Thursday, May 15, 2014

On being Epicurean

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.” Annie Dillard

I do enjoy a good schedule, a well-designed routine; it really does free one’s hands (and one’s mind); and I do firmly believe in the power of showing up every day (rather than “waiting for the Muse”). But for a couple of weeks now, I have been trying something opposite: I have completely and utterly freed my life from all time-catching nets, destroyed all scaffoldings (there are things I absolutely must do -- but this domain is strictly limited to the bare minimum). An exercise in free fall, if you will -- or in free flight: what I do with this hour, with this particular here and now is exactly what I want to do here and now.

Here is why: my schedule, which had been pretty effective and comfortable for a while, failed to pass a “stress test”, a relatively mild one, as a matter of fact. The rapid deterioration of political situation in Ukraine and in Russia exerted a strangely powerful pull on my mind, drawing me into its life-threatening flame further and further by the day, by the hour even, and almost completely destroying the fragile harmony of my existence. It seemed like almost any step through my daily schedule led me, inevitably, into the quicksand of “checking the news”. I saw huge chunks of my life falling into bottomless time gaps, which kept appearing somewhere between the scaffolding and the building itself; days disappearing away as easily and pointlessly as though there were no “day-catching net” in place.

I wasn’t, I came to understand, replacing my scheduled activities with anything enjoyable, quite the contrary: my usual daily routine consisted of things way more pleasurable than reading the news. I kept doing something both completely anti-Epicurean and completely counterproductive: decreasing my pleasure and increasing my pain and frustration, and losing time and productivity by the same token. The question was, then: if I was not doing what I had planned to do anyway, why wouldn’t I rather switch to what I really wanted to do, something that would give me pleasure rather than pain?   

The answer, when it came, was unexpected and, to tell you the truth, rather frightening: in those crucial moments, I don’t know what it is that I want to do, plain and simple; there must be some desires within me, surely, but no awareness of them whatsoever.

Don’t get me wrong: there are many things I know I love to do; and yet it seems like “love to do” (in principle) and “want to do” here and now are not the same thing: it turns out that, even if your schedule is constructed from your love-to-dos exclusively, it can still be misaligned with the inner rhythms of your desires. It can still work while there is an inertia of daily routine; but if something breaks it (like, in my case, the events in Ukraine), this misalignment leaves you helpless and clueless. At least if you have lost touch with your desires, like I have.

And it’s rather easy to lose touch with them, for the sheer lack of practice: if one’s life is controlled and constrained by a tight schedule (be it self-imposed or determined by the circumstances), held together by the inertia of daily routine, what’s the point of ever knowing what it is that you want to do now? You aren’t going to do it anyway -- you’ve got a plan and a schedule -- so this knowledge would just add more frustration.

I have heard that the same “loss of touch” can happen even with such a basic thing as food. If one eats what one is given, and always at predetermined “meal times”, and the portion size is also fixed by someone else -- then the inborn skills of recognizing hunger, appetites, satiation are often lost for the lack of practice; one doesn’t hear these natural body clues any longer, and this can lead to all kinds of eating disorders. In a similar way, my live-long love of good schedules seems to have lead me into some kind of “living disorder”.  

So this is the why and wherefore of my little experiment in redesigning my life: I wanted to reawaken myself to the inner current of my desires, and to do that, I reckoned, I had to promise myself to follow them. Originally, I thought I’d be running this experiment for a couple of weeks (and they are nearly over), but it has been working so well so far that I think I’ll stay with it for a while more.

For one thing, I’ve managed to completely wean myself from this compulsive-obsessive news checking; I do check the news, but no more than necessary (about ten minutes a day, in fact). It turned out, too, that I want to take my bike for a ride around the nearby lake quite often -- quite a healthy change, by all accounts. Or reading Pushkin: one of the most enjoyable activities on this earth, surely, and I’ve known it since forever, but it somehow slipped away from my neatly scheduled life; so much so that I was surprised (pleasantly) when I felt this desire.

And then there is this very post, of course: over the last couple of months, I could scarcely bring myself to string two sentences together, and this blog had been completely abandoned. Whenever writing a blog post would show up on my schedule, I would feel reluctant to do so (and so decide to “check the news”). Now, though, in this particular moment of my life, I am writing because I’ve detected this desire to write within, not without, on my “to-do” list -- as it has turned out, this desire does come, and quite often. Writing this has taken a much longer time than I used to spend on a blog post, but every minute of it was meaningful and filled with pleasure. And if you are reading it now, it means that, at some point, I felt the desire to publish it.  

