Jack Frost

        

“…art cries out for an artist. It is plainly impossible that so standard a work as the Universe should remain anonymous.” – G.K. Chesterton

One morning my sister-in-law captured a photo of the top image that was left on her windshield following a below freezing night. Before scraping the windshield clear, the photo was taken from inside the vehicle and preserved. Jack Frost, depicted on the left, in using my sister-in-law’s windshield as his canvass, had left this awe-inspiring wintry portrait for us all to enjoy and marvel. Until the window pane came into practical use, Jack Frost had no medium on which to share his divine gift.

Starting in late 19th century literature, more developed characterizations of Jack Frost depict him as a sprite-like character, sometimes appearing as a sinister mischief-maker or as a hero. He is traditionally said to leave the frosty, fern-like patterns on windows on cold winter mornings and nipping the extremities in cold weather. Overtime, however, frost has become far less prevalent in the modern world due to the advance of double-glazing, but Jack Frost remains a well-known figure in popular culture. He is sometimes described or depicted with paint brush and bucket coloring the autumnal foliage red, yellow, brown, and orange.

As a retired high school mathematics teacher of Algebra and Geometry, the frozen design caught my eye and brought to mind a special branch of mathematics; fractal geometry.

Benoit B.Mandelbrot (20 November 1924 – 14 October 2010) was a Polish-born, French and American mathematician with broad interests in the practical sciences, especially regarding what he labeled as “the art of roughness” of physical phenomena and “the uncontrolled element in life.” He referred to himself as a “fractalist”. He is recognized for his contribution to the field of fractal geometry, which included coining the word “fractal”(see the image to the right of Jack Frost), as well as developing a theory of “roughness and self-similarity” in nature. Mandelbrot was one of the first to use computer graphics to create and display fractal geometric images(see the complex colorful image furthest to the right of Jack Frost), leading to his discovering the Mandelbrot Set in 1979. He showed how visual complexity can be created from simple rules. He said that things typically considered to be “rough”, a “mess” or “chaotic”, like clouds, shorelines or mountains, actually had a “degree of order.” Our frost-fern, since a part of nature, in like manner, does not satisfy the rules of classical geometry.

The frost-fern would be found by most to be a thing of beauty. An inquisitive child without cynicism would believe that it was fashioned by an impish fellow named Jack Frost. Mandelbrot, through fractal-geometry, brings order to the chaos of the image. In so doing provides an explanation and purpose behind its beauty.

While everyone is delighted by beauty, and the more alive among us are positively fascinated by it, few are explicitly aware that we can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity. Most eminent physicists of the twentieth century agree that beauty is the primary standard for scientific truth. Likewise, the best of contemporary theologians are also exploring with renewed vigor the aesthetic dimensions of divine revelation. Honest searchers after truth can hardly fail to be impressed that these two disciplines, science and theology, so different in methods, approaches and aims, are yet meeting in this and other surprising and gratifying ways. – Thomas Dubay (The Evidential Power of Truth and Beauty)

The fern-frost design on the windshield is evidence of both truth and beauty. Truth in the sense that it IS, and that some action formed it. And beauty in that it impels appreciation from the witness. Jack frost, in the imaginative and wondering mind of the child, is seen as a marvelous impish instrument of the Divine Artist in His own creation. A finished novel proves an author. An existing building proves an architect. A rescued damsel proves a hero. The forgiven sinner proves a savior. And our frozen art proves an artist.

A child, again in the frost-fern, sees the artist as magical. But, by the premise that beauty is truth we can see the artist as mystical. As the pencil is the medium by which we lay down our thoughts; so, too, our universal natural environment is the medium by which God conveys His one all-inclusive thought. Whether this chaotic yet ordered incident of nature is believed to be the work of fairyland, or of scientific cause, the certainty is this; that it catches the imagination, compels inquiry, inspires human wonder and inclines the practical thinker toward the impractical.

The frost-fern is not an accident of nature. But, rather, is the intent of a loving God, whose purpose is to instill in the hearts of those who are captivated by such natural events that they need not fear any feeling of being lost, alone or abandoned. For what they see before them is in reality a divine gesture communicating the most desired comforting reassurance; “I AM here!”

