Corona as of March 8th

It is important in this new age of Corona not to touch your face, and that’s not easy to do—dozens of times per day most of us do it. There is a clip somewhere of officials doing it even as they caution others not to. Trump quipped that he “hasn’t touched my face in weeks; I miss it,” and yet afterwards—why, there he is touching his face.

I started the following as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to think that it’s not so stupid after all:

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You can avoid touching your face by wearing a mask—like a Halloween mask. What sort of a mask will you wear? I will walk about dressed as a teddy bear. How about you? And with that I posted an old picture of my brother dressed up for Halloween. (and I said this is my brother WITHOUT his mask because he had just beaten me in Scrabble) 

What about a Guy Fawkes mask?

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“Hey, great mask! You must be deeply concerned about injustice and have the courage to tackle it head-on even if it costs you your life! How admirable!!”

“Naw, I’m just trying not to touch my face on account of the Corona virus.”

Our people have shown themselves very proactive in this. A letter from HQ was read Thursday. It started out with how no one wants to start a panic, but for as long as the Coronavirus remains a threat, the group whose turn it is to clean the Kingdom Hall will also disinfect commonly touched surfaces, including seat railings, both before and after the meeting. Keep “physical greetings simple by avoiding hugs, kisses and handshakes, so please do not be offended if” someone declines normal contact. The verse was read about...

“Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:24)

Also the one about...

“The shrewd one sees the danger and conceals himself,But the inexperienced keep right on going and suffer the consequences.” (Proverbs 22:3)

That one seems like it is read every time you turn around these days. Lots of things to be alert about, apparently.

Stay home if you’re sick—that was part of the letter, too. You can listen in on a telephone tie-in. Word has it that elders are prepared to tell ones that appear sick to go home. ‘Ask’ actually, not ‘tell,’ but they have a way of making an ask seem like a tell.

It is not hard—one just must remember to do certain things. It is greatly aided by people who are not quarrelsome by nature—their application of Bible principles makes them that way—and at the Hall today I was surprised at how quickly everyone took to the new routine. Jehovah’s Witnesses can be downright absurd with the amount of handshaking they do, and it was all replaced with elbow bumps & so forth. Someone forgot and approached me with hand outstretched. “What! Are you trying to get me killed?” I said. It’s an air of good-natured joking.

Things are changing fast. Two weeks ago for an upcoming Chinese circuit assembly, it was said not to wear masks so as not to stigmatize Chinese attendees. This week the entire assembly was cancelled. This morning I heard that all field service has been cancelled in New York City—people can do phone or letter writing but everything else is on hold. This may have to do with the fact that the governor declared a state of emergency the day before.

The morning before, at the meeting for field service, the one conducting said how some might not want to speak with us (more than usual) because of Corona. “Whatever you do,” was my comment, “don’t treat it as an ‘objection’ to ‘overcome.’ Corona may blow over or may deepen—we just don’t know yet. People do whatever they think they should—cut them slack for it.”

It’s not particularly scary for Witnesses because we have long had our heads geared up for this kind of thing. Even so, no one would say it’s a walk in the park. But you can’t help but think of people not so mentally prepared, those with families, especially. A website Drudge linked to a couple of weeks ago listed “ten plagues hitting the planet simultaneously.” It makes you think of those verses in Luke on how

people will become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth...but as these things start to occur, stand up straight and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:26-28)

I used to read that verse a lot, pointing to how the same things mean different things to different people so why not try to get your heads around the the viewpoint of ones who lift their heads up? But then HQ said it doesn’t really apply that way—it is yet for future events—but I can still say ‘it reminds me of’ can’t I? Is someone going to come along and say it doesn’t?

[Edit] Within 4-5 days of this post, public health officials were calling for the curtailing of all gatherings of over 50 people. Accordingly, all full congregation meetings as well as the public field ministry has been cancelled until further notice.]

