My emotions, feelings and thoughts
Becoming aware that death approaches intensifies emotions, feelings and the need to find valid answers to our most important interrogations in such a manner that each minute acquires a value that it would not have had normally. the urgency of understanding becomes so intense that one regrets having wasted so much time not concentrating all our efforts to achieve it.
I have been particularly interested these last few years by the problematical interface between the material brain and its immaterial product, the intellect. I have therefore re-read a few books I had and acquired some of the latest on the subject. It is supposed to be more difficult for a man than for a woman to delve into his emotions but as it is said that they form the basis of our feelings and even of our thoughts I will attempt the exercise to understand what is happening to me.
Hearing the verdict of cancer in both lungs and in the central ganglia came as a shock that went down my spine and back up again like a bolt of lightning. I must say however that I had more or less expected it judging from the sequence of scans that I had been subjected to and more particularly the last one, a PET scan. I expected it but it was shocking nevertheless. I knew what it meant because my brother Sylvain died six months after receiving the same diagnostic a dozen years ago. I therefore gave myself only a few months to live.
I was surprised however to see how easily I got over that initial shock. A whirlwind of vivid emotions subsided rapidly before the lucid realization that the inevitable had caught up with me and that nothing could be done about it. I felt no anger, no revolt and no despair. At most, I felt a vague nostalgia for all the wonderful times I had enjoyed. Most importantly, I felt no hopeful desire of eternal bliss nor fear of hell. I was going to die and that was that.
I got busy putting my things in order, revising my last will and testament, tying up loose ends and trying to understand all the implications that what I call "me" would soon cease to exist. I had to face face a number of fundamental interrogations: What is that "self" that I call "me". How much control do I have on it? Where does it come from and where is it going?
Five weeks after the initial diagnostic, I met an oncologist who ordered a biopsy of the ganglia for she thought there was a chance they would not be cancerous. That gave me hope for survival a few years instead of a few months but the initial matter-of-fact acceptance of my early demise with which I had become comfortable was upset by this hope and the forseeable obligation of having to submit to surgery, chemotherapy, radiology and months of bitter struggle against the disease.
That's when my emotions returned with a vengeance causing my feelings to fluctuate between a calm acceptance and a fierce appetite to survive at all costs. Unfortunately, my experience with Québec's health care system (briefly described at the end of the Return Home page), introduced the demons of frustration, anger, impotence, isolation and discouragement that open the door to sadness if they are not thrown out fast enough.
I struggled six months with these demons without being sufficiently informed about the state of my cancer and the available options. More importantly, without being invited to participate in vital decisions concerning my survival. It would have taken only a little understanding and communication to help me throw them out definitely. On the contrary, I had the clear impression that as soon as I was not physically present in the hospital, I became a paper file with an anonymous number on it, stuck somewhere in a huge pile of other files waiting to be processed by the machine. I felt like a car or a TV set being processed through the various work stations of an assembly line. Most exasperating was the feeling of impotence before the extreme difficulty of navigating through the labyrinth of answering machine robots to reach a real person capable of telling me something about the progress of my case. That gave me the feeling of being rejected by the medical machine.
I admit having been very well treated by the various individual specialists of the health care system who worked on me but I felt like a car or a TV set being processed through the various work stations of an assembly line. Each one added a part or tightened a bolt before passing me on to the next work station. One of them that I thought highly of because he took the time to tell me what he was doing, turned out to be just like the others when at the end of his intervention he said "Go to the emergency ward if you have problems in the coming days". I am sure it was not his intention but I perceived it as "Now that I have bolted my part, I wash my hands of you". His impact on me would have been so different had he said "Don't hesitate to call me if you have problems in the coming days".
I tried hard to take it easy and busied myself writing about my last trip in order to avoid thinking about it but I had ups and downs. I can orient my thinking, my attitudes and my behaviour but it took me a considerable effort to attenuate the negative emotions caused by the brutal deficiencies of the medical machine. I nevertheless managed to maintain the appearance of my usual good humour until September before having to resort to the chemical crutch of an anti depressant.