The mercy of God has provided the tools of science and study of theology to once again allow fallen man to re-discover his Creator through understanding that which His creation reveals.

 

For those who are interested in viewing some awesome fractal designs , go to You Tube and key in: “Fractals The Hidden Dimension.” You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Why Identify with the Stations

The Stations of the Cross are a 14-step Catholic devotion that commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day on Earth as a man. The 14 devotions, or stations, focus on specific events of His last day, beginning with His condemnation. The stations are commonly used as a mini pilgrimage as the individual moves from station to station.

In any Catholic Church along the side walls will be found, in sequence, the Stations of the Cross. Stations one through seven along one side and eight through fourteen along the other. The pilgrim before each station recites the following prayer: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world.” The Church grants an indulgence for anyone who completes the Stations. An indulgence is “a way to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins”. It may reduce the temporal punishment after death for a soul in the state or process of purification called Purgatory.

Before each station after reciting the prayer given above, the pilgrim then meditates on that particular element of Christ’s Passion. The pilgrim should not only meditate upon the Lord’s Passion but on any trial that burdens his/her life, as well. We can join our migraine headache to the crown of thorns; our chronic back aches to His scourging; our weakened legs, by age or malady, to the weight of His cross; our arthritic hands and feet to the divine hands and feet pinned to the cross. Those enslaved by addiction or isolated through atheism are not forgotten in His saying: “Father why have you abandoned me.” And the homeless find refuge in the knowledge that the “Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head.” It is therapeutic and freeing to attach our suffering with that of Christ’s. He encourages us to do so when He invites us to “Take up our cross and follow Him.” Simon of Cyrene shows that we do not have to carry our crosses in life alone. It was he who lessened Christ’s burden. And it is Christ who lessens ours. This is so, because all the sins and comprehensive burdens that constitute the totality of human suffering were the substance of that cross.

The Via Dolorosa was the road that Christ walked from His condemnation, to the instrument of that condemnation on Calvary. Along the way He was wept for by those who sympathized and spat upon and mocked by those who did not. The unrelenting lash was taken to the back of the Creator by His creatures. Urging the Divine Lover on to the fulfillment of His mission by His beloved. Not greater pain did He endure than that.

Station 1Jesus is condemned to death

“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 

Station 2Jesus carries his cross

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha.

Station 3Jesus falls the first time

My Jesus, the heavy burden of my sins is on Thee, and bears Thee down beneath the cross.

Station 4: Jesus meets his mother

Jesus tells His Mother and the apostle John: “Woman behold your son. Son behold your Mother.” From that time on John took Mary the Mother of Jesus into his house. At that moment, Mary became the Mother of the Church, and John the first member of the Church.

Station 5: Simon of Cyrene carries Christ’s cross

And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.

Station 6: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

Station 7: Jesus falls the second time

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.

Station 8: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem

“Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Station 9: Jesus falls the third time

I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Station 10: Jesus is stripped of his garments

And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull), they offered him wine to drink, mingled with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.

Station 11: Jesus is nailed to the cross

They have pierced my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.

Station 12: Jesus dies on the cross

 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.

Station 13: Jesus is taken down from the cross

After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away his body.

Station 14: Jesus is laid in the tomb

The tomb was sealed and a guard set to keep watch. At no other time in history was a guard set to watch over a tomb because there was concern that the dead would rise. The strangest aspect of this event was that it was his enemies who thought Christ might rise, not His friends.

The Stations of the Cross is a wonderful Lenten exercise. For in it we are encouraged to continue our Lenten promises of the three pillars of lent: Almsgiving, prayer and fasting. Almsgiving is our commitment to our neighbor. Prayer is our commitment to God. And fasting is our commitment to improving ourselves. When a person sacrifices /gives up something/ for the forty days of lent it is a form of fasting; beyond not eating meat on Fridays during lent or a periodic light meal. It means giving up that which is a possession; one that has become possessive. It could be food, beverage, forms of social media, TV use or any negative habit hindering personal growth. If we experience some angst or tension in so doing then we have found where change is needed. To return to such practices in the same strength of habit or in some cases, at all, defeats the purpose of Lent. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are life changing events from which we all share the benefits. He turned the world upside down to turn it right side up for the forgiveness of sins and thereby reopened the gates of heaven through reconciliation with God. There is no going back. Likewise we, too, if we are to perfect ourselves, must guard against returning to those ways that have stifled improvements toward perfection. A step forward followed by a step back is no improvement at all.

