeping, of growing up, growing old, for an eternity of changelessness, monstrous cravings and an unending, painful battle against temptation.

Ok, as events turn out, a lot of this is rescinded by the unalloyed happy-ever-after which BD serves up -- but that is, as it were, an unexpected icing on Bella’s cake. This is the choice as it is laid out for Bella in EC (as I read it), and for me it’s the only thing that makes the three protagonists’ actions intelligible. Why does Bella ever falter for an instant in her singleminded commitment to Edward? Why is part of Edward still half-hoping Bella might go off with Jake? Why is Jake cheerfully prepared to behave atrociously if there’s a chance it might save Bella from becoming a vampire? For me, the answer is...because they all recognize what a heavy price Bella will pay for loving Edward. Bella isn’t some callow girl torn between two attractive guys -- she’s coming to terms with the immense sacrifice that life with Edward will require of her.

So it’s not that I necessarily have a problem with the view that vampires are simply a different -- and equally worthy -- species. (And Stephenie herself has talked in those terms). But to make sense of the story, I need to go further. I think we’re meant to see what Bella is choosing as more than an adventurous leap into the unknown; I think we’re meant to see it as a sacrifice. In this sense it can’t be just be about becoming an exotic new kind of being; giving up her humanity has to be seen as a genuine and bitter loss. (And remember Edward’s declaration that every one of his family would gladly walk through the fires of hell to regain their human lives -- I don’t think we’re meant to see that as mere nostalgia for the species they were born into: it’s a stark and absolute value judgement about the preciousness of being human).

But the point of acknowledging what choosing Edward will cost Bella (and this is where I part company with the wolf-girls) isn’t to suggest that Bella would have been better off with Jake. The point -- at least on my out-and-out Swoonygirl reading of Stephenie’s story -- is to underscore just how transcendent and unparalleled the strength of Edward and Bella’s love is. Bella will gladly give up her LIFE for Edward because that’s how much she loves him. And he will accept this dreadful (in his eyes) sacrifice, against every instinct in his being, because that’s how much he loves her. The scale of the loss she’s embracing for his sake is the measure of their love for one another. An affirmation that they truly belong together for all eternity.

But this glorious, over-the-top romantic reading depends on taking seriously the idea that Bella is taking leave of her life. If being human were less precious -- if becoming a vampire were merely adopting an alternative life-form -- well, that wouldn’t wreck Edward and Bella’s love story, but it would make it a little bit less heroically romantic. At least in my eyes.

So anyway...there’s a somewhat different perspective on the whole question. And I don’t know, maybe it will seem to you that I’m just talking apples to your oranges. But I'm hoping it will give you a glimpse into why one might choose to view Bella's choice this way: as a kind of death and rebirth rather than a simple sideways move into another species.
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Re: Explorations

Postby Openhome » Wed May 19, 2010 8:46 am

I would like to agree with you here. I understand that what occurred for Bella was a transition from her human form into a more "natural" form of vampirism for her. As a vampire, she "shined." However, that isn't what she was expecting at all. She is surprised, staggered even, that she feels like herself. Every member of the Cullens, and especially Jasper who had tons of experience with newborns, is surprised by it. Bella should have been different. We get clues all along the way that she really wasn't meant to be a human. I think this is also another point to the story that isn't discussed: Bella was already vampiric in many areas. She could even smell blood (with hilarious results). So, my conclusion was that she was meant to be a vampire, but she didn't know that.

If we look back to the scene in Eclipse where Bella plainly sees her life with Jacob, there isn't love in the scene. There is a wonderful and happy human life with children. That is what she is going to miss out on. There really was no choice between Bella and Jacob, SM consistently said Bella never felt love for Jacob like she did for Edward, so no love triangle. Jacob represented to Bella what she was losing. Could she have learned to love Jacob and had a happy life? Not really. She could have chosen that life, but it wouldn't have made her happy.

The love triangle was between Edward and life as she knew it. This was a very frightening choice for her. The entire book of Eclipse was about her choice between what she thought of as a form of death and the life she knew. Again, BD aside, she thought she was going to be a mad newborn, incapable of love and feelings. She thought she would be locked into a unchanging and boring life with no chance of ending it. This was her choice to stay with Edward. Yes, she didn't sacrifice enough. Yes, SM could have brought her moral tale to a much less confusing end. However, we get the idea that this will be easier for Bella early on in the books, and I for one wasn't surprised by the fact that she became a vampire so easily. Disappointed yes! But not surprised.

December, I know you moved the other topic to the new thread, and I will continue it there. However, I believe that a discussion on the foundational roots of the book may fit here as well. IF SM was creating a moral tale, something that should be taken at a deeper level than simply a supernatural romance, then a discussion on the foundations of those truths is a part of this. I know we got way off topic, but I would love to discuss SM's views of life and death and the deeper topics of good and evil as she sees them here. I would also like to continue the idea of redemption in literary works as they relate to Twilight (Wuthering Heights anyone?)
Your thoughts?
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Re: Explorations

Postby andypalmer » Wed May 19, 2010 9:28 am

December. Interesting take and well-written arguments.

