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Junguiana vol.38 no.2 São Paulo July/Dec. 2020


Will we be living in an even more soulful world post-pandemic?



Claudia Morelli Gadotti

Clinical psychologist with Master Degree in Depth Psychology by Pacifica Graduate Institute - CA, USA. Analitycal member of Sociedade Brasileira de Psicologia Analítica (SBPA) and International Association for Analytical Psychology (IAAP). email: <>




Springing from the Hillmanian idea of affinity between the soul and death, this essay questions whether the experience lived through during the Covid-19 pandemic might provide an opportunity for a more soulful world. Believing that the soul in a competitive society becomes de-eroticized and a hostage of the power complex, the question raised is what would be the way to salvage this at this time of collective trauma. In order to discourse on this question, the author relates the myth of Eros and Psyche in an attempt, through its dynamic, to understand how the myth guides us in the search for Eros and, consequently, rescuing the soul. Brazil is the scenario in which this observation and interpretation is being developed.

Keywords: Keywords Eros, power, soul, materialism, pandemic, Brazil.



Poetry is stored in words - that's all I know

My fate is that I don't know almost everything.

Over nothing I have depths

I have no connections with reality.

Powerful to me is not one who discovers gold.

For me powerful is the one who discovers the

insignificances (of the world and ours).

For that little sentence they praised me as an imbecile.

I am weak for praise.

(Barros, 2013, p. 374)

The definition of archetypal as a qualifier of a timeless, universal and profound experience allows us to understand the collective experience mobilized by the coronavirus pandemic from this archetypal perspective. Like in other periods of world crisis, what comes to us at this time of social trauma is a human substrate with very similar experiences.

Fear, mourning and loneliness are some of these archetypical structures. However, although similar, they are not the same. The metaphor being so widely spread by all means of communication that we are all in the same boat is not true at all, especially in a place where there is so much social inequality, as is the case of Brazil. But above all, it is the creativity psyche itself that makes us look for individual meanings and solutions to collective problems. Our individuality comes from this unique interpretation that each one of us makes of an archetypical experience (HILLMAN, 1984). It is the voice of my individuality reflecting on the question posed in the title of this work.

In order to answer this question, I have used as a basis one of the principal maxims from the Archetypical Psychology of James Hillman (1976), which is that the soul is found where our afflictions meet. We bring the experience and the sense of death with us at all times. If we follow this line of reasoning we would be, during this pandemic time, living through an auspicious context which Hillman (1976) called cultivation of the soul, since the terrible experience of pain and death we are going through shows itself to be an opportunity to delve deeply into the experience and, consequently, to give it soulful meaning. By being submitted to the sad spectacle of so many deaths every day, we would plunge into a richer fountain of food for the soul. Would we really?

But before embarking on this reflection, it is necessary to put forward what I understand by soul - a term that is as wide as it is controversial. The concept of soul in analytical psychology takes us first of all to the concept of 'anima' developed by Carl G. Jung. In Jung's opinion (1956), the 'anima' is the unconscious feminine counterpart in the conscious psychology of men. In short, for Jung (ditto) men have a type of conscious attitude that is more rational while women have a conscious attitude that is emotive and receptive. The work for developing the conscience would be, therefore, that of integrating these unconscious counter-sexual aspects. "In the same way that the 'anima' is transformed into an Eros of the conscience through integration, so too is the 'animus' transformed into a Logos" (JUNG, 2019, par. 33). A concept in itself dated, controversial and easily refutable. The traditional Jungian definition of 'anima' that was compiled in the last century and was strongly influenced by the sexist mentality of the age, but also contained clear tones of subjectivity by its author, views women as mere depositaries of a type of conscience that is different from men's: men think, women feel. Although expressed in a simplified form, it is this dichotomy that has prevailed in the Jungian theory in recent years. On reading Jung's work more closely, however, it is clear that the concept of 'anima' can already be seen more widespread in his writings. The 'anima' is not only the feminine counterpart in men's unconscious, but also the "archetype of life" (JUNG, 1956, par. 678). When stating that the 'anima' "is the life behind consciousness that cannot be completely integrated into it, but out of which springs consciousness" (JUNG, 2000, par. 57), Jung allows us to read the 'anima' as the archetype of the psyche itself. As far as some post-Jungians understand it, like Suzan Rowland (2002) or James Hillman (1985) himself, thinking of the anima from an archetypical viewpoint is not understanding it only in its counter-sexual aspect, but also understanding it as universal, as the definition of archetype itself (JUNG, 1986), and it cannot be attributed to only one gender. In this sense, I sympathize with the idea of 'anima' put forward by Hillman (1976), which is a concept that is almost interchangeable with soul and psyche. 'Anima' as soul - an instance that gives us depth and meaning to life's experiences, our psychological field in itself.