 

 

 

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Speaking With the Branch Brother

A story, with opening background:

I have always been ‘out there’ in appearance (for a brother), at times downright shaggy, with hair falling over my ears, and I don’t fuss much with combing it, usually not at all. I don’t fully trust anyone who has not a hair out of place. I don’t like cuff-links either, though I will concede that some will wear them and figure that they are like the fine seamless garment Jesus wore. Nobody would rebuke the Lord with: “Why don’t you wear a regular garment from the Goodwill so no one thinks you are putting on airs.” They would not say that, so cuff links get a free pass, too, but I would never wear the stupid things.

Amazingly, I have never been counseled on general shagginess, despite all the carrying on about ‘dress that befits a minister of GodI’—which rubs me the wrong way when it is overdone. I’ve had speaking assignments at the District Convention, now called Regionals. I can only surmise that my personality otherwise offsets a moderately (at times) unorthodox appearance. 

In my 50’s, after my eldering days, I got into the habit of moussing my hair when it got long, running my fingers through it once so it stayed off my forehead, and I would go about my day with it spiked up, flopping over any way it liked as gravity took over. If I see a young woman with green hair, I won’t harrumph as many of our people would—I’ll say, “Huh! You know, I kind of like that.” These days I am less that way and I now say to the barber: “Look, so long as you are not thinking “US Marine,” cut it as short as you like—even if you get it too short, I will not complain—it grows back.* That way I don’t have to horse with it for a while. 

Brother Lloyd of the US Branch gave the talk at our Assembly Hall. He is an old-timer who has been around forever. The place was packed out. For reasons I don’t remember, my wife and I arrived late and we were shoehorned into the only two seats available—directly in front of him.

His talk was hard-hitting, the type you used to hear from old-timers and the type that you will not hear today—‘if you do not make time for Jehovah, maybe he will not make time for you’ was the tone some of it took.

Now, I am not one of those brothers who has to track down the speaker so as to shake his hand. If I don’t speak with him at all, that is perfectly fine by me. I have stated here that I would love to have a Governing Body member stay at my house so I could ignore him (which would probably make me popular in his eyes). “There’s your room. Come down and hang out if you like, but don’t feel you have to—I know that you have things to do, if only unwinding free of persons who you have to talk to,” is what I would say to him.

So after the closing prayer I turn around with my spiked hair and find myself face to face with him—the crowds have not closed in yet. I exchange a few pleasantries—nice of him to make the sacrifice to travel, and so forth, and he says, almost with a twinkle, “I wasn’t too hard on you brothers, was I?” 

“Well,” I said, “we’ll adjust.”

......*With regard to not complaining about a bad haircut, I remember reading a book by Peter Lynch, the Fidelity fund manager known for investing in what he liked. He bought a ton of Dunkin Donut stock and it went to the moon—his interest first piqued because he loved their coffee. He also bought Supercuts. True to method, he went there first to get a haircut. He thought he looked a little funny as he left, but he allowed that it might simply be due to some new style that he was unaware of. The horrified look on the faces of his wife and daughters convinced him that it was not. The CEO, when he related the experience to him, observed cheerfully that hair grows back at 6 inches per....some quantity of time that I forget.

Lynch is the same fund manager who once observed of General Motors: “The nicest thing I can say about it is that it is a terrible company.” I never forgot that line.

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Mark Sanderson in Russia, Joseph Rutherford in America

Can you believe these blockheads, carrying on about Sanderson the way that they do?

Here is Mark Sanderson, of the Governing Body, and a team of international Witness delegates, present at the appeal trial to lend support. He has been advised that, in the event of a negative verdict, he will be subject to arrest if he so much as stays overnight. Since he and his do not know on what day a verdict will be handed down, they travel each day to the trial with their bags packed. Sure enough, the appeal is denied. He and the entourage catch the last plane out of Russia that evening—and now malcontents, those who have no skin in the game, are not Witnesses, and don’t really care one way or the other, except that they search for a smooth stone to hurl at their former faith—charge that he is a chicken! Why didn’t he stay and face the music with the Russian Witnesses?!

