Mortisomnia


One night recently, while having a particularly bad instance of insomnia, a thought occurred to me which did not help towards my goal of attaining my much desired portion of sleep. And in the last couple of weeks or so this thought has stuck with me. And in my malicious sense of obligation to share my thoughts, perhaps I can keep you up at night, as well.

What if it were the case that you knew, or were at least convinced, that the next time you fell asleep you would die. And given this knowledge/belief, you set about thinking about the repercussions of this unfortunate reality.

How long would you stay awake?

Take a moment and consider that, if you like. I’ll wait.

[Here’s a song to listen to while you do so]


How sure are you about your answer? How terrifying is this to you?

The more I reflected on it, my mind conjured Stephen King-esque kinds of horror. How long could you stay awake? And, perhaps more importantly, for how long would it be worth staying awake?

This is a topic I have dealt with before, and given my proclivities towards existential thought I will likely return to it again. And yet as I write, I wonder to what extent this thought might seem banal to you, or maybe you haven’t lived with this thought experiment playing in your head for some amount of days and haven’t been haunted by it. Or, perhaps, I’m abnormal in being agitated by such a consideration. Perhaps it’s worrying that such a thought not only occurred to me, but that I permitted its continued potency to give life to my awakened anxiety.

It is in my nature that when such chained (chained to me, it so very unhappily seems) specters accompany me through my days, the most effective way to exorcise them is to articulate their form through this very medium. I must write them out. I must explore them more thoroughly, and translate them from the ghastly concepts and shadowy feelings into more stark and shapely words. In so doing, they do not leave my mind, but they do stop screaming. Mostly.

What kinds of imagery do I create when I’m contemplating this ghastly daydream?

Picture yourself awakening on a sunny, warm morning. You feel well rested, you have at your disposal the entire world, potential actions both mundane and ecstatic, and you find yourself utterly convinced that this fresh consciousness is all that you are offered, and that even the briefest nap, the most miniscule of nodding off, will mean that there will be no more awakenings. There may be more mornings, but each successive morning you experience will become daily offerings of decreasing worth. How many mornings until you can no longer even dread the new light of fewer possibilities? How long until you can barely even form a cohesive sense of self, and to no longer even be capable of despair? As sleep deprivation consumes you, you will lose yourself into a zombie-like state of exhaustion as your body gives out on you.

You know that you cannot stay awake forever. But you also won’t merely go about your day and go down with the sun that very first night, content in the day you have lived, would you? You would at least fight through that one tired, sleepless night, and force upon yourself one more adrenaline-fueled day, and refuse to merely and resignedly snooze your way peacefully into that unknown and unknowable forever sleep, right? You would fight to stay awake, you heroic protagonist in this story, and battle against the weight of your eyelids and you would soldier on and stay alive until….

Until when?

I’ve certainly had days where I literally got no sleep the night before. There’s a wooziness and the perception of a lack of being fully present which persists, but it can be done and has been done by many of us, sometimes frequently for some who choose professions which may require it from time to time. But eventually, you must sleep, because sleep deprivation will kill you, eventually.

And so we sleep, eventually. In my experience, there is a strange and somewhat ironic quality of being too tired to fall asleep which then overtakes you as, after such a day, you pull that cover over yourself to finally rest. You know you need the sleep, you are quite exhausted, but sometimes the brain has stimulated itself with its own compounds of sustained attention that they have almost forgotten how to slow down, to sleep, and to do its nightly maintenance. You know, the maintenance required in order to store memories for the potential of a new day.

But what if you push through that second night? Is that third day one where you can find joy, appreciation, or even all of yourself? What of a fourth day? How many days, assuming you can stay awake, until it’s no longer even you? And how obvious is this metaphor becoming?

As the diminishing returns of the quality of your being conscious shamble on, as the lucidity of your striving to remain both awake and alive fades, the inevitable apotheosis towards Somnus, and to the oblivion which he rules, becomes immanent. Our power to fight against the inevitable is one that will be met by personalities which differ; there will be people who will struggle towards the fraying of their mind and memory, and who will have already gone into that dark night even as their eyes are still open and their mouth contests to form words which are barely contrasted from the blackness of deep meditation and the oblivion they refuse to submit to. And there will be those who, as the first sleepiness confronts them, will look into the eye of someone they love and smile in the contentedness of having had the time to love, to appreciate, and to have lived.