Will we fall along the way? Surely we can. Yet, we need not fail, because we fall. Our example to follow is that of Christ along the Via Dolorosa. For on that road He fell three times and yet rose from each fall to continue on to His crowing success. So we, too, must not allow our stumbles along our pilgrimage to deter us from fulfilling the three Pillars of Lent. In the end we will be better for it. For God finds us charming in our contrite efforts toward truth and goodness that are found in His will.

Yes, Christ fell three times. However, He managed to save the world nonetheless. We have but to save ourselves. Our Lenten task may be a difficult one. Yet, how infinitely greater was His, and still He finished His divine mission. Who then can fail in knowing that?

A weekly Stations of the Cross is time well spent in keeping one on track toward a successful Lent. And in so doing we play a functional role in fulfilling Christ’s promise: “Watch, I make all things new.” This is true of us all; even for the seemingly least of us.  For we are all unique and equally important in his eyes.

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Like Father, Like Son: One and the Same In Pain

michaelangelos-sistine-chapel“God, the Father thinks, but he does not think as we do. We have a succession of thoughts. God, the Father has only one thought that He generated. We generate thoughts too, except that His was one that contains all knowledge. His thought, that Word, that became flesh is called a Son.  One did not pre-exist the other and is eternal.” – Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

A little child came home from catechism to an unbelieving father. “What did you learn in catechism today?” “That there are three Persons in God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – and they are all eternal.” The father said, “Don’t be stupid. I am your father, you are my son. I existed a long time before you did.” The little boy said, “No, you didn’t. You didn’t begin to be a father, until I began to be a son.”

This concept of the Holy Trinity can best be explained by use of a triangle. A triangle is composed of three separate and distinct lines and angles. Yet, although independent, are all together as one triangle. In the Holy Trinity all are one thought generated by God. All happens at one time and in that instant from all eternity. That is why Jesus, when questioned by Caiaphas, was able to say: ” I and My Father are one and the same.” C.S. Lewis gives another wonderful description of this Holy Trinity in terms of a shared relationship. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the love that binds them. After all God is love.

It is written in the Holy Bible that Jesus sighed when he cured the lame, the lepers, the blind and those possessed by demons. When the hemorrhaging woman touched His robe, Jesus stopped and asked, “Who touched My robe?” For He said He felt energy flow out from Him. When He raised Lazarus from the dead He groaned. So Jesus, did suffer the things that we suffer, because He took on the particular symptoms of each in their healing. He also endured upon the cross, in our stead, not only physical pain but, as well, the enormous weight of humanity’s sinful vices that too often precede pain. There would be no maladies for mankind to suffer if not for Original Sin.

Now on the cross we must again recall what Jesus told Caiaphas; “I and My Father are one and the same.” The crucifixion of Christ was an act of deicide; the killing of God. So then at Calvary God the Father in the second person of the trinity, Christ, was on that cross. And in that endured the trial of crucifixion through the Son. So we can say that God felt pain. Because He was there in the person of Christ.

As Abraham in his readiness to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of his obedience to God, so too, is God obedient unto Himself in the obedience of Jesus. No better example of obedience in the face of extreme trial is there than when Jesus’ hour had come. With His impending fate ahead He prayed the following in the Garden of Olives: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Through His human nature Jesus agonized as we all would when confronted with death. Yet God could not stay His own inevitable execution, because the purpose of the incarnation could not be fulfilled without the event of Calvary. God so loved the world that He was willing to humble Himself before His creatures by becoming one of them. And in so doing had given the world a second chance to know Him in the most intimate personal way. Through self-sacrifice for the remittance of the original sin of disobedience God is obedient to Himself and allows Himself to be hung upon the cross in the second person of Christ. This divine obedience to love negates the original disobedience to love. To free mankind from the wages of sin – death – God had to undergo His own wrath at the hands of His creatures whom He most loved.  “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” God being obedient to God died unto himself to set the stage for the Resurrection. And isn’t that the message of Jesus’ passion: For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 16:25

Saint Thomas after being removed from his doubt in touching the wounds of the risen Christ proclaimed: “My Lord and my God.” And in that saying is resolved  for all who doubt, by the greatest doubter of all, any question that the Father and Son are One and the same.