I do want to end it with a promise to keep you informed about how this experiment goes, but this would defy the idea, wouldn’t it? Just another to-do item for my non-existent (for now) to-do list… Still, I believe I will return to this theme at some point, because something tells me I am not the only one experiencing this kind of “living disorder”: I’ve read, for example, that some people use random number generators to choose what to do now from lists of things they wanted to do (when they put them on their lists). This very need to have something outside yourself choose for you what you want to do, even if completely at random, looks to me like a symptom of the same misalignment, the same loss of touch with oneself.

And so I want to write down, both for myself and for you, just in case you’d want to try it one day, how I am learning to reawaken myself to the inner current of my desires, to listen, to get back in touch. But I still have a long way to go in this process, so we’ll wait and see…  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

All you want to know about painting: a painting language (I)

The next question in "All you want to know about painting" series comes from +Terrill Welch

  • How do we develop a painting language and what is it?

There are two essential qualities implicit in the concept of language, which aren't immediately apparent in painting (but they are there nonetheless, which is why the concept of "painting language" makes sense). 

First, a language works with arbitrary signs: in general, there is nothing intrinsic which would associate the form (sound) of a word with its meaning, that is, the objects it is supposed to "represent" in language; such associations are based solely on arbitrary conventions. Not so in painting: a combination of marks on a flat surface would represent a "real world" object only insofar as the viewer can recognize their visual similarity. This possibility depends on the neural machinery (and trickery) of vision and image recognition, which is "hard-wired" in our brains (hence universal to all humans), not on variable arbitrary conventions. That's why we easily recognize bulls in cave paintings of Lascaux (dated at about 40000 years ago), but we would be at a loss if we were (by some miracle) to hear the word these painters used for "bull". 

Although scientists began to study and understand the intricacies of our internal neural machinery only in the twentieth century, painters had intuited lots of its tricks long before that (some of them, as we see, at least 40 millennia ago), and this knowledge forms the basis for "the language of painting". But does it mean that there is no place for arbitrariness in painting? Certainly not: an eighteenth century art connoisseur, for example, would hardly be able recognize a bust of a woman in Pablo Picasso's painting (on the right), even though their brains were hard-wired (roughly) in the same way as ours. But we are "trained" by all the developments of the last century to recognize highly abstracted objects in paintings readily: it is now a common place, a part of convention, but only because of all the twentieth (and twenty first) century paintings we have already seen. In fact, I feel fairly confident that when the first painters made their marks on cave walls, it took some time and some convincing for other members of the tribe to recognize animals in these marks: it was, for all we know, a more revolutionary shift in thinking and perception than anything Picasso could have possibly done. 

This brings us to the second essential quality of language, which is necessary insofar as there is arbitrariness: a language must be shared; that is, the speaker and the listener must share the same set of conventions for the message to get across. For painting, it means its language should be shared between painters and viewers (including other painters, of course).    

Claude Monet. Impression Sunrise.
We all know the story of this painting by Claude Monet, don't we, which gave the name to the whole Impressionism movement: Impressionists were out to paint the real, immediate reality, but they departed from the shared conventions of the moment dramatically enough to make their language utterly incomprehensible for most viewers, including art critics (who really should have known better). What has happened since then? Why this way to represent reality, which was so incomprehensible, offensive even, just a little more than a century ago, now attracts blockbuster crowds to exhibitions and thousands of painters adopting the same approach? Are the modern art lovers more sophisticated and sensitive than in the nineteenth century France? No -- we just learned the (new) language; and now that the language is shared, the message is easy to get.  

Reportedly, Anna Akhmatova once said that poets have a particularly hard time (among artists), since they've got to work with the very same words people use to invite one another for tea. It might seem that painting is different, since its "language" is not the one used for everyday trivial exchanges. Or maybe we have it even worse, because a painter must inevitably rely on the eye's and brain's visual machinery evolved mostly under completely unrelated pressures (at least, it seems reasonable to assume that one's ability to appreciate cave paintings played a less significant role in survival and gene propagation than the ability to detect and recognize things, distances, and motion in the "real world"). 

What's more, a poet doesn't need to change the language to say something novel and meaningful (although some of them have done so), but for a painter these two actions, making a painting and changing the language of painting, are almost inseparable, precisely because there is less arbitrariness in painting than in language; the language and the message are intrinsically linked to each other. I will return to this topic in the next post...  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shakespeare, happiness, and other dangerous things

Dissolution. 30"x24". Oil on canvas. 2013
I've just read Daniel Gilbert's "Stumbling on happiness": based on Brain Pickings' recommendation, I believed it might be a good gift for a friend, but (luckily) decided to check it out myself first. And I am glad I did -- because I didn't like it at all, and I am sure the friend in question wouldn't have liked it either.  