But unlike Hillman (1985), and syntonic with Jung (2014), I also understand the 'anima' linked to a matriarchal dynamic in which Eros prevails over power. 'Anima' as inclusion and antidote to wild and excluding competition. 'Anima' as a retreating movement and introversion, which is opposed to the so-called frenetic activity of the outer world on its way towards outer reality. 'Anima' as a guide for immersing into the unreal world, which develops our symbolic and thus psychological language. Therefore, it will be this feminine archetype, which I will from now on call soul, that this essay will be dealing with.

The fact that this pandemic is occurring has raised questions regarding how much space this soul takes up in contemporary routine, even bringing with it a certain breath of hope that this dimension will finally be widened. Folha de S. Paulo, one of the most important newspapers in Brazil, published some research (SANT'ANNA, 2020) in which it asked a sample of 2065 Brazilians if they believed that they would become better people after the pandemic. Seventy-three percent of those interviewed answered that they would. This hopeful answer is probably due to various factors, but what seems to have been a common denominator to the feelings that came out was the impression that, in the first few days of quarantine, the pragmatic materialism in the contemporary world would finally die out on account of the imperative needs of isolation. More than just material resources, the logic of isolation has required human resources to be potentialized in order to beat the coronavirus. The pandemic would mobilize the human need to relate lovingly with each other as, without empathy and collaboration, we would not come out the other side of this emerging public health situation. The empty streets have been replaced by an epidemic of solidarity among neighbors and a huge increase in virtual artistic expression and messages of hope and fraternity. As a result of the reduction in toxic waste, river water has become cleaner and the air less polluted. Social networks have become the center table for gathering a large family together, which is now no longer restricted to each individual's close relatives but to all the citizens around the world that have also been, like everyone else, in their private caves protecting themselves from a common enemy. The collective shadow now projected onto the virus had become explicit and palpable. In a typical post-modern paradox, we have never been so close to our brothers and sisters around the world than we were in the first few weeks of isolation. Technology and globalization have played a fundamental role in this brotherhood and, consequently, in this hope of a more soulful world that was created during this first phase. But what is really clamoring for change to the point of transforming the agony of millions of deaths into hope for a better world? What should be left behind so that the world may become more soulful?

One of the hypotheses for this expectation of a better world can be attributed to the sensation that, at the beginning of social isolation, a kind of collective memory of the period in the history of humanity was reactivated when consumption was not the omnipresent guiding force of human behavior. The experience of this unusual image brought up the hopeful question of whether this might be the moment when predatory capitalism would finally run out of steam, thus closing an anachronic dynamic in which we are all accomplices. After all, contemporary man follows the same behavior patterns as our ancestors did, who lived in times of scarcity, when competition between hunters was justified and the predatory relationship was installed (RIBEIRO, 2019). The law of survival of the fittest made sense under the precarious survival conditions of paleolithic man. The warlike masculinity of Aires with all its combative aggression was an absolute necessity. But nowadays hunters are observed waging war with each other in a scenario of excess and abundance of resources. Defenses, which used to be creative because they were adaptive, have become destructive and no longer make any sense.

However, at the same time as abundance and excess define us as post-modern man, the unfair distribution of this potential can also clearly be seen. On the world stage, and very much so in Brazil, resources, even though abundant, are not available to all. The accumulation of wealth and the unfair distribution of income are the main characters in this soap opera that we watch every day on the capitalist stage. Adding and not dividing, excluding instead of including, discriminating to set oneself apart so as to make sure of your own worth. The great capitalist God is omnipresent and reigns supreme, spreading his quantitative and hierarchical commandments into all spheres of human relationships. In loving relationships, we must not "feel down" or "be less". With our children, we must not give in but must make them obey, respecting the hierarchical order of power. Also, on social networks people look for profit, on Facebook they want to get a higher number of likes and on Instagram it is not enough to be happy, one has to show off that one is the happiest person. Even happiness bows down to the great capitalist sovereign. Our daily lives are filled with the soul being suffocated by this capitalism in which the buzz words are compete, win, accumulate and exclude. These are words that reduce the universe of the soul. Just like the respiratory syndrome caused by the coronavirus, we feel suffocated by the lack of air/soul ('pneumo') that is the breath of life.

