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John Peacock's "Buddhism Before the Theravada" Part 5 (kind of) - EP6
Episode 629th September 2021 • Dharma PhD • Shannon M Whitaker
00:00:00 00:28:52

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Welcome to Dharma PhD!

In this episode we talk about Paṭiccasamuppāda, Dependent Origination, using John Peacocks', "Buddhism Before the Theravada, Part 5" as a jumping off point.

We talk about how Paṭiccasamuppāda, Dependent Origination, has myriad implications. And then we focus on just one implication, causing skillful behaviors and mental/emotinal states to arise by putting the conditions in place that encourage those behaviors/mental states to arise more spontaneously. Particularly we talk about environmental factors.

A few things referred to:

Bodhi College, an organization that teaches Secular Buddhism: bodhi-college.org.

Stephen Batchelor's book After Buddhism.

Leigh Brasington, a Jhāna teacher: leighb.com.

The talk we're referring to: "Buddhism Before the Theravada, Part 5" (https://www.audiodharma.org/talks/2598).

Bhikkhu Bodhi's book Reading the Buddha's Discourses in Pāli.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: https://bigthink.com/robby-berman/the-missing-apex-of-maslows-hierarchy-could-save-us-all.

The 2,500 word blog post I referred to on a framework for thinking about the different implications of Paṭiccasamuppāda: https://dharmaphd.com/2021/09/27/parsing-pa%e1%b9%adiccasamuppada/.

and finally, Alain de Botton's book: Religion for Atheists.

***

A transcript of and link to John Peacock's talk is available here: https://dharmaphd.com/2021/09/28/john-peacock-buddhism-before-the-theravada-part-5-2011-09-04/

And a transcript of this podcast episode is available here:

Want to get in touch? We'd love to hear from you! Email us at hello@dharmaphd.com.

Transcripts

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[00:00:14] Jeff: It's a pleasure to be here. 


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[00:00:19] Jeff: It's been a while. 


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[00:00:20] Jeff: It's still a pleasure though. 


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[00:00:23] Jeff: Undiminished by the ravages of time. 


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[00:00:30] Jeff: I've only had two haircuts since then. 


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[00:00:34] Jeff: think it might be true. 


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[00:00:51] Jeff: You've retained your independence. 


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[00:00:57] Jeff: No one has commandeered your Ph D and 


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[00:01:02] Jeff: Good. That'd be terrible to have it taken over by some hostile scholars... 


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[00:01:08] Jeff: Okay. 


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[00:01:12] Shannon: Yeah. The independent PhD project has been going really well. I managed a forum and administered a forum for a course that Bodhi College was hosting with Stephen Batchelor. It was a 12 week course called "After Buddhism and Beyond" where he was unpacking where he's at now. He wrote this book titled After Buddhism 


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[00:01:34] Shannon: I've started a mentorship with Leigh Brasingtontration. It's a deeper form of meditation. And that's been amazing. 


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[00:01:53] Shannon: Leigh's a lot of fun. If if any of our listeners have been considering taking a [00:02:00] retreat with Leigh, now's a great time because most of his retreats have been online. It's not as intensive, probably, it can be really hard to do an online retreat at home because you have all of the home distractions. 


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[00:02:13] Shannon: Yeah. Like really lovely co-hosts in your new tiny apartment. But it's a really great opportunity to have access to teachers that we would not have had access to before. 


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[00:02:38] Shannon: Yeah, totally. Yeah. The course that we had with After Buddhism and Beyond, through Bodhi College, people in New Zealand, people in the US, people in obviously, Europe. 


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[00:02:51] Jeff: The sun never sets. 


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[00:02:54] Jeff: Yeah. 


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[00:02:58] Jeff: So what are we going to talk about in this episode? 


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[00:03:03] Jeff: Let me guess, John Peacock's talk number... 


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[00:03:35] Jeff: Dependent Origination, 


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[00:03:39] Jeff: 


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[00:03:47] Jeff: Listeners follow along altogether. 