 

 

 

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Lent and The Paradox Of The Cross

As the liturgical year shifts from Christmas to Lent I offer here an appropriate re-blog for the day after Ash Wednesday.

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

LENT

The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; with the participants being marked with ashes and the words “Repent and believe in the Good News” are prayed. The expectation is to imitate the example of Jesus’ prayer and fasting in the desert by our prayers, fasting and charitable works. Lent is a time for all followers of Jesus to examine their consciences and reflect on changes each can make in their lives and resolve to incorporate them, not just during the Lenten season, but as a permanent improvement as they strive to grow spiritually and perfect their souls in Him. “In this sense, Lent is a movement from one point of view to another, or, perhaps, from one interpretation of life to a different interpretation.” – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Lent is a forty day preparation for Easter Sunday; beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending at the Triduum (the three-day period which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday). As discussed…

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The Cardinal: A Saint Valentine’s Day Story

A Happy and Blessed Saint Valentine Day to all.
-Alan

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

cardinals-in-snow3“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” – G.K. Chesterton

The Cardinal is one of the most popular birds. It is the official bird of as many as seven eastern states. It has extended northward for decades from its primary habitat in the southeast. The Cardinal brightens winter days with its distinctive red color. As well its whistled song can be heard as far north as southeastern Canada. Bird feeders stocked with sunflower seeds may have aided its northward spread. – referenced, “Audubon Society”

When I was a young boy undergoing physical therapy as a result of polio, I would attend school on a half day basis until the therapy had best prepared me for full days. I was scheduled for therapy three days per week at the local Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, since being released from the convalescent hospital, where I had spent nine months in recovery since the…

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The Decline

This silver crucifix that I wear, I wear in reparation. I was in a Jewish jewelry store one day in New York, where I had known the jeweler for twenty to twenty-five years. He said to me, “I have some silver crucifixes for you.” And he gave me a bag of crucifixes, over a hundred of them. I said, “Where did you get them?” “Oh,” he said, “from sisters; they brought them in. They told me, ‘We’re not going to wear the crucifix any more; it divides us from the world. How much will you give us for them?'” The jeweler said, “I weighed them out thirty pieces of silver.” Then he said, “What’s wrong with your church? I thought that meant something to you.” so I told him what was wrong. Three months later I received him into the church .Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Before discussing what was wrong with the church, Archbishop Sheen would first, most likely, have shown the jeweler what was right with it. What is right with the Church is its head; Jesus Christ. What is wrong with it had been wrought by a schism among its custodians. The Church is both mystical and institutional. It is living in that it’s founder is living as the Mystical Body. It is institutional because it is in this world and was left to men to run. That which is made by God is sacred and unchangeable. Those who, like the sisters in Sheen’s story, think that the Church divides them from the world are correct. When Christ was crucified there were two divisions of humanity in attendance. Those who wanted Him to come down and those who understood that he could not. Those who are of the world and wanted Him to come down only see the pain in suffering. (This is why G.K. Chesterton said: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, but, rather, has been found to hard and left untried.”) Those who are in the world and understood that He could not come down see the love in suffering. These sisters saw the pain. The jeweler saw the love.

[According to the most recent data from solid sources, in the year 2000, 18 million Americans identified themselves as former Catholics — those who had left the Faith. One generation later, as of 2016, that number had swelled to 30 million.

Eleven million more Catholics have left the Faith since the turn of the century. There are more Catholics over 50 than under 50. And there are more Catholics over 65 than under 30. And the percentage of young people — those under 30 — in the Church is a smaller percentage than almost any other religions.