[...] The Greek word psyche is closely related to these terms and is linked to psycho - blow [...] These connections clearly show us that the names given to the soul in Latin, Greek and Arabic are linked to the idea of air in movement and of the 'cold breath of the sprits', (JUNG, 1986, par. 664)

Compete, win, have and be more. Power superimposes Eros. Children's education, loving relationships, friendships and the various relationships with others are identified regarding power, where naturally there should be Eros reigning. It is important to remember that, for Jung (2013a), Eros was not related to sex but to human relationships in general. The materialistic and perverse logic of this predatory capitalism inverts the nature of relationships. Human relationships of otherness do not discuss with power, but if they do, they will be relationships based on submission, dominance and fear. Power as a legitimate archetypical force should be restricted to a particular sphere of human relationships, but it reaches beyond and spills over into all the other spheres of exchange between people. "Power is a demon that is as big, ancient and primordial as Eros" (JUNG,1983, par. 42).

Eros having been subjugated by power gets diverted from his route of creative approximation between people and becomes an instrument of submission himself; for example, in relationships involving prostitution and domestic violence. Eros, the archetypical force that brings people together with his arrows and joins up with Psyche (with the soul) is not present, which places us in a de-eroticized and thus de-souled world. In the Apuleius story, Psyche searches out Eros and Eros becomes human when marrying Psyche. The soul/psyche suffers until she meets Eros. Regarding the initial quest, therefore, living in a de-eroticized world in which the predominant dynamic is competition and power is to live in a world where the soul, in fact, does not find any room for itself.

Unlike the progress myth, the fall myth postulates that the modern western world is acting out a tragedy, because it is going through the impoverishment of human life in which the soul is dying as is out of step with the sacred (TARNAS, 2007). The de-souled and de-sacred world is a failed one, as it is a world without soulful resources for dealing with human emergencies, like a pandemic scenario.

To admit modernity means to declare oneself voluntarily failed. It is to make a new kind of vow of poverty and chastity, and even to renounce - which is even more painful - the halo of saintliness that always requires the sanction of history. Prometheus' sin was to remain forever without any history. In this sense modern man is a sinner (JUNG, 2013b, par. 152).

The soul of the world ('anima mundi') needs to be rescued from its suffocation, from its lack of air, from the stiffening of its lungs and, for this to occur, an erotic exchange of individual psyches is needed. The soul locked up in day-to-day materialism needs to find its best expression in loving relationships. In the myth by Apuleius, Psyche has to get out of the disenchantment into which she had been thrown as a result of Eros' fleeing and go and try to finally belonging to the world of the Gods.

The following reflection will be, therefore, one of thinking of the pandemic experience in terms of the myth and following the trail that it gives us so that Psyche (soul) can meet Eros. From this leaning and at this time when we are going through collective trauma, what is the way the myth shows us so that the soul, on meeting Eros, can "enchant" the world?

In brief, the myth tells the story of Psyche, the most beautiful daughter of a king who, guided by the oracle, sends her to live in a castle full of riches by the side of her invisible husband, Eros the god of love. In spite of orders from her husband never to find out his identity, Psyche, urged on by her older sisters' envy of her wealth and comfort, ends up lighting up her husband's face while he sleeps and awakening the beautiful Eros with a drop of hot oil. On realizing that he has been betrayed, Eros flees the enchanted castle leaving Psyche devastated. In desperation, she appeals to her mother- in-law, unaware that it was Aphrodite who had planned her abduction because she was so envious of her beauty. Going ahead with her plan against Psyche, Aphrodite sets her some tasks to carry out before she can find Eros again. The first one was that Psyche had to separate and classify various types of grain that were all mixed up and, even though the task was impossible, Psyche managed to do it thanks to the help of an army of ants. The second task was to collect fluffs of golden wool from the backs of some aggressive rams, and in this one Psyche was instructed by the nymph Cana to collect the fluff that was caught on the branches of trees as soon as the animals had fallen asleep in the cool of the afternoon. The third task was for Psyche to take Aphrodite a flask of water from Lake Styx, where dragons lurked in the surrounding caves. With the help of an eagle, that takes to Psyche a jug of water, Psyche is once again successful. When Aphrodite noticed that Psyche was going to succeed in all the tasks, she gave her the ultimate most impossible one, which was to bring her a box containing a little of Persephone's beauty, which could be found near Hades, in the underworld. Psyche, following the instructions received from the Tower, manages to reach Hades and get the box, but she could not resist the temptation of having a bit of the beauty for herself and opened it. When she did this, the vapor that came out of the box made her faint, but in the end, Eros rescues her. Aphrodite ends up accepting her in Olympus and Eros and Psyche are united forever.