And when I meditate on this, feeling both the sadness and the desperation contained within, one concept keeps raising its head, and it becomes increasingly clear that this struggle is not one about the inevitability of sleep or death, but one of control. The question at the heart of this meditation is one of whether we can accept the reality that our power, our freedom, our determined obstinate force of will is ultimately impotent. In the end, the lesson may be that control is an illusion.

I was talking with some people the other night about free will, and a friend of mine said that if you’re riding a roller-coaster, you don’t get to choose where the car goes but you can wave your arms around. This, for him, was his free will. His level of control is, admittedly, limited but godammit he can wave his arms around, and so he is free.

This is unsatisfying to me. Not in the sense that I want to do more than wave or flap my arms around (perhaps in an attempt to fly), but in the sense that I don’t think that this freedom is the kind that I would want. I’m also not convinced that whether I wave my arms, and how hard I wave them, was ever my power to begin with. But I’m allowing the analogy to pull me too far from the track, and I’m getting away from my point….

Control.

How much can I do during my last days, my final awakened session, until I’m no longer me? How much control do I have upon first waking up versus day four or five? And if the quantity of control is definable in the beginning, on that sunny morning, and it approaches zero as the days go on, at what point does our control become an illusion? And what determines our varying personalities which lead to our differing responses to this circumstance? Why does one fight sleep for days while another accepts the inevitable and lays down at the end of a day or two? And, perhaps most interestingly, which of those two has or requires a greater level of control?

Because if it’s granted that both a person who fights through sleepiness for several days and the person who quietly and contentedly accepts the inevitable with greater clarity sooner are in control, is there any sense that one of them is more in control? Did they choose which path they would inevitably take? Compare a person who actively fights, stoically standing their ground against sleep, to one who graciously, and perhaps even epicureanly, accepts that the fight is one that cannot be won; which one is in more control?

This, to me, is a mind fuck. And I see people of varying personalities, all with their relative certainties and different levels of open-mindedness, all also with differing levels of perceived control. And while I understand the distinction between the level of mental control I have each morning I wake up as compared with the state of mind I might have if I stayed awake for 4 days, I’m more interested in the fact that the person who chooses to go to sleep that very night, knowing that they will not wake up, is perhaps just as in control as the person who eventually dies of sleep deprivation. The amount of control, of will, it would take to persevere towards a zombie-like death and the strength of will to calmly, happily, resign to sleep as soon as exhaustion presents itself are both types of control. But the question is whether they are varying types of strengths, or whether instead point to the illusory nature of control altogether.

It seems to me that the illusion of control is among the wiliest of devils. Because if it is an illusion, it is one that is literally the substance of awareness. It coexists with thought, intention, and decision. And as we wave our arms, joyous that we have this freedom, that roller-coaster continues to approach the end of its journey, and we have to ponder whether we ever actually chose to even be on this ride. None of use chose to be born. None us us choose to become exhausted. Continuing to wave our arms, perhaps to keep ourselves awake, isn’t the control I was looking for.

As your days progress, and as you eventually tire, are you what you choose? When will you realize that the decisions you make, whether for success, hedonism, interpersonal connection, or mere continued existence, are of similar potency as those who choose another path? And maybe the perception of control you have is real. But I’m not so sure that you would have, could have, done otherwise.

And then, for me at least, the distinction between my choices now and the inevitability of sleep and death collapse into each other, and I feel most free when I give up that sense of control. But that, too, feels like a choice. When will I finally realize that I’m not really in control?

When does sleep become the warm, cuddly, cold comfort which we all will eventually embrace?

Choice, Belief, and Cognitive Dissonance


A thought occurred to me today while having a conversation on Facebook.

I know, I know…why am I wading into Facebook conversations? It never solves anything, right? Right. Nonetheless, here we are.

So, the question was whether we choose our beliefs or not, and my position is that we do not choose our beliefs, and gave a brief explanation why. But something that someone said made me wonder whether cognitive dissonance is related to the feeling of having chosen a belief, and then something clicked home for me.

Let’s set the stage….

 

Choosing Beliefs: free will

So, whether we choose what we believe is related to the question of free will. I mean, if free will weren’t real, then of course we don’t choose our beliefs because our beliefs would be a function of our will which is not free, right? This touches on the concept of compatibilism, which essentially states that if the action or cognitive state reached is consistent with the desires and aims of the entity which performs said act or concludes the said idea, then the act is said to be “free” insofar as as it is what the entity wants.