I am not going into whys and wherefores of my dislike here (I am not out to write a review, after all), but there are a couple of (partly interrelated) thoughts it helped to crystallize in my mind, which I want to record for myself, and share with you. 

First, although the book is, presumably, about the newest psychological findings, each chapter is preceded by an epigraph taken from Shakespeare, which pretty much sums up the most essential of these findings. Did he have some sort of time machine to travel to our times and consult with modern psychologists? I don't think so. Nor would it be enough to say that he was somehow "ahead of his time" in understanding human condition. Instead, he created the framework which still defines our understanding of it, the very concepts used to pose research questions and, to a large extent, determine the answers (both for those who have read Shakespeare, and for those who have "inherited" this framework second-hand, via other linguistic channels). That is the reason his work remains relevant, and that is one of two major reasons for my own "Sonnets in colour" project.  

The other thought is more general. Have you noticed that there are lots and lots of scientific findings (and their popular interpretations) which, ultimately, suggest that human beings shouldn't trust themselves? One shouldn't trust their body: if it tells you what it wants to eat, you should go and find dietary recommendations about which nutrients it really needs; you shouldn't trust it if it tells you it's healthy: you cannot know you are healthy unless you undergo regular check-ups and more and more invasive "tests"; nor, as a matter of fact, should you trust it if it tells you you are ill, unless your doctor confirms that this is, indeed, the case. Otherwise, "it's all in your head". 

This leads us to "the head", of course, which you shouldn't trust either; because your brain is engaged in permanent successful attempts to deceive you, to create the illusion that what you see is really there, that what you remember really happened, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera; and, last but not least, that you have a conscious control of your own actions.  

Daniel Gilbert's book goes further in this direction than anything I have read so far: you cannot even trust yourself to decide what will make you happy; nor even what did make you happy in the past, because all your memories are inaccurate at best or downright erroneous at worst. Which means you can learn neither from practice nor from experts; your only way out is to ask someone else whether the thing you are contemplating makes them happy. And if you happen to think people are too different for this to work, it's just another of your innumerable mistakes: overestimating your own uniqueness.

Don't get me wrong: I don't question the underlying findings; at least not all of them (some of them are really controversial and often barely substantiated, so it would be strange to accept them unchallenged, especially insofar as your own life is concerned). That's not the point: the question is rather what we do once we accept that the human mind is not an ideal machine for discovering the final truth about reality, and that the brain is a very adept illusionist (which, of course, Shakespeare knew very well). The idea of relying on someone else doesn't really look promising: not only because they are also human, but also because it would be incredibly boring.

My feelings tell me that this ever increasing alienation from oneself, the growing mistrust within oneself, cannot form the path to any sort of happiness; rather, it's a sure road to despair and depression. But then again, feelings cannot be trusted, can they? 




Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In defense of perfectionism

Punschlied (after Friedrich Schiller). 16"×20". Oil on linen. January 2013
I've chosen this painting to illustrate today's post, because everyone knows that a glass of Punsch must be perfect, right? Why ever would one want anything less than that? What's the point?

I've been thinking a lot about "perfectionism" lately, and why it has received so much bad publicity. It seems the older I get, the more I feel that there are fewer and fewer things in life worth doing without at least an attempt for perfectionism. Simultaneously, I hear (and read) more and more about how wrong it is, how stifling it may be; even immoral, occasionally. Recently, I read that perfectionism is what distinguishes amateur artists from professionals, but not the way I expected: supposedly, only amateur artists suffer from this plague of perfectionism, whereas the professional ones always hurry to the next work, accepting the drawbacks of the current one as a necessary learning experience. I don't really want to give a link to where I read it, because it's not the point: this attitude seems to be everywhere. I've even read somewhere an absurd claim that Cezanne was somehow wrong in his relentless perfectionism: obviously, his paintings were all right, so his dissatisfaction with them must have been a mistake, mustn't it? Why would he stubbornly return to them again and again, year after year, when the reasonable approach would be just to start another one, like a serious "professional artist"?