Although there are conflicting data on the actual number of Catholics in the United States, a safe number is about 73 million. Thirty million Catholics, as we said before, no longer call themselves Catholics. Just another 6 or 7 million leaving the Faith, and there will be more former Catholics than those who still identify as Catholics. Eleven percent fewer parishes since 2000; 18 percent fewer priests; and only two thirds what priests there are in active ministry. The other third are too old for active ministry. Graduate-level seminarians essentially flat lined. The slight increase in the numbers of priestly ordinations is nowhere near enough the number needed to replace those dying — not by half, in fact.

Infant baptisms off by a third. Adult conversions down by 40 percent. First Holy Communions and confirmations also both down. And marriages — perhaps the most significant barometer for the future life of the Church — down almost 50 percent since the year 2000. In fact, the only two sacraments that there aren’t officially horrible numbers for are the only ones no official records are kept for: confession and anointing of the sick. But any Catholic with working eyes knows the number of confessions has also fallen off the cliff. Even the number of Catholic funerals since the year 2000 has dropped by 16 percent.

This entire disaster — and that is what it is — must be placed squarely at the feet of the U.S. hierarchy, who have done nothing meaningful to arrest the decline and have in many ways helped speed it along. What business would tolerate such horrible results from its managers and directors? It would have fired them more than a decade ago for complete incompetence.

This is a Church in full-blown retreat.]  – Michael Voris (Church Militant)

The Church’s doors are always open to the world. But the world’s ways are not the Church’s ways. Once the Church begins adjusting to meet the ways of the world, then it no longer can be the refuge sought by those lost souls who have been discouraged by the world. For the world cannot save souls; Only God can. This is why the Church cannot, in the least, allow the poison of politics to pervert Her doctrine.

When the three wise men left Bethlehem, after paying homage to the new-born Christ, they returned by a different route than the one by which they came. Their literal purpose was to keep the murderous Herod from finding the child. So then, figuratively, it can be said that anyone who comes to Christ, with a contrite heart, does not return by the way he/she came. They are transformed. They do not retrace the paths of their old lives, but, rather, take on the path of Christ; “Deny yourself, take up your cross and come follow me.”  However, if a desperate one decides to come to the church for a promised steadfast answer to the chaotic world, only to yet find the world; then neither does that one find the answer to chaos, nor a steadfast Church.

A religion that does not hold fast to its doctrine is like a bar that begins to serve watered down liquor. Neither will faithful patrons remain, nor new ones enter in.

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All Things Made New

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” – Revelations 21:5

The Conversion of Saul

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.  – Acts 9

Saul’s Roman name was Paul. So, then, we can say that Christ sent Paul-the converted Saul, and now most ardent disciple of Christ-to end Saul’s persecution of His Church. Christ’s disciple Ananias, as is true of the Church’s ordained  priests, acts as a conduit of Christ. Christ’s healing power works through him. Saul’s hatred had blinded him to the truth of Christ and was made manifest in physical blindness. To be healed as he was by a divine invasion required a period of suffering before the renewal. As one must suffer a dentist’s procedure before enjoying the relief from the pain of a deep cavity. To restore love from hatred is no easy task. As Christ lay in repose for three days until His resurrection so, too, Saul spent three days in blindness. Saul’s suffering through this act of conversion ends when his sight returns as the scales fall from His eyes. Reminding all again of Christ’s proclamation: “I am the light of the world.” Saul’s eyes not only open to the light of the sun, but also to the light of the Son of God. Those blind to the truth, through Him, are now made to see. And Saul/Paul by this divine invasion is now and always an exalted example of Christ’s promise; “See, I make all things new.”

As Saul’s hatred put to death many early Christians, so, too, did the hatred of humanity put to death Christianity’s founder and creator of all good things. On Good Friday the world was covered in darkness by the act of deicide. So, also, were Saul’s eyes darkened for doing the same to Christ’s Church. However, Easter Sunday comes forth like a window shade being raised to flood a gloomy room with sunlight. The darkness in the world, as was true of the darkness in Saul’s heart, was forever pushed aside by the Son-light radiating from the Light-Of-The-World; who makes all things new.

 

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