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[00:03:51] Shannon: Very well done. 


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[00:04:03] Shannon: Yeah. The book is called , by Bhikkhu Bodhi. 


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[00:04:14] Shannon: we'll just put that down. I'm not we're not going to I'm not going to do that to you today. Yeah. 


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[00:04:44] Shannon:emember that we talked about cognitive biases. We talked about the fact that we're trying to solve the upper levels of Maslow's hierarchy with a brain that evolved to solve the lower 


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[00:05:08] Shannon: we talked about how there's a bunch of different kinds of habits. There's the thing you can check off on your calendar. But there's also our habitual responses to the world, the way we habitually respond to the world, actually make up our personality. So personality is a sort of habit. And then we talked about how we can have these really complicated habits, like driving to work 


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[00:05:40] Shannon: Yeah. And you end up driving to the wrong place because you think that get in the car, drive to work... 


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[00:06:00] Shannon: Congratulations. Way to be mindful. 


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[00:06:02] Shannon: 


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[00:06:13] Jeff: Throw it in different direction, 


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[00:06:20] Shannon:not going to do that. We've hit the first two. Oh, now we're going to do something different. 


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[00:06:49] Shannon: So he unpacked a lot of this idea. And then over the following, then over 


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[00:06:55] Shannon: two thousand five hundred years scholars did a lot of unpacking of this concept. 


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[00:07:02] Jeff: Like discovering implications and different aspects and things like this. 


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[00:07:25] Jeff: So you'd end up with a run-on kind of sentence. Okay. 


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[00:07:34] Shannon: Yeah. So I looked at what John Peacock had to say. Cause you know, that's the title of this podcast episode. And then I looked And these teachers are coming from very diverse backgrounds. You've got practicing monastics, you've got former monastics, neuroscientists, lay teachers, [00:08:00] and they each emphasize a different bit of this unpacked idea. 


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[00:08:13] Shannon: How many definitions do you want? Go and ask that number of people and you'll have that many definitions. Yes. But I did find that trying to tease out a definition was ultimately helpful because I ended up coming up with a framework to think about how to hold all these ideas. That for me is really helpful. 


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[00:08:39] Jeff: That's true, listeners. Fact. Right here 


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[00:09:07] Shannon: And to show again how complex this is, I shared this with Leigh Brasington, and his response was, yeah, that's good. But there's a bunch 


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[00:09:18] Jeff: and he said, I'm already up to X number of words. And at some point you gotta publish it. And He was probably like yeah, a number of my books have gone that way. 


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[00:09:33] Jeff: You're beating him to the press is what 


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[00:10:07] Jeff: This not the same as the previous definition. 


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[00:10:29] Shannon: And sometimes we can get wrapped around the axle. Worrying about well how does that connect to this other thing . Sometimes it can be helpful to put that aside and say, ah, I know what bucket we're in. Let me just listen to this idea. Let me process that a little bit. And then later bring it into the more holistic idea, the whole cornucopia of ideas. 


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[00:10:52] Shannon: For today's episode. We're going to talk about one tiny aspect. 


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[00:11:14] Shannon: about. 


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[00:11:27] Jeff: today, 


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[00:11:38] Shannon: of nothing. Phenomena are linked to and dependent upon other phenomena. 


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[00:12:04] Shannon: Okay. So the state of affairs, the phenomenon: the kitchen light is on, is dependent on all kinds of things. It can include the technology, Edison, all those other guys. It's dependent on production and supply chains of the material of which the light bulb and the socket are constructed. It's dependent on all the people involved in that production and supply chain. More locally you could say that it's dependent on the local power generating station, the wires from there to the town, the wires inside the house. The circuit breaker and the light switch being in the on position. So we have this, what is for us a really common phenomenon, excuse me, the kitchen light bulb being on, which is intimately dependent on innumerable other factors being present. 