In other words, if you eat ice cream and you wanted to eat ice cream, even if it were the case that you could not have done otherwise, then because the act was what you wanted to do then the act was chosen “freely.” Alternatively, if you were coerced or forced to do so by another person, then it is not a free choice. If someone force-feeds you ice cream, whether or not you wanted to do so the act was not “free.”

Let’s put the larger question of general free will aside. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that our will is free in some meaningful sense. So that when I pick up my phone to look at it, I chose to do so (and am not merely addicted to my phone, like some haters might argue). Where does this leave us in terms of beliefs?

 

What is a Belief?

If you believe something, you are accepting it as true that a thing is real or true. One does not need absolute certainty to believe something, although perhaps it’s good to have a good epistemological foundation upon which to support that belief.

Of course, an astute reader might stop me there and say “Hold on! If you’re claim is that we don’t choose our beliefs, wouldn’t saying that we should have good reasons to believe something pull the rug out from under you, from the start? Wouldn’t it imply that you should only choose the well-supported ideas as your beliefs?”

And that astute reader may have started to see where I’m going with this post. We’ll get there.

For now, what I want to define is what I think a belief is, and not how we should get there. If I say that I believe there is a cat in that box, then I’m saying that I accept it as a real state of the universe that this particular box has a cat in it. It does not mean I can prove that there is one, necessarily, or even that the available evidence is sound or even available to be evaluated. It merely means that I have accepted it as a fact, or a true proposition, but it does not necessarily mean that I know it. (Knowledge is another can of worms, completely).

It has no necessary connection to the truth of whether there actually is a cat in the box; I could be wrong, but I currently believe that there is a cat in the box. My reasons are not relevant to the mere question of belief per se.

 

Epistemology

Epistemology is the philosophical study of why I’m right and you’re wrong. OK, it’s not quite that, but it’s the study of how we know, why we know, and ultimately it studies the tools we use to create justifications for the truth of propositions.

So, you believe there is a cat in the box. Why do you believe that? How did you come to that conclusion? Does it feel true to you? Can you see a cat in the hole in the box? Is there a meowing sound coming from inside the box? Did you open the box and see a cat in there?

There are gradations of evidence for the belief, and some of them will be more rationally justified, and convincing to people, than others. If you merely feel like there is a cat in the box, but when we shake it it feels light and no hissing and cat noises ensue, then maybe your feeling is wrong. Maybe the meowing sound is a recording being played on a speaker in the box? Maybe it’s a fake cat you see through the hole in the box. Maybe you’re hallucinating both a cat and a box, and in reality there is not even a box at all. Maybe you’re in the matrix, and there is also no spoon.

In short, epistemology is the study of whether the belief is justified but it is also the study of how we come to conclusions which are justified to different extents.

So, how did you come to this belief?

Are you even consciously aware of how you came to believe in your theory of cats in boxes? Did you earn a PhD in cat-in-box-ology? Did you try to open the box and pet the cat? Did you take the cat out of the box because you were trying to put something else in it when your cat decided the box belonged to her? What was the method you used to come to this belief?

And that leads into the next question.

 

What would it be like if you were wrong?

If it weren’t the case that a cat was in the box, what would that imply about other things you believe and would it affect you in some significant way? If the cat were an illusion, or otherwise just not there, would it shatter your worldview? Would it be painful or somehow life-altering if it were the case that your belief were not true?

How does it feel, and what thoughts do you have, if someone tells you there is no cat in the box? Does it make you curious? Angry? Do you feel pity for the poor deluded fool who can’t perceive the cat? Also, can you actually perceive the cat yourself, or are you inferring it from something else? Maybe you were raised in a home where everyone believed there was a cat in the box, and so you just sort of accepted it from an early age and so the idea seems natural, automatic, and, well…did you ever really choose to believe that the cat was in the box?

I mean…of course you did. Right? You looked at the box. There was something moving in there. You thought you heard a meow. Besides, the box says “cat inside,” and why would someone write that on a box with no cat in it? You really thought about this, and you decided that a cat was in the box. You’re sure. Mostly.