However, I have a perspective on the different types of love that Bella has for Edward and Jacob that may influence your feelings here.

Bella's love for Edward is that absolute, knock-you-off-your-feet, romantic, love at first sight type of love. She falls in love with Edward, at least as much (and arguably more) due to her image of Edward as much as on his actual words and actions. This isn't to say that their love isn't true and doesn't evolve into something much more, but she falls head-over-heels with the "idea" of Edward. I had this same thing myself as a teen, with a girl that, in hindsight, I really didn't even know that well, but that didn't make it any less real, for me. It's part of why I relate with Bella so well, despite having a different set of chromosomes :-)

With Jacob, Bella gradually falls in love with her best friend. In many ways, Jacob knows Bella better than Edward does, because they've shared their hopes and dreams with each other, as only best friends can. Their knowledge of each other is intuitive, rather than the analytic understanding of Bella that Edward gains through observation.

So, in choosing between the two, Bella chooses between the overwhelming force that is her love for Edward and the love and feeling of togetherness that she shares with Jacob. Her heart is torn and her head understands that Jacob is the more sensible choice, but at that point, her soul is so irrevocably tied to Edward that she really has no choice.

Yes, her head summons images of the life she could have with Jacob' it's the image of an idyllic life that her head knows is as much as she should hope for. Her head summons no images of live with Edward; it's more than an unknown, it's to the point that it doesn't even matter - her soul is tied to his and the scenery of the destination is less than secondary.

Yes, Bella does fear losing herself to "vampirehood", but only in the short term. The idea of spending forever with Edward and eventually getting back to who she is is sufficient to sustain her. Her drive for those "important human experiences" is driven more by fear of how long it will take her to become "a normal Cullen" than fear of losing anything "forever." i.e., she doesn't want to go years before sharing herself with Edward so wants what she can before that indeterminate clock begins.

I always viewed her images of children with Jacob of being a combination of "expected idyllic life" and "what Jacob would want" rather than a longing for that aspect. My take is that Bella never seriously considered having children, even less than she accepted being married, until she realized that she was pregnant with Edward's child. Up until that moment, if she even consciously realized that she wouldn't bear children as a vampire, it wasn't something that concerned her in the slightest - she had no emotional connection to that concept. Even at the end of her human life, having a child was far less important than having THAT child.
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Re: Explorations

Postby Jazz Girl » Wed May 19, 2010 12:37 pm

December, Openhome and Andypalmer~ Hmmmm, so much to think about. In considering this position, I think what might have effected stating my position and how it was phrased might have been, in major part, the source from which I heard the counterargument. Admittedly, we as a fandom tend to polarize ourselves. Those of us "swoonygirl" (*giggle* thanks for that new term December :D ) fans who know unequivocally that Edward & Bella were fated to be together tend to gather in separate places and interact in different ways than those who believe...otherwise. And, those "otherwise" fans are the individuals from whom I have heard this argument. It has always been an explanation for why Bella chose wrong, in their view. So, I greatly appreciate the wonderful presentation of the flipside of the argument.

In reading all three of these perspectives, it is clear that my own point of view is a bit of an amalgamation of all of them. First and foremost, I've always seen Bella's transformation, her choice of life with Edward, as inherantly sacrificial. It is, to use December's word, foundational in my beliefs that humanity is the single greatest gift humans have. The idea of living without it, becoming the sociopathic monsters we fear most, is truly terrifying. And, as Andypalmer said, Bella fully expects it to be years before she is back to herself, to having her humanity intact, and therefore back to experiencing and feeling what it is she chooses that life for in the first place. But, the unequivocal facts that she will return to herself and in doing so, have her life with Edward forever are what make the idea of it being a choice in the first place a bit of laughable to me.

I suppose the idea of Jacob as a representation of exactly those things that she would be giving up to have her life with Edward is the best summary I can find. I've never believed that she truly loved Jacob, persay. To me, it was more the idea of Jacob that she loved, the idea of that person who saw her at her very worst and walked through her darkest time with her and stuck around. It was the one thing that Edward never gave her and, in my opinion, the one thing she never wanted from him. It's the key reason why she never truly wanted Edward to see how dark her life was without him. Jacob as her "living" alterego, for lack of a better term, was attractive to her. By that, I mean, not only Jacob as a representation of what parts of "living" she was giving up, but also as the living embodiment of her history. Jacob knew her throughout her human life, during all those awkward times and embarassing moments that were a part of what she wanted to leave behind. Jacob is, essentially, the embodiment of Bella's "living" experiences.

My opposition to the "life vs death" question ultimately comes down to my opposition to the characterization of the life Bella chooses with Edward as somehow inherantly less simply because she changes forms. I think the argument presented in that fashion, completely dismissing all of the other dynamics involved in the choice she truly made is what I frown on. That is what smacks of the species chauvinism December mentioned. In the end, my position has always been that Bella & Edward were literally made for each other. The challenges and deep choices they had to make along the way just make it that much more. As I see just about everything in musical terms, The Spill Canvas put it better than I ever could in their song Lullaby;
While you were sleeping I figured out everything,
I was constructed for you, and you were molded for me
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