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[00:12:54] Jeff: Yeah. 


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[00:13:24] Shannon: Does that make 


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[00:13:28] Shannon: Yeah. 


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[00:13:31] Shannon: Yeah... 


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[00:14:06] Shannon: Does that make sense? 


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[00:14:16] Shannon: Yes So I could 


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[00:14:20] Shannon: We can maybe it's helpful. I like talking about it that way, if we have Phenomena A and there are necessary, but insufficient conditions, B, C, and D, and we want A to go away, then we need to knock out the necessary, but insufficient conditions, B, C, or D. We don't have to do all of them. We just have to do one of them. 


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[00:14:52] Shannon: Now the kitchen light, Phenomena A, is dependent on the light switch being on, the wires, being connected, the power station being operational. So if you want to turn off the light, you don't have to blow up the power station. You don't have to go outside and cut the wires to the house, you just have to turn off the light switch. 


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[00:15:21] Jeff: Yeah. 


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[00:15:24] Jeff: Cause if you do those other things and you'll also extinguish some other lights and your neighbors might not be pleased about that. And also things that are not lights. 


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[00:15:39] Shannon: And this is a really big part of Buddhism. Particularly it's expressed that Dukkha, or suffering, is caused by craving. And so if you get rid of the craving, you get rid of the suffering. And there's a lot of this idea of cessation. How do we stop suffering? How do we stop suffering? And that's talked about a lot in Buddhism [00:16:00] and I'm all for that, right? Like great, less suffering. Awesome. But I feel like we can do more. So the thing I would really like to spend time on this podcast talking about is the flip side. 


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[00:16:26] Shannon: So we have, on the one hand, what's talked about a lot is cessation. What's not talked about so much is the arising; how do we get behaviors or positive, desirable, mental or emotional states to more spontaneously arise? 


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[00:16:44] Shannon: Yeah. State of flourishing. 


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[00:16:50] Shannon: I want to give you this quote that I think is so good. Chris Sparks, he said, When it comes to creating your environment, assume you have free will. When it comes to living in your environment, assume you have no free will. 


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[00:17:08] Shannon: What do you think is interesting about it? 


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[00:17:12] Jeff: I do almost the inverse of that and I can see how this would be very useful. 


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[00:17:22] Shannon: When I was thinking about examples, the first thing that came up for me was pull ups. 


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[00:17:29] Shannon: did 12, but here's the thing. When 


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[00:17:32] Jeff: If we, 


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[00:17:37] Shannon: When we lived on the east coast, we had, in our house, a pull-up bar that was between both of our offices and the rest of the house. 


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[00:17:54] Jeff: Yeah. You might be encouraged by the other person. Hey yeah, you could probably do one more. 


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[00:18:18] Jeff: it might be other people that don't have their masks on down there. 


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[00:18:22] Shannon: in the last place we created an environment where it was really easy to do pull ups. You just walked under it. I think you almost hit your head on it. 


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[00:18:41] Shannon: We have different heights. 


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[00:18:50] Shannon: So in that case, we used freewill or this idea of free 


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[00:18:55] Shannon: and tape measure to craft an environment in which it was very easy for the condition, the behavior that we wanted, which was, do pull ups, to arise more spontaneously. Yeah. Thanks so much. So the thing I wanted to talk about was that is something that is possible, I would like to install a pull up bar in our apartment so that the behavior of doing pull-ups more spontaneously arises. 


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[00:19:34] Shannon: And you guys have started pull up 


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[00:19:37] Jeff: pull up club, where we encourage each other. We have a little whiteboard that we keep a tally on. and we pass it around between people at work. 


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[00:19:53] Shannon: And so you've created this environment, both the physical environment, but also the community environment, where this [00:20:00] desirable behavior arises. 


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[00:20:08] Jeff: Please do. All pull ups are welcome. All different kinds, all different shapes, with the hands facing forward, facing backwards. Yeah. Whatever kind of pull-ups are interesting to you. 