The myth - which is the search for love (Eros) by the soul (Psyche) - is started off by envy, which is a human sentiment that at its creative end is an important way of getting to know one's own desires projected onto others, but at its negative end can become very harmful (BYINGTON, 2002). The destructive aspect of envy is a modern instrument for potentializing each person's worth on the social network market. The greater the desire (envy) I provoke in someone else, the greater the worth added to my personal image. The logic of power in the post-modern scenario feeds on envy. In the myth, it is Aphrodite's envy that causes Psyche to take action, in a positive expression of how envy can move us in the direction of our desires. But, on the other hand, it is her destructive envy and later that of her sisters' that keeps her away from Eros. If on the one hand the god of Beauty is in favor of valuing aesthetics and sensuality (BARCELLOS, 2019), on the other hand it is also in favor of the superficiality of appearance and rivalry. Barcellos also underlines the relationship between Aphrodite and her lover Aires, the god of war. Both of them are competitive, which makes the Aphrodite and Aires pair, in their negative polarity, reign supreme in a society in which people are mere objects at the service of the capitalist foundation. In the same way, the sisters' envy of Psyche and her lifestyle is also related to her wealth and physical comfort, expressing yet again a hyper-valuation of material things to the detriment of the soul. Unlike her sisters, Psyche falls in love not with what she can see, that is to say what he looks like, but rather with what she is experiencing and imagining by her husband's side. By giving in to the intrigues of her sisters, Psyche gets sucked into the materialistic logic in which they are immersed. As mentioned above, post-modern society, just like Aphrodite and the envious sisters, is also guided by this logic of power through the voracious desire of individuals to overwhelm others. This devotion to the material and consequently to the impoverishment of the fantasy world of the soul in contemporary times is personified in the images of Aphrodite and the sisters being an extremely harmful dynamic to the cultivation of the soul.

But what ways does the myth offer us for our psyches to be freed from this suffocation and to find Eros in this time of collective asphyxiation? What shall we do to breathe more deeply after the coronavirus pandemic is over?

The first guidance given, the one to separate the grain, talks precisely of the need for discrimination and collaboration. We will not come out of this confusion of feelings and information that the Covid-19 crisis has brought about without the necessary discrimination regarding facts and data. The profusion of fake news mixed with reliable information forms a tangled confusion of knowledge. The daily task and ethical duty that each individual has with society is, at this moment in time, to "separate the wheat from the chaff". Pulped up ignorance is harmful to the whole of society.

Collaboration is the other solution suggested by the myth so that the many variables being presented with relation to this disease can be faced. The pandemic experience explains the limits of competitive and perverse dynamics and how ineffective it is in its essence. Individualism and the struggle for power are no help at all at a time of collective trauma. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us that there is no good health for the individual if there is none for the whole of society. We will not be able to administer this global crisis if we do not get out of competitive logic and move into one of collaboration and empathy. There will be no way out unless individuals get connected with a wider sphere, by opening up and exchanging with what is around them. All over the world, collective attitudes of solidarity can be seen and quite often, as in the case of Brazil, private initiative has played an important role by supplementing the lack of a government health policy which, still clinging to a power dispute, is unable to provide the support needed for the crisis that has been emerging. We have done some homework on this question.