But is this approach something you would be willing to expect (and accept) from others? Say, do you appreciate it when your dentist hurries to the next patient, blissfully accepting the errors they've made with your own unique teeth as a necessary learning experience? Or would you like to live in a house built with this sort of attitude -- as I happen to do: our builder obviously didn't suffer from perfectionism, so we are now in the midst of a legal claim against them... Or do you enjoy a sloppy job from a chef in the nearby restaurant? Or a Google+ update filled with bugs to the brim?

I suspect every single one of us has had an experience like this, and secretly (or not so secretly) wished for more perfectionism from dentists, builders, engineers, designers, chefs etcetera etcetera etcetera, however it may stifle their creativity. So why is it, then, that the meme of anti-perfectionism is still happily spreading in our collective consciousness, and steadily increases the overall degree of sloppiness in all human-made things around us?  

From what I see, there are three types of situations when the anti-perfectionism meme might be genuinely useful:

  • Study. Within the context of learning, there are indeed many situations when it's better to begin another attempt, rather than try to correct the previous one. In fact, lots of failed attempts are to be expected while one is studying and practicing. And yet it seems that this is an argument for the very necessity of studies (as something separate from one's professional work), rather than against perfectionism per se: indeed, don't we all hope that our dentists and builders will have left years of studies (and failures) behind them, and approach our mouths and our houses with a different attitude? Shouldn't an artist require nothing less than this of themselves?  
  • Urgency. My grandfather used to tell this story: that his commanding officer, during the war (WWII) kept telling them "If you guys cannot do it fast and well, then do it fast and badly." (It wasn't about actual military actions: my grandfather's work during the war had to do with his near-native expertise in German: translation, propaganda leaflets, that kind of thing). Presumably, it was warranted in the war time: when something isn't done fast, it's pointless do it at all. In the time of peace, too, there might be some situations of this type; one doesn't have the time to do something perfectly, but it's better to do it anyway, at least somehow (cleaning one's kitchen inevitably comes to mind here).
  • Fear of failure. The argument goes that it's one's perfectionism that produces this fear: one has to let go of perfectionism in order to be ready for a failure. Frankly, I don't believe this -- simply because I know many hard-core perfectionists, and all of them know that failures are inevitable and are ready for them. They just don't confuse failures with finished work. In other words, fearlessness and perfectionism are not just compatible; I believe one cannot be a perfectionist and be afraid of failure at the same time. In the context of this argument, the word "perfectionism" works just as a thin disguise for fear.       

The bottom line, it seems, is this: nowadays, there is a limited range of situations where the anti-perfectionism meme is useful, that is, when the need to do something fast, however imperfectly, is really urgent and unavoidable. But from this limited domain, the meme spreads, it would seem, everywhere, from sloppy buildings to badly edited books to faulty software; and to art, of course. Why? Because this meme seems to "win" against two less fashionable ones: the need to study, and the fear of failure. 

And the reason it wins, I think, is simply because it tends to make people feel better about themselves (and so, happier). It is somehow more pleasant to admit, even to oneself, to one's perfectionism -- than to the fact that one simply hasn't studied enough; or, even more so, than to recognize the fear of failure within oneself.   

Arguably, making people feel happier is a useful function of a meme "in itself"; and I am all for everyone's happiness. Still, I cannot help but dream about the end of this age of sloppiness, and perfectionism's triumphant return...  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On accomplishments vs. recognition in painting

Some time ago I was talking with another painter, and he mentioned a couple of juried shows as "accomplishments he was proud of". Not having organized these shows, but just being accepted by jurors he admired.  

This passing remark initiated a train of thought about the nature of accomplishments vs. recognition in painting (and probably art in general), which is, among other things, reflected in my most recent website update

Over the last several years, I've heard many an artist lament the nature of value in art: that it's not the merit of an artwork itself that is being valued, but rather the name behind it, the story, the resume; in short, the history of this particular artist's work being recognized as valuable by other people. This conversation is invariably renewed whenever a painting is sold for some particularly absurd price in a major auction, or in response to specifically designed stunts (like Banksy's recent experiment with anonymous street sales). Nobody seems to like the situation, yet the art world has evidently evolved to support and re-create it every day:

  • Read any advice from "art professionals" to art collectors, and after a mandatory "buy what you love" remark, you will almost invariably find the injunction to check the artist's CV: education, shows, acquisitions. 
  • Unsurprisingly, check any artist's website, and you will almost invariably find this sort of CV (sometimes, it seems like a more essential part of an artist's website than a representative sample of their work). 
  • And, of course, the same sort of CV is almost invariably required in applications for things like exhibitions, artist residencies, and other nice things like this. 