Well, obviously he is not going to stay there and make himself a target. No one is more recognizable than he. Even Trump would not hang out in North Korea but for the sure knowledge that 100 nukes are pointed that way. The point is that he didn’t have to go there at all, and the brothers were thrilled that he was there. They weren't complaining that he didn’t stay to play Russian Roulette. After the failed appeal, he and his party had to leave that night so as not to be subject to arrest themselves. Had anything gone wrong, they might have all found themselves under arrest—to no purpose, other than to make those who oppose them happy.

Says Grace (without displaying it): “I would expect one of the Governing Body members to be in Russia for the court case. They believe themselves to be the holy spirit/ self? appointed leaders of God's modern day chosen people.I would expect them to be there to show their support. The fact that Mark Sanderson hot footed it out of Russia the day after the court case rather than standing side by side with his brother just appears very unChristian. As a leader of the JW movement I would expect him to use his position [which might have been behind bars] to support the Russian brothers. Fleeing straight away does not give a great impression of Christian solidarity. Forget writing millions of letters, he voted with his feet so to speak. In days gone by leaders of countries led their people to battle from the frontline. Sanderson's behaviour does not give much of an impression of loving/ selflessness. I'm not saying that I would not have acted in the same way, but I would expect a little more from someone who believed they were leading God's organisation. I would have thought ensuring he saved his own skin would have been less of a priority for him.” [Italics mine, also brackets]

Does not the devil lie in what she expects? Do you see the taunts italicized? It’s particularly telling in view of the acknowledgement that his departure is exactly the common-sense thing to do, and she would have done it too. The taunts are what motivates the comment, an urge to undercut the human organization. One can almost picture this woman at the Temple Mount coaching the Lord: “Come on! Take that leap! Show a little faith in God! What’s the matter—chicken?” (Matthew 4:6) 

I think she just wants to see him in the hoosegow, and then there are only seven remaining GB members to go after.

Grace: “I'm not sure what a hoosegow is so I can't comment and no I have no ill feeling toward anyone. It just surprised me that you put a positive spin of mentioning how he was there etc and then stated he left as soon as a negative verdict was reached.”

Hoosegow is American slang for jail. What I “put a positive spin” on is nothing more than common sense. A captain goes down with his ship. He does not scan the horizon so as to board other ships that he can go down with as well. Sanderson is “captain” of the entire world organization. Witnesses in Russia have “captains” that are specifically in Russia, and they are going down with the ship. However, perhaps it will prove to be a submarine. Maybe it will surface again, just like it did last time. True, it took 100 years. But maybe it will be quicker this time.

***~~~***

However, if this bit of revisionist history takes the cake, it is nothing next to how J. F. Rutherford’s role as President of the Watchtower Society during World War II is being rewritten. As the most visible member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he put the face on their maintaining strict neutrality amidst conflicts and wars. In Germany, this neutrality put the German Witnesses behind bars, as it has at various times in many parts of the earth. Thus, he “threw German Witnesses under the bus,” according to these idiots.

It is also bogus. When “the bus” actually began moving in Nazi Germany, everyone BUT JWs were at the wheel. The vast majority of Germans then were of two major faiths. If even one of them had defied Hitler as Jehovah’s Witnesses did, the tyrant might have fallen. There are times one must take a stand.

Here is one of these characters now. Let us call him Beebs, who says: “JWs were barely on the periphery of Hitler’s plans - Jewish people were central to his fascist, sadistic plans. To elevate JWs’ victimisation to that of the Jewish people, which is what the GB has been doing, is to minimise the horrors of what the Jewish people went through.”

What is this idiocy? Of course, it can be “elevated.” Perhaps even more so, for JWs were unique in that they were the only persecuted group that could have written their ticket out, by renouncing their faith, and pledging support to HItler. Only a handful complied.