Finally I got good news on September 5th when I learned that there were no cancerous cells in the last biopsy taken August 21st directly in the center of what was supposed to be my cancer. It was only a large pulmonary fibrosis nodule. They explained that the previous tests had given "false positives". Those were very good news but I was not yet out of the woods for the nodule had grown and the fibrosis plus emphysema had reduced my breathing capacity to 30% of what it should be
Overall, I should rejoice and stop worrying but six months of an emotional rough handling that could have been avoided have damaged my resilience and I feel it will take me some time to bounce back.
It embarrasses me to expose my emotional vulnerability this way but I think that it is worth while to do it if only it can convince a few managers of the health system of the importance of treating the whole person and not only malfunctioning organs. That is a well worn truism but it has been repeated so often that those who should heed it forget it easily.
For years I have been hearing people complain about overcrowded emergency wards, about patients in stretchers parked in busy corridors and about the shortage of doctors and support personnel. For years I have been hearing that our medical system needs an in depth reform because "it is broken". Until now I was fiercely in favour of our "single-speed" universal system. To deal with all patients, rich or poor, in the same manner seemed to me a beautiful ideal to be preserved from the assaults of private medicine.
The experience of these few last months has made me change my mind. Not because I think that I could afford better services in the private sector but because I realize that the absence of competition produces the same results everywhere, be it in the case of a monopoly on medical services or in those of monopolies in transport, distribution or commerce. In absence of competition, the monopoly holder becomes all powerful and his captive customers are reduced to negligible proportions.
The power unbalance between the captive patient and all of the agents of the medical monopoly machine is acute at all levels from the head doctor to the bed pan orderlies. And often, the lower echelons, powerfully unionized, are the most arrogant. The only freedom of choice left to the patient is to withdraw (if he is physically able do it) and forfeit the care he is entitled to.
Now, I think that the presence of a dynamic private medical sector would stimulate the medical machine to shorten delays, to simplify and humanize communications with their clientele and to give the latter the impression that they have something to say about their future. If the competition from private schools is a powerful prod that forces the public sector to do better, why should it not be beneficial also for public medical services?
I do hope to rediscover the serenity I first enjoyed when I thought there was no hope but in the meantime I will try to focus my attention on the interrogations mentioned above and on the tentative answers that I will share with you,.
The Self, the "Soul" and Consciousness?
What will happen when I die? What is that "I" that is asking that question? The vast majority of people think that the self is an immaterial being called the "soul" that co-exists with the body while the latter is alive and that goes on existing forever after death. It is tempting to think that part of us, our soul, would cheat death to live forever but I find that difficult to believe. Everything I can observe begins, evolves and disappears. Even stars are born, evolve and die. It seems to me excessively pretentious to believe that this evident law of nature would not apply to me because I am part of the human species.
In the judeo-christian-islamic tradition humans would have souls but animals would not. Souls would be created at conception and would exist forever thereafter. According to believers in this tradition, each soul would be rewarded or punished for eternity by the almighty creator God according to how "good" or "evil" the specific body-soul composite it had been part of, had been during its earthly existence.
In the Hindu tradition, a pre-existing soul would be matched with a given foetus until that person dies, then, it would be matched with some other new body and so on for eternity. Hindus call this endless recycling "the wheel of life". Souls that come from body-soul composites that had been "good" would be recycled into body-soul composites destined to have better living conditions and those coming from composites that had been "evil" would be punished by being reborn into beings of lower status including into animals. A multitude of Gods are involved in this view of the universe but some sophisticated Hindu thinkers seek to reconcile that traditional vision with monotheism by saying that the multitude of Hindu Gods are just manifestations of a single God.
Buddhism, that arose in opposition to the caste system that abusively privileged Brahmins, also postulates the existence of individual souls but it rejects the multitude of Hindu gods in its initial Theravada version still practiced in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. The Buddha's initial teachings were however gradually corrupted through the centuries by an elitist class of monks and lamas who reintroduced a multitude of divinities, demons and spirits equivalent to the hindu gods, into the most widely spread variants of the Mahayana school and into the theocratic Vajrayana or Lamaist variety practiced in Tibet.
These three schools of thought have in common the fact that those who claim to define what is "good" and what is "evil" (rabbis, priests, mullahs, brahmins, monks and other gurus) are in a position to exert considerable power over their followers. They obviously have a vested interest in promoting belief in an supernatural "soul" that is the key to the power and privileges they enjoy.