Ok, let’s forget about the damned cat for a minute, and let’s talk about something else. You decide to pick up a newspaper, and you see that it says that your local baseball team won the game last night. Great! that’s awesome. And you believe it, because the newspaper said so. I mean, newspapers make mistakes, but not often of more trivial and easily provable things like this, so you accept it as true, even if only provisionally, because there is evidence which is generally reliable to support it.

But what if someone said “hey, the newspaper made a mistake about last night’s game, and they actually lost in the bottom of the 9th”? What happens then? Did your belief in the outcome of the game waver or change? Did you choose that wavering or shift in belief? Did you, consciously, say to yourself that the question of the result of the game is in the air, epistemologically, and you now choose to believe that they in fact lost? Or did the belief just sort of shift, without you seeing the process take place, and appear in your consciousness without any actual conscious process driving it?

Or this. You see a man steal a candy bar from a convenience store. Did you consciously choose to accept this as reality, or were you convinced by the direct evidence that you saw with your own eyes. I want to emphasize the word “convince” here, because it indicates something happening to you, not you doing something. You became convinced by an experience.

It’s possible you mis-saw what happened; maybe the man actually paid for it already and is just grabbing it now. Maybe he’s the owner of the store, and it’s really his candy bar. But you believe he just stole it, because you saw the evidence (even if you might be wrong). Could you choose to believe that he didn’t steal it? You could conceive of alternative explanations, but until you actually become convinced, whether through rational analysis* or through new information that he didn’t steal it, you will believe that he stole it.

Did you choose to believe that you cannot fly like superman?

You did? Great. Now choose to believe that you can fly like superman.

You can’t, can you?

What’s the problem? You did choose in the first place, right? You were convinced by the evidence of the possibilities of such things, and then chose to believe it, right? Or was it that the belief appeared in your consciousness because of the evidence in its favor? And the only way you could believe otherwise is to see new evidence of your newfound ability to fly.

You do not choose your beliefs. You become convinced of things due to feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Your inability to simply hop from genuine (as opposed merely asserted) belief to belief at your mere whim demonstrates this.

So how is it the case that people believe things that are wrong? If beliefs are the result of evidence, then shouldn’t we only believe things which are evident? Ideally, yes, but there are all sorts of cognitive biases, errors on thinking and perceptions, and deceptions (both external and internal) at play here.

 

Being Wrong

You believe that someone at work hates you, and is trying to ruin your career. You have seen all the evidence and it worries you. They are always short with you, snippy even. And you had that idea at the meeting which they shot down immediately in front of everyone. She didn’t come to the after work happy hour you organized, even though she came to the other one last month. She never talks to you. She probably plots and schemes at home on how to ruin your life. The evidence is obvious, right?

Well, maybe she doesn’t like you. Maybe she despises you even more than your worst fantasies could ever conjure up. Or, maybe, all of these pieces of evidence have other explanations, and she actually thinks you’re a good employee and thinks highly, or maybe just neutral, about you. It’s very easy to have beliefs that are incorrect for all sorts of reasons.

But you’re convinced anyway. Another co-worker says that you are reading into things too much, and she’s short with most people most of the time. She is always speaking up in meetings with ideas and being critical, even with her best friend who she sees all the time after work for drinks. That’s just who she is.

No, you believe she has it out for you. You’ve become convinced and invested in this belief, and if the belief is challenged then a part of your brain sort of reacts against the other evidence and rejects it, perhaps almost imperceptibly. It’s not quite painful, but it’s uncomfortable. The claim just bumps up against your belief and bounces off. You are experiencing cognitive dissonance.

And the more contradictory information you receive, perhaps the more your belief sticks. And maybe, just maybe, as the evidence starts to mount against your belief the feeling of believing it starts to feel more and more like a choice. The more evidence that she likes you–she invites you to lunch with some people, she compliments your work, she nods her head at the next meeting in reaction to your idea–the more the belief that she actually hates you and wants to destroy you starts to feel like you are choosing to believe it because you are actively maintaining it, even if only unconsciously.

And if I came to you on a day or time while you were thinking about your co-worker and asked you whether we choose our beliefs you say yes; you do choose your beliefs. Perhaps not all of them, but this belief feels like a choice right now, and you are a free, curious, and intelligent person not merely subject to the random whims of random chance in terms of what you believe about the world. Your beliefs are rational, reasonable, and you have given them thought, so of course you choose them.