Beebs: “Model JDub, nice. What you’re saying then is that the JWs are basically a death cult - refusing to renounce a belief system would mean certain death, and most reprehensible of all, refusing life-saving blood in surgery resulting in needless death, incl. that of innocent youth.”

They are “basically a death cult” in the same sense that anyone who has ever given his life for his country, for science, for exploration, even in pursuit of extreme sports, belongs to “basically a death cult.”

It is as Paul writes to the Thessalonians, when he expresses the hope “that we may be rescued from harmful and wicked men, for faith is not a possession of all people.” (1 Thessalonians 3:2) With the elimination of faith comes the elevation of the present life to the ultimate status. Jehovah’s Witnesses certainly don’t think of the present life as nothing—you should see them when they get going on workplace safety—but they realize that this present life is not all there is. For those without faith, however, this life is all there is.

And yet even that position is not consistent. If the cause is “wrong” in their eyes, one death is far too many. But if the cause is “right,” as in the above examples of country, science, exploration, even sports, they are willing to see them mowed down by the hundreds—sometimes thousands.

And I never did get back to this fellow about his “life-saving” blood transfusions (the noun must always be preceded by that adjective, in their eyes). In fact, as employed, they are often “life-threatening.” Moreover, as a result of a relatively tiny religion sticking to its principles amidst much opposition, courageous doctors have developed and put into practice various forms of “bloodless medicine,” which, in combination with safer techniques concurrently developed, have likely saved far more lives than members of the small faith have lost.

 

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They Surrounded the Hall With Torches!

Guarding the Assembly Hall overnight, the way we used to do, sitting in that guardhouse with hourly walkarounds, it was peaceful and anything but exiting. I checked the logbook of previous shifts, updated hourly.

“All’s quiet”

“Peaceful “

“No problems” and so forth. 

I thought that I would liven things up:

“Building is suddenly surrounded by an angry mob carrying torches, led by priests, threatening to burn it to the ground. Partner & I react quickly, confront & tie in knots mob leaders with selected scriptures, they disperse muttering & scratching heads. Like Saul: “But Saul kept on acquiring power all the more and was confounding the Jews that dwelt in Damascus as he proved logically that this is the Christ.” (Acts 9:22)

I felt bad about it the next day. Had I been too flippant with the ‘sacred records’? It was an assembly day & I stopped by to remove the sacrilege. But the old pages were gone & new blank pages added. Was the old the subject of a Wednesday meeting at HQ?

I might not do it today. But then, we long ago decided not to guard it that way, so the opportunity would not come up.

Would I tease the priests that way, today? Yes, probably, for that was clearly in good fun, but I might be slightly more circumspect....though not decline it altogether—about relating of the minister giving the talk who built his theme around such-and-such material: (turn to the verse and it is one of the blanks)

and then the middle and concluding portions around...(two more verses)

with the immediate result that “some began to believe the things said; others would not believe” (Acts 28:24)

and the long-term result that: “The fact is, some were crying out one thing and others another; for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority of them did not know the reason why they had come.” (Acts 19:32)

That one is clearly an inside joke, and even that one I dial back these days. One not get smug.

We came across a clergyman’s house out in the ministry, attached to the church. I made for it, and a companion wanted to come. “Nah, you’ll get into a fight,” I said. I felt bad and had to dig myself out of it later, but not too much because I know it would have gone down that way. He just likes correcting people. 7F6E3DA4-F1C5-45A6-B28D-202F3212759C

 

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Inviting to the Assembly Hall - We Sure Weren't Prophets About That, Were We?

In field service I found myself working directly across the road from the Assembly Hall during an assembly. What are the chances?

Now, I am always on the lookout for something quirky to say so as the break the ice. An idea occurred to me as I approached a man in his garage. I thumbed behind me and said: “Man, the talks are so boring in there I just had to take a break and come talk to you - you know how religion is!”

Of course, I didn’t leave it there. I registered the impression made and soon added that I just threw that in for his sake – I didn’t really believe it. Though in SOME cases…. Well, no – not usually in the Assembly Hall. It can be the case in a Kingdom Hall, but not usually at the larger gatherings and practically never at the Regionals.