There is however not the slightest shred of evidence to support the existence of such supernatural entities. Man's observation of the real world around him and the use of reason to advance an understanding of it would normally suffice to discard the "soul" concept were it not for the considerable vested interest of those who promote it and for the brain-washing they practise on children before these could have developed the capacity to think by themselves. To sustain belief in the "soul" concept, credulity is promoted and blind faith is praised as a supreme virtue.
The few who have never been subjected to such manipulation, those who have managed to resist it and those like myself who have liberated their minds from dogma, share a world view in which there are no supernatural, magical or mystical elements. We hold the opinion that the extraordinary hypothesis of a world that does not obey the laws of nature, requires an equally extraordinary proof to be credible. We prefer to live with the frustration of unanswered questions about the "self" rather than to adopt the "soul" concept which we consider not only unfounded but also a fraudulent invention designed to facilitate the exploitation of the majority by the few.
More and more answers about the self are becoming available. There has been consensus for centuries that the self is related to the brain and not to the heart, the liver or the kidneys. Thanks to the scientific method and painstaking experimentation we now have a considerable amount of knowledge on how the brain functions and it has become widely accepted that awareness is an emergent property of the brain's neuronal activity. (See bibliography on consciousness.)
"Emergent property" means that the particular structure and organization of our material brain produces "something" that has properties not found in the individual neurons that make up our brain. Similarly, the properties of hardness, viscosity and pressure that are respectively attributes of ice, water and steam are not found in the individual H²O molecules. The polar nature of the H²O molecule is also an emergent property. The individual atoms of hydrogen and oxygen do not exhibit that polarity which determines the particular chemical and physical properties of ice, water and steam. Thus, the growth of complexity in the organization of matter creates a cascade of new emergent properties from polarity to pressure, to the creation of carbon based molecules, to their polymerization and replication, to unicellular life, to multi cellular beings and, step by step, eventually to mankind and awareness.
That "something" that emerges from the operation of our neurons is of course not material. It would not exist however without the physical support of of our brain in the same way that "whiteness" cannot exist without the material support of what is white. In fact, that "something" is not a quality but rather a process that could not exist without the material support of our neurons. It's the same with our genome, we are dealing with the information that determines the structure of the complex organism that man is and that presides over its operation. This information is immaterial but it could not exist without the physical support of of our ADN. It is the product of the laws of nature to which it is rigorously subjected. There is nothing supernatural or magical about that information of which conscience is the ultimate manifestation.
This statement might appear superfluous but it becomes necessary because of the confusion introduced by the use of ambiguous terms like "spirit" that carry an enormous range of meanings from the human conscience we are dealing with here to supernatural beings like "souls" of the living and the dead, like the good and evil "spirits" and like gods of various hierarchical levels, etc.
I hold the opinion that avoiding the use of ambiguous terms like "spirit" can go a long way to preserve the clarity of our thinking. I think that the term "spirituality" is also best avoided because the wide variety of meanings we give it renders it meaningless. Similarly, I prefer to use "it seems to me that", "I think that", "I hold the opinion that" or "I am convinced that" instead of "I believe" that, lacking nuance, often leads to misunderstandings.
Having avoided to get bogged down in the marsh of ambiguous terminology, we can return to the natural world of matter and observe that the localization the parts of the brain that contribute to its various functions are becoming more and more detailed and that the mechanisms underlying various thought processes and emotions are being revealed at an increasing rate. Thus, the study of the physical neurological processes that produce altered states of consciousness perceived to be various forms of " communion with God" by tibetan monks in deep meditation, by whirling dervishes and by other varieties of mystics, is now the object of the new field of neuro-theology.
Neurologists have determined that there is much more activity going on in our brains than what we are aware of. They have been able to demonstrate that unconscious physical neuronal activity precedes our conscious decision making. This means that the physical body (the brain), decides before the immaterial "self" becomes conscious of what it takes to be its decisions. This often demonstrated phenomenon poses serious questions as to the extent and mechanisms of our free will.
Many questions remain unanswered as to the complex relationship between the "self", "consciousness" and the material brain but active research is well under way and the concept of a supernatural "soul" is loosing ground daily. Today, the definition of death as the cessation of the brain's activity is widespread enough to allow the removal of vital organs from brain dead donors whose hearts are still beating. Fundamentalist defenders of the supernatural "soul" concept base their opposition to this practice on their belief that such a "soul" does not leave the body until after heartbeat and breath have stopped. (Consider the case of Terri Schiavo whose cadaver was artificially maintained in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years and to which the Catholic Last Rites were administered before its feeding tube was removed!)