The second task requires Psyche to take Aphrodite a bit of the precious golden wool from the back of wild rams. Rafael Lopez-Pedraza (2010) reminds us of the symbolism of rams linked to the sun myths. "This was assimilated with the sun and symbolizes the destructive power of the conscienceso it seems to refer to a masculine solar conscience that is burning and destructive." (LOPEZ-PEDRAZA, 2010, p. 85). Therefore, in this second challenge Psyche is explicitly pushed toward the aggressive and destructive polarity of the solar conscience through direct contact with the gleam of gold. Gold in alchemy is the goal of opus and represents the supremacy and perfection of the material. Gold is the lion, the king. "We can imagine the desire for gold as sentiments that we already know: to be as good as gold, we and our golden hair finally together as one, to be shining forever and without any stains" (Hillman, 2011, p. 362). Drawing near to gold means, therefore, to be in a narcissistic dynamic that is as characteristic nowadays it has always been, as mentioned above. It is not enough just to be good; we have to be as good as gold, without any stains and without any suffering. Another aspect directly relating to this golden narcissism is the economic value attached to gold, which originated centuries ago the race to greed and power (LOPEZ-PEDRAZA, 2010). It is worth pointing out here that we do not intend to minimize the importance of money, but simply to emphasize the difference between necessity and hybris caused by the 'divine' quality of gold. Having been trust toward the rams in the blazing sunshine, Psyche is therefore driven to be devoured by the negative aspect of the economic complex, by the power and by the dispute that, as mentioned above, keeps Eros' soul away from her. The golden wool is what Psyche needs, but it is also, at the same time, what represents great danger for her. Throughout the pandemic, the same ambivalence can be felt. If on the one hand economic development is calling for everything to continue, on the other hand social isolation and the consequent pause in economic routine have been the only chance for confronting the greatest public health crisis we have ever lived through. The solution that was put forward for the second challenge is, therefore, of immense importance for the soul/Psyche and brings with it an important lesson - the ability to wait. Psyche is instructed to wait for early evening when the sun is going down. So, just like Psyche, we should wait until the frenzy of midday with its heat of ignorance would give way to a more solid knowledge of the disease. The epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch (2020, Folha) states the same ambivalence regarding the speed at which the scientific research is taking place, by saying that on the one hand, it is a blessing but that, on the other, it is also a curse, as it compromises the control mechanism and the quality of the results.

At first, the world went into waiting mode. The extrovert solar rush was replaced by silence in the streets and by each individual being alone with themselves inside their caves waiting for some knowledge of how to combat the evil that was haunting the population as a whole. It was necessary for us to wait inside our temples of cure and to bear the isolation as way of saving ourselves. Some people made their caves into pleasant evenings in which the midday heat had already subsided and waited patiently. But, unfortunately, the gleam and the seductive power of gold spoke louder than the quietness of waiting. The economic situation's lion roared loudly calling everyone out of their caves and the waiting that was required to reach the cool of the evening was forgotten. In Brazil, with statistics still showing figures of around 1200 deaths per day from Covid-19, (Folha de São Paulo, 2020) commercial establishments have opened up their doors again. Our psyches went straight back to the well-known game that prompts us into action with its huge mirror of vanities, suppressing once again the possibility of intra-psychic and therefore psychological work. The lion that roars is also the one of manic extroversion.

But, as we well know, Psyche still has the desire to find Eros again. The following tasks refer to our need to face up to two dark aspects of our psyche: hate and fear of death.

First of all, Psyche is challenged to take Aphrodite a jug of water from lake , where dangerous dragons lurk. Etymologically speaking, the word Styx is associated with hate (KERÉNYI, 2006), which is a feeling that is often repressed in the shadows and that is why it is kept in the unconscious without being duly elaborated. Hate is usually transferred to an object that represents something that is in the individual and that they need to interiorize; in other words, the shadow is projected onto people who personify everything that we don't want to confront within ourselves - the strange and unknown of our psyche. Very often hate is projected onto an object that personifies the difference in class, whether toward the richest or the poorest, the archetype of power being updated through this web of projections. Hate is projected onto someone that, because of a certain social condition, becomes different from what we narcissistically call standard. Hate for a part of ourselves that is repressed is projected onto another.

But it is in social media that this sentiment stands out in a more explicit way, through haters - those people who identify mainly with the sentiment of hate. Anonymously, and from inside their homes, these people are allowed to vomit their dark shadows into the intimacy of someone who, very often, is no more than just an image at the service of projections from others.