But that doesn’t address how you came to believe it in the first place. Because the initial question is not “are you choosing to believe this now,” it’s “how did you come to this belief?” It’s well-known that many of our reasons for our beliefs are post-hoc rationalizations, and not the reason we originally came to the belief itself (as I have written about before) ; not how to hold onto, rationalize, or explain your beliefs, but how you came to accept it as true. In other words, we need to be able to distinguish between the origin of a belief and our mind’s ability to maintain, defend, or rationalize a belief after it has made a home in our brain.

And in most cases, I don’t think we know how we started to believe something, especially when it comes to things like religious, political, or larger worldview beliefs. If you really think about where your beliefs come from, you may often be left without a clue. All the justifications that start to perculate up are an after-the-fact rationalization of the thing that’s already there, even if your belief is actually true, rational, and strongly evidenced. You didn’t choose it, you became convinced for good, bad, or mixed good/bad causes and reasons.

 

Beliefs: Rationalizations versus origins

As I reflect on some of my more certain, core beliefs, I don’t feel a sense of defending or actively maintaining the belief. I feel no cognitive dissonance when I think “this computer is in front of me” or “the world seems like a collection of material things interacting in complicated ways.” But I do feel some cognitive dissonance if I think “Nas’ Illmatic is the best rap album of all time”.

See, I love that album, and I have a fair amount of emotional investment in thinking it’s the best rap album because of my love for it. But I’m also aware that there is evidence out there that it’s not the best rap album. There are some pretty damned good Wu-Tang albums, for example. Also, there are a lot of good albums I probably don’t know about which may be better. I feel, while thinking those words, that I’m actively rationalizing the answer in real time, mostly unconsciously, and it feels more like I’m choosing that belief. I feel the power of having made that choice, but the feeling of having made the choice is not the origin of the belief, it is the experience of rationalizing the belief.

I’ve been fooled to think I chose the belief because of the process of rationalizing the belief, which probably isn’t the reason I came to that belief, is associated with the origin of the belief in my mind. Now, it might be the case that Nas’ Illmatic is in fact the best rap album of all time, but that’s not really relevant here. What’s relevant is that this belief came about through processes I’m not conscious of at all and perhaps could never understand, so it couldn’t possibly be a choice. The rationalizations I come up with later, consciously, may have nothing whatsoever to do with the initial reason. But even if it did, there is no way for me to know this, at least not completely.

And while it’s important to be able to justify our beliefs and be open to allowing those beliefs to change (notice that this is, again, something that happens to us and not something we do) based upon further information and experience, we should be aware that this process is separate from how the belief came to exist in the first place. So, if we have free will and can choose the rational processes by which we justify our beliefs, because we don’t have access to the processes by which the belief formed, we can’t have chosen the belief.

 

OK dude, what’s your point?

Perhaps it is the case (and I’m not convinced of this yet, and therefore do not believe it, but it’s a compelling thought) that there is a correlation, and mayhap even a causal relationship, between the sensation of choosing a belief and the presence of cognitive dissonance. Therefore, the strength of the feeling of choosing a belief is a sign of the belief itself being in jeopardy.

If I hold a belief, but the evidence seems to contradict or at least challenge it, then as I think about the challenge I have to actively justify the belief. This may cause the sensation of choosing it because I’m being forced to justify my belief fresh, which feels like a choice. But, maybe, if the challenges to my belief result in no sensation of choosing the belief, this might be a sign that cognitive dissonance is not present, and maybe I’m not seeing any conflict with my belief at all.

It could also mean I’m dense, stubborn, or simply not understanding the counter-evidence, but I’m finding it compelling that there might be a relationship here, which I will have to give more thought to.

When a challenge comes to a core belief, such as the earth being relatively spherical, from (let’s say) a flat-Earth proponent, I certainly do have to bring to mind the justifications for my belief, but he feeling of choosing this belief is weak if not nonexistent in this case. The attempts at counter-arguments simply don’t have enough power to bring about the sensation of choosing to believe the earth is round, it’s just there, unperturbed.