As death approaches, I realize that the consciousness I call "me" or "I" will disappear completely in a not distant future. I think nothing of losing consciousness as I go to sleep every night because I expect to regain it the following morning and to continue with my daily routine of executing the program stored in my brain that produces the person called Bernard. The permanent loss of the information that underlies my being and its program is however something else. The coming end of my life's statement prompts me to examine the content of that program and how it evolved to become what it is.
I have described, in the essay "Reflections on Truth", how the search for myself has shown me that self defence against manipulation is essential for autonomous thinking and I have explained how the discovery of a statistical approach helped me avoid the pitfalls of absolutes in "My Toy Village". I wrote these papers years ago when I thought I would live to be a hundred. Now that I know it won't be so, I have to ask myself again what was the objective purpose of my life, if any.
The judeo-christian-islamic tradition mentioned above dogmatically affirms that all of life's efforts and turmoil serve no other purpose than to celebrate God's eternal glory. Not only is there no proof to support this proposition, but it does not make much sense that an all-poweful, all-knowing, ubiquitous God would have any use for such glorification. In spite of the evidence of that nonsense, the meme of a vain and demanding God still infects most brains on our small planet. I suspect that the vested interest of rabbis, priests, mullahs, brahmins, monks and other gurus, has something to do with the persistence of the irrational belief in an eternal soul that exists only to glorify God.
Since Darwin, it has gradually become recognized by a majority of scientists that the evolution of replicating organized lumps of matter has been purely random and devoid of any finality. This realization has not however swept away millena of teachings by religious leaders of all sorts that the phenomenon of life could only be explained by an eternal finality. Belief in "the kingdom of heaven" helped for it had the definite advantage of offering hope of eternal bliss to suffering mankind.
Being a product of my social and cultural environment, I had internalized since childhood the idea that life must have a purpose. My gut feelings came into conflict with the growing evidence supporting random evolution. This was a problem for me for a long time and it took me some effort to rid myself of the eternal finality meme. This is only one example of many areas where gut feelings and common sense are of no help to discover how the universe really is. Quantum physics and many of recent frontier-of-knowledge discoveries are definitely counter-intuitive. These contradictions reveal new questions about self awareness and the meaning of life.
Self-awareness, goals and personae
I was not really self-aware as a child. Like all babies, I first became aware that I was hungry. Later, at the age of 3 or 4 months I discovered that the outside world was something different from my body and I began to become conscious of being too hot or too cold. Starting around two or three awareness of my self and my feelings grew slowly. As a small child, I was proud of having won a star in the kindergarden and shameful of having been caught doing something forbidden. I also became conscious of feelings of joy or of anger but the universe I was conscious of was physical and immediate.
Like everybody of my generation, I was subjected to the traditional indoctrination and I learned about the existence of heaven and earth, of good angels and evil demons, of the souls of saints, especially those one could pray to in order to find a lost object or to cure a bad cold and finally, of the boss of the whole system, the almighty God who had created everything and who could destroy it all if he felt like it. I leaned all the answers that had to be produced on these subjects to get good marks and I even believed in them for a while, but all this invisible, supernatural world did not really affect the universe of the small human animal I was.
I did not really develop ideas of my own until I realized, sometime around the age of 12, that I could legitimately make my own choices. That's when I began to suspect that the supernatural world might very well be a hoax. It was like waking up. I was becoming conscious of a much wider universe where the past and the future reached out much further than the preceding week and the next one. My teen age years were nonetheless a difficult period of contradictions between what I had been taught to believe and my own observations of the reality of the world around me that I had begun to understand. It was also a period of discovery of myself, of sex, of learning chemistry, physics, mathematics and of all the other pleasures of life. It was not an easy period but I was fully engaged in enjoying life and I had no other goals than the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In spite of those difficulties, those were good relatively carefree years and the young curious animal I was made the best of it.
I was already 25 or so when I started having existential goals and my life has been goal oriented ever since. For me, an existential goal is a project or a cause larger than my immediate pleasure or my interest, through which I can transcend my limitations. Looking back over a lifetime I can now see that such goals maybe served as substitutes for the supernatural finality that I had rejected in my teens. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to go through life just to enjoy living without need for great objectives or passions to justify my existence.