In yet another post-modern paradox, social networks build bridges between distant neighbors across which not only friends can pass, but enemies too.

In the myth for overcoming hate, Psyche is given help from an eagle. Eagles are associated with the gods and, thanks to the acuteness of their eyesight, can look directly into the Sun. Besides being a symbol of power, strength and courage, eagles also represent spiritual development that enables them to be on familiar terms with the power of the gods. When holding the jug, a symbol of feminine receptiveness, the eagle sets up spirituality that flows between the two polarities - the masculine and the feminine. This duality of water is also described by Hillman (2011) through its toxic and curative capability. Hillman points out the feature of an eagle's beak that is originally useful for feeding but that, after growing too much, it becomes so curved that it gets in the way of eating. That which feeds is also what kills.

Psyche manages to confront hate with the help of a masculine principal but is supported by a feminine structure. The eagle, representing a dual spirit, shows how necessary dialogue between opposing poles is for confronting the destructive sentiments that divert psyche from her path.

During the pandemic, in Brazil and in other countries, the projections of hate and the disputes for political power have been center stage the whole time and have overshadowed the urgent issue of public health. A smoke screen made of droplets of water from the river of hate have not allowed there to be enough visibility for the population to be able to face the truth of the emerging situation they were being presented with. We are going through something similar to what José Saramago (1995) describes in his book "Blindness". Faced with the public emergency situation, the dragons of violence have taken charge of the situation, and the population, who is also infected with blindness, feels too impotent to deal with so much destructiveness.

Just like Psyche stood stock still when faced with the challenge, we also have gone silent when faced with the political war that is taking place based on hate and ignorance. We are unable to get round the dragons, and the presence of the eagle's balance is not being felt.

The fourth and last of Psyche's tasks is one that we have all been forced to carry out during the pandemic: Plunging into the world of death. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it the sad challenge of living with a huge number of deaths every day. Just like Psyche, we have also been called to plunge into Hades and, through this contact, set off to find the soul. As stated at the beginning, for the archetypical psychologist, living with death is one of the possible ways of cultivating soul: "it carries our death; our death is housed in the soul" (Hillman, 1985 , p. 23). But Psyche is also required to bring back the box of beauty that is in Hades, since Aphrodite's stock is running out. In the same way, our plunge into Hades is also important for cultivating a new perspective of beauty, seeing as the notion of beauty linked to the narcissistic contemporary dynamic does not meet the needs of the soul. In this fourth task, one learns that it will only be through the experience of death that we will be able to salvage another quality of beauty that is no longer materialistic but psychologic. The myth also shows that there is beauty in finitude and in our states of depression and not only in the vanity of the definitive that generates rivalry between people. The beauty in Hades salvages what was the ancient sense of beauty for the Greeks, like wisdom and dignity. Experiencing the impotence, death and fear brought about by the pandemic imposes on us the need to leave behind our identification with the pride that causes disputes and move toward Psyche and her ethical values. Above all, death salvages our humanity.

In Brazil, however, speaking about accepting death is not only symbolic but also literal. A denial movement led by the president himself has spread around the country, bringing with it serious developments regarding how to deal with the crisis. For many people, Covid-19 is only a light flu and only some people who were already debilitated by other illnesses would die, as if this in itself was not enough for the government to take due preventive measures. Once again, the power complex has found a way to superimpose Eros.

Having expressed the above, it is easy to confirm what our eyes have already witnessed on a daily basis: We probably will not have a more soulful world after the pandemic. The idea that this crisis would transform the lifestyle of people making the world more eroticized, and therefore more soulful, is yet one more of the romantic idealizations to which we have clung from time to time and onto which we project the image of a new Messiah. This experience has brought about a feeling of impotence and vulnerability of collective proportions that could be considered as being the spring-off point for a new less narcissistic conscience, but which on its own is not enough to get rid of a dynamic that is already so deep-rooted. Transforming uncertainties of public health into a political issue linked to power is a defensive collective symptom and at the same time a perverse one. We have been led up the steep rockface in the hope that we will be abducted by Eros disguised as a monster, but what we did not expect was that our psyches would be taken by the real monstrous creature, leaving us devasted and in search of love.



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Received on 09/14/2020
Revised on 11/18/2020

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