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[00:20:33] Jeff: Yeah. let me go grab my phone 


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[00:20:56] Shannon: one. 


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[00:21:09] Jeff: But long-term jobs will pass away. I'll have other jobs in the future. And that'll be fine. But I'd like more identity to be focused on our relationship. Those are the two big ones that came to mind first. 


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[00:21:40] Shannon: You take pictures with your phone and you take selfies. And Jeff had a bunch of these printed and stuck them all over the apartment. Almost every wall, somewhere on that wall, there's a little three by five of us doing something fun. There's us at the colosseum in Rome. 


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[00:22:04] Jeff: or both Yeah. We're both like Looking in a fun way through the wine in the glass at the camera. 


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[00:22:29] Jeff: And, they'll put that word in the art. 


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[00:22:52] Shannon: Oh yeah, we were, we're a nice couple. We like to do things together. We have fun when we do things together, I think that's a really good first step. yeah. Thanks for doing it. 


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[00:23:18] Shannon: you know You had said an antonym to self-criticism and it sounds a little cheesy, but self- celebration is an antonym. And so how do we celebrate the work we've already done? I don't feel that that our environment celebrates the work we've already done. 


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[00:23:41] Shannon: If we want to use the photos thing, we could have pictures of you. There's that really sweet picture with you and Tim looking up at the drone from Jeff's previous 


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[00:23:50] Shannon: So there could be photos of Shannon as valedictorian, Jeff as drone engineer. Pictures of 


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[00:23:59] Jeff: I think [00:24:00] for my birthday last year, 


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[00:24:16] Jeff: That does sound good. 


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[00:24:41] Jeff: I was just 


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[00:24:42] Shannon: How do we make that part of, you know do we get you a giant wallpaper of your cuddle fish, drone submarine thing? Just put it up on the wall. 


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[00:24:55] Shannon: The one thing I do want to say about this idea though, of setting up one's environment in order that these spontaneous behaviors or mental states arise is it's important that this doesn't become something else to cling to 


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[00:25:19] Shannon: You know If one of the photographs falls off the wall, that we stop liking each other, that would be a problem. And that we build in flexibility into the system because, we don't have a pull up bar right now, so I have to trek down the hallway, and that's fine. It's not ideal, but it's fine. But. An example that I sometimes give is I have an acquaintance who won't go on retreat because that person can't work out on retreat. 


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[00:26:01] Shannon: One of the big Buddhist no-nos is clinging to rites and rituals. 


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[00:26:08] Shannon: that, 


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[00:26:11] Shannon: Yeah. And originally that was based on what was happening with Brahman society. But Akincano Weber brought up a great point and he said, Look, this optimizing thing that we're all trying to do, that's rites and rituals. 


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[00:26:35] Shannon: These are things that we're going to try out and maybe some of them will work and maybe some of them won't and then we'll move across the country and we have to start all over again. So 


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[00:27:01] Jeff: And the goal of that refinement I dunno, the thing we're seeking changes in in front of us. It moves in this direction or that direction as we get more focused on different aspects of life. I feel like we do a pretty good job of keeping open to things like this. 


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[00:27:27] Jeff: Another delightful peek into the um 


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[00:27:31] Jeff: yeah, 


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[00:27:32] Jeff: that's right. T-shirt idea? 


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[00:27:50] Jeff: I'm still encouraging , Shannon to create a line of t-shirts with a silly Dharma phrases on there. So be sure to write in if you're interested in any of those ideas. [00:28:00] 


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Outtakes 


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[00:28:11] Shannon: Oh man. . What would we give away? 


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[00:28:16] Shannon: Yeah 


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[00:28:19] Shannon: out there. 


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[00:28:25] Shannon: he's the cohost, 


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[00:28:28] Shannon: he's the cohost, 


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[00:28:34] Jeff: peers in this case, you do everything. 


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