The first such passion that brought an added dimension to my life was my identification and involvement with the interests of the Québécois nation that began in 1960. Early political activity led to and was replaced in 1964 by the project to set up a Quebec state oil company when I found out (through my work with Elf in Paris), that the price imported crude oil declared to Canadian customs did not reflect the huge more or less secret discounts of about 40% granted in the '60s off the official posted prices. Eastern Canada and particularly Québec, were being ripped off colossal amounts by the oil companies. Energy costs east of the Borden line (in eastern Ontario), should have been much lower or the huge profits that were being realized in offshore tax havens should have been brought home and taxed in Canada. That project came to fruition with the creation of SOQUIP (Société Québécoise d'Initiatives Pétrolières) and my return to Québec from Paris in 1970 but its initial purpose of refining crude oil imported at the real world market price became pointless when the discounts off posted prices were eliminated by the first oil shock in1973. SOQUIP's purpose was henceforth limited to oil and gas exploration. My identification with the interests of Québec had become a part of my persona and that orientation persisted when I headed the Régie de l'Électricité et du Gaz from 1980 to 1990.
Another project that had a "larger than me" dimension but less scope was the 10 year restoration of a 1829 farmhouse at Sainte-Croix de Lotbinière. I did it with loving care because I considered that I was momentarily entrusted with the responsibility of a collective cultural heritage. Restoring that old house entailed becoming a specialist of early Quebec architecture and acquiring manual skills in masonry, carpentry, plumbing etc. It enriched me with a new persona, the country gentleman farmer who got involved into raising pure bred Dorset sheep as a hobby for a few years. The house was declared a Quebec National Historical Monument when I finished restoring it and I finally sold it in 1993 when another persona, as international consultant, appeared.
The study of psychometrics from 1980 to 1993 and the development of Microprofil (a computerized personality analysis system), created another image for me to identify with. Finally, backpacking all over the world and writing my travelogues on this website over the last ten years created the still current persona of the globetrotter that is presently being replaced by that of a promoter of critical thinking and humanist values in Quebec.
I have also, like everyone else, played many roles most of which many never became important enough to create personae and a few others that I prefer not to mention. I certainly did not present the same persona as a scruffy backpacker looking for a place to sleep in the busy alleys of downtown Calcutta as I did presiding board meetings of SOQUIP or as a gentleman farmer in Ste-Croix.
I mention these events in this part on self-awareness because I think that consciousness occurs on several different levels. We inevitably play many roles in adapting to the various environments and circumstances of our lives. Most of these roles are momentary and are soon forgotten but those that imply commitment, passion and concrete objectives finally create personae if they last long enough.
To be rfully conscious is to recognise all these distinct roles and personae and to discover how they emerge from our basic personal values like the properties of ice, water and steam emerge from the properties of the H²O molecule.
As death approaches, I become conscious that these basic personal values are an end to themselves. Through all my roles and personae, they have given meaning to my life and they are the essence of what will be lost when I die. Now I understand how wonderful it must be to know that one's core values will be rescued from oblivion by children who adopt them and pass them on to their own children. In my case, the Humanist Foundation and Association have become my family in that respect.
The beginning and end of life
It seems therefore that the various personae that animated me when I was doing more than just letting life happen were only manifestations of an underlying "I" (or self), which in turn was only a manifestation of the activity of the material neurons that constitute my brain. What I call "me" is not a thing nor a being but indeed a process that handles information.
One can then ask when does that process begin and when does it end. There is now concensus that it ends when there is no more perceptible cerebral activity. It is admissible to remove organs to be transplanted from cadavers whose brains have ceased to function but identifying the beginning of life is more controversial. Personally I favour using the same criterion for the beginning as for the end. That means that the beginning of what I call "me" should coincide with the beginning of the process that produces that "me".
Obviously, it takes neurons for a neuronal process to exist. Now we know that the precursors of neurons do not appear in the foetus until about 14 days after mitosis (the first division of the fertilized egg). We also know that the newborn baby, just like the foetus, is not aware that the outside world is not part of his body until three or four months after birth. Finally, specialists in the matter agree that consciousness of a distinct "self" does not occur before two or three years.