There is a chance – one must always consider – that a householder will quickly close the door and thereafter repeat to others your final and only words – “he said his meetings are dull.” No matter. This fellow will say bad things about us, anyway. Might as well give him an accurate statement to relate.

It is the season of the Memorial invitations, which are very brief. Big event – we’re inviting people – Memorial of Christ’s death – we do it every year. In closing I mention I have a cool video that explains everything in just over a minute, or I can explain it myself and that will take 45 minutes and which works best for him? But I don’t twist arms and it is always clear there is a third option, to pass on both, which most people take.

Our Assembly Hall is unusual in that it is on a residential road, which has only become more so since we built it. Moreover, though it is a network of roads, it is essentially a cul-de-sac. So there has long been a certain tension simply because of the traffic generated.

To several I explained before I left: “Actually, just so you know – I really do go there, and – it is a standard announcement at every meeting that “we have neighbors and they have kids, so make sure to observe the 30MPH speed limit” so whatever speeders there are are the neighbors and not us. One woman was very gracious and said ‘I’m sure that’s true.’

They are only going to get more neighbors. At the end of their cul-de-sac network is a new tract of over 100 homes being built. That is in addition to the Ryan homes on the right before one reaches the Assembly Hall. That was cornfield when we moved in, and later we found out that Kodak bought it as a buffer to their property so we thought we would never see anything but corn or landscaping.

We turned out to be false prophets on that one, didn’t we?

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Hiking Around the World

The District Overseer's going to walk around the earth. He told us so at the Circuit Assembly. He's not going now, of course. He'll go in the new system. Probably well into the new system, not on day one. He'll backpack, I guess. Go with his wife.

He doesn't worry that he may not get the time off. He will. He doesn't worry about problems crossing the border.* There won't be any borders. He doesn't worry about terrorists. They'll be gone. He doesn't even worry about nasty people. There won't be any of those, either. He's counting on Isa 11:6 taking place:

And the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.    

So he won't get attacked by wolves or leopards or cobras or whatever, abundant and free-roaming though they will be. But he also won't be contending with people with personalities like those of wild beasts. After all, the “knowledge of Jehovah” is not something animals learn about. People do. Even now, there's plenty of people who've swapped animalistic personalities for peaceful ones upon applying Bible principles (and, alas, some who have gone the other way, abandoning faith to revert back to “this life is all there is” mode).

The District Overseer's not worried about money. You won't need any in the new system. (do we really know that?) He's not worried about where to stay. Everyone will be hospitable. He's not worried about much, is he? He's probably not even worried about the weather. This last item he did not specifically mention...I just threw it in...because weather is a big deal for us in Rochester this time of year. This has been a tough winter. But when March 1rst rolls around, it's like how you feel when you've finally called the cops to throw that drunk out of your house. You know he won't go quietly. He'll probably break a lamp or two on the way out. But he'll be gone soon. And so it is with this winter. Before you know it, the Lilac Festival will be here.

I like talks like the District Overseer gave. They're a little childlike, but let's face it, Jehovah's Witnesses have a lot of child in them. We haven't thrown that part of ourselves away. When we first learned of the Bible hope...living forever on a paradise earth....it resonated deep within us. So it's good to be reminded of that initial thrill from time to time. Otherwise, the aggravations of daily life can squeeze it out.

People nowadays get so cultured and refined and dignified and carry on about their business doings and the least turn of politics, that pretty soon you can hardly stand to be around them. But Jehovah's Witnesses....naw, we're not too sophisticated. We like the idea of walking around the earth in the new system. Not that the pull toward greatness and savvy can't take hold of anyone....it can. We, too,  can get caught up in the minor skirmishes of business like everyone else, and start to carry on about it, if we don't ground ourselves in what's really important. Probably that's what's behind Jame's advice to certain characters he came across in the congregation:

Come, now, you who say: “Today or tomorrow we will journey to this city and will spend a year there, and we will engage in business and make profits,” whereas you do not know what your life will be tomorrow. For you are a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing. Instead, you ought to say: “If Jehovah wills, we shall live and also do this or that.    James 4:13-15

(sigh....Torre took this verse very literally, and you couldn't tell him you were doing anything without his correcting you: “IF Jehovah's wills, you will do.….,” he'd point out.)