But how about whether psychic ability is real? I’m convinced it’s not, and I belief it’s a fraud or a delusion when people claim it’s real, but there is a sensation of the belief being chosen as I really think about it. It’s not inherently impossible, after all. I could imagine ways it might happen, given the right kinds of biological hardware and processes. There is enough room for doubt, that as I think about it the sensation of choosing this belief is more present. But, again, this is the sensation of the justification process, not the origin of the belief. To touch the core belief, the evidence would have to be overwhelming and that, if it ever happened, would be the cause of a new belief (a belief in psychic abilities) which would be new and never completely understood, but only later justified.

So maybe we should keep in mind that the belief that belief is a choice is a sign of cognitive dissonance? Or at least a sign that the belief is being justifiably challenged?Maybe I should try to believe that, and see how well it pans out.

I don’t know, I’m not quite convinced, but it’s an interesting idea to keep in mind and pay attention to, going forward. If it were true that the feeling of choosing a belief were related to a belief being exposed, threatened, and potentially subject to replacement, then it might be worth paying more attention to when people claim they choose their beliefs as possibly more open to having their minds changed.

Then again, someone who says they choose their beliefs and who are also convinced that they cannot be wrong are probably not worth talking to. In other words, I should stay off of Facebook.

 

 


*One might be tempted to point out that this internal rational analysis is the point where one chooses to believe. But even if we accept that the rational analysis itself was chosen, the belief comes as a result of the analysis, automatically, based on the soundness of the analysis and your ability to understand it. If you think 1+1=2, and you understand what all those symbols/words mean, then you have no choice but to accept it as true. You don’t choose to believe 1+1=2, you become convinced by the meanings of the symbols and their relation to each other, regardless of whether you chose to think that specific analytical thought.

Are we biological machines with or without free will?


I updated my facebook status yesterday saying that I was involved in a discussion about whether we are biological machines.  I say that we are.  In response, a debate ensued among the comments concerning this question that turned into a discussion about free will, moral responsibility, etc.  I thought I would share some thoughts here and see what people think.  Keep in mind that I am thinking publically here, and not trying to establish absolute certainty on this issue.  I invitediscussion.

Of course moral responsibility is based upon our choices.  The physical circumstances we find ourselves in will have to be analyzed, perceived, or attended by the brain in some way.  The question is whether how our brain reacts could have been any other way than what it does? Could that last sentence I just wrote have been expressed more or less eloquently? Could I have given the opposite opinion?

It is logically possible that a different sentence could have been written, but would it be physically possible? What sense would it make to say another thing could have happened? Would that not imply that the physical properties of my brain or its input would have to have been somehow different? What aspect of the situation would have allowed the different situation to have emerged?  What would have to be different to allow different actions? And if the same physical circumstances could have allowed a different action, does that mean that this is a hypothesis about the nature of matter to be unpredictable?

There is a sort of game being played here.  It is a game within which we have the ability to think about the alternative ways to describe the circumstances, but from the outside of the game it may be clear, perhaps to a greater perspective or some theoretical god (or some kind of third-person-omniscient point of view) that no other possibility could have been, including those specific concepts of alternatives within the minds present.   Another question would be whether such a god-like point of view exists.  I don’t think so, but I digress.

The issue of moral responsibility only makes sense within the game of this question, but outside of it the game perhaps the repercussions of our morality are also as determined as the actions being punished. Perhaps the punisment is as determined as the crime.

But we feel free!  There is a sense of being able to look at he options–turn right, left, stand still, turn around, etc–and that we analyze the possibilities and decide which to pursue.  But I am at a loss as to understand how a physical brain could have made any actions besides what it did.  Quantum uncertainty, if it plays a part in neural activity at all, seems a possible area of explanation, even if I am skeptical of it. Perhaps quantum uncertainty throws the monkey wrench into physical determinism at the level of the world around us–the nurture–meaning that given known circumstances our behavior could be predicted but the circumstances themselves are undetermined.  I don’t know.

But what does not seem legitimate, to me, is the explanation  of souls or spirits that exist within us that allow us to be more than mere biological machines. Why not? Well, if we have a soul, it is either part of our physical structure (not escaping the problem at hand) or it is non-physical, raising questions about how the non-physical and physical interact.  If they can interact, then is the non-physical really NON-physical?

It is a difficult issue.  I don’t like the thought of my choices being determined by the set of nature and nurture (even if nurture is potentially non-determined).  But I don’t know how to escape the problem.  I would like to hear comments on how others think about this (assuming you have a choice in how you will respond).