We can therefore say that the beginning of the neuronal process we are concerned with is spread between two weeks and more or less three years after mitosis and that we cannot identify the precise moment of the appearance of a new human being. If nature operates this way to get the process going, it is reasonable to think that the end of the process can also be spread over time (except of course for cases of violent death).
We now think that death has occurred when the brain's activity has stopped even if parts of the body are still functioning. Moreover, we often observe that the cerebral process fails progressively before stopping and it is frequent to see a phase of growing confusion and incoherence in the dying before their demise. This period of gradual degradation can even extend over years in the case of victims of alzheimer's disease.
We can therefore say the the beginning and end of the neuronal process that produces what we call our "self" are not punctual events like it is claimed by those who believe in the existence of a hypothetical "soul". I think that, like many other natural processes, the existence of a person begins imperceptibly, develops to reach a zenith and then declines towards an end more or less well defined in time. To illustrate this, consider the beginning, the paroxysmal growth followed by the decline and disappearance of the meteorological process that a hurricane is.
Choosing when to exit
I consider myself lucky. Had it not been for my accident in Bahrain I probably would never have been erroneously diagnosed with cancer and I might not have bothered to think so intensely about the meaning that death can have for me.
I feel fine right now and I am enjoying life while it lasts. I know that pulmonary fibrosis and emphysema will probably reduce the quality of my life gradually until at some point the marginal value of living will fall below its price in terms of effort and degradation.
The prognostic was much more radical when I thought that the beast of cancer growing inside me would eventually cause severe pain and an invalidity that the best palliative care would barely manage. I felt definitively very lucky to be an atheist. Had I been a believer with cancer, I would have had to endure pain and degradation until God chose to release me from my misery. Ending my life when I could no longer bear it would have cost me loosing the possibility of eternal bliss in heaven and guaranteed a one way ticket to hell.
Being an atheist, I will be free to do it if I can. It won't be easy for I expect that when my rational cerebral cortex judges that the time has come to leave the stage, my limbic complex, more primitive and seat of emotions, will struggle for survival at any cost.
When is the right moment to leave? The answer appears to be easier to determine in the case of intractable severe pain that often have visible manifestations than in the case of the discreet despair caused by the gradual degradation of human abilities. Physical pain brings forth much more compassion than moral suffering does yet both can be equally unbearable. What value is left when the human attributes that make life a wonderful adventure are gone? Only the concerned individual can tell.
The factors that come into play in the subjective decision to commit suicide vary so much from one person to another that laws that claim to be "one size fit all" solutions are definitely off-track. Let those who believe that only God should determine the moment of death, choose to suffer their final agony to the bitter end if they wish, but do not let them impose their beliefs on me.
Some individuals might hang on to life even though they are no longer mobile, cannot control their body-wastes nor recognize their immediate family and have lost most human attributes. Let the medical machine prolong their decline If that is what they wish but don't allow it impose unwanted treatments on me .
I will soon be 73 and have had a full and satisfactory life so let not some "bleeding hearts" overturn my judgement that it's time for me to quit the stage. I hold the opinion that life is about the expression of the human potential. When that potential is gone, the artificial prolongation of the appearances of life is an abomination that I hope never to be subjected to.
I understand that the "raison d'être" of the medical profession is to preserve and prolong life at all times but I claim that the decision to end my life belongs to me and to no one else. That decision is essentially subjective. Only the concerned individual can weigh the pros and cons that apply to him in his specific circumstances, of choosing to live one more day, one more week or to the bitter end. A biological will can offer some protection from medical abuse but that is not enough for me. What I need from the medical profession is unbiased information to help me take an enlightened decision and eventually, material assistance to end my life.
There is a wide range of circumstances between voluntary suicide that is considered a fundamental right in most countries and non-voluntary euthanasia that is equated to murder even when motivated by compassion. In Canada, suicide is perfectly legal but giving assistance in carrying it out is punishable by 14 years of prison.
I object to be deprived of the assistance I might require to freely exercise my right to dispose of my own life. I object as a matter of principle and also because I think it could force me to take the matter in my own hands to end my life much sooner than I would if I could be assured of medical help to commit suicide if I were to become incapable of doing it myself....this is work in progress to be developped...
Updated in September 2006