Paradise earth is a tenet pretty much unique to Jehovah's Witnesses. Everyone else is just passing through, you understand, just doing their time. They're all heaven-bound! Though depending on a church's fundamentalist quotient, some won't quite make it. They end up in hell, burning forever and ever and ever, even though their misdeeds on earth spanned only a few decades! They also tell me of some fundamentalists who attempt to tack on paradise earth sort of as a vague afterthought, since several plain-as-day verses insist upon it. But it doesn't really fit in with their overall view, so the result is a kind of theological mush.

But the JW hope is everlasting life on a paradise earth. That's why the D.O. can carry on about walking the globe and strike a chord with all listening. After all, where, according to the Bible, did God put his human creation? Wasn't it on earth? And why did he put them there? Wasn't it because that's where he wanted them? They'd be there still were it not for an early rebellion. So how is it that God changed tactics somewhere along the line and decided to bring everyone to heaven?

Everyone knows that Jesus, while dying impaled, was flanked by two wrongdoers, one on either side of him. And one said: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your kingdom.” to which he answered: “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23:43

Search as you may, you will not find a translation that renders the subject of Luke 23:43 as anything other than “paradise.” (let me know if you find one; I couldn't) However, the Complete Jewish Bible renders the verse: Yeshua said to him, "Yes! I promise that you will be with me today in Gan-`Eden."  That's as in Garden of Eden, as the word Eden itself means (in Hebrew) “park-like garden.” Right! A paradise earth.

As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.  (Ps 115:16)

To be sure, humans today are rapidly “ruining the earth,” but doesn't the Bible point to a time when “God will bring to ruin those ruining the earth?” (Rev 11:18) Once that has taken place, once God's Kingdom rules over the earth, and we all get into swing of things, at that time the D.O's making his trek.

Oh, alright, alright! So there are some who are going to heaven. But in the overall picture for humans, it's but a tiny footnote. I should have a dollar for everyone on the internet who supposes he's found the hidden Achilles heal of Jehovah's Witnesses: “Only 144,000 are going to heaven, yet there's millions of JWs! HA! So that's why they go door to door looking for converts...they're competing with each other, trying to squeeze into a room not large enough for all of them!"  Sheesh!

Look, life on a paradise earth is not second class for us. It's the fulfillment of God's original purpose. But the Bible also speaks of a "sacred secret," (Colossians 1:26) a "secret" first made known to the early Christian congregation, that there would be some from humankind, a comparatively tiny number, who would share in  rulership of the heavenly government. Since this "secret" was made known shortly after Christ's resurrection, and there are only 144,000 of these who will serve as "kings and priests, very few of them are on earth today. Most, we maintain, have long since lived their lives and been resurrected to heavenly life.

Selection of the 144,000 didn't even begin until after Christ's resurrection. That's why Christ is called the “firstfruits” of the "harvest.” He was first. Thus, Matt 11:11 makes sense: “…....among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” When John was alive and active, the heavenly calling had not yet begun.

Ask them what they're going to do there....all those folks you meet who's churches say they're going to heaven. They haven't a clue. But Rev 5:10 says of all those with the heavenly hope: “…...with your [Jesus'] blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth”

Now, not everyone can be a chief, can they? Not everyone can rule. Not everyone can be “inside the beltway.” There have to be some Indians. That's what the D.O. is, and all the rest of us with the earthly hope. And that's why he looks forward to hiking that great future Appalachian trail stretching around the globe.

...........................................

*like I had returning from Canada.

********************************

 

 

Tom Irregardless and Me      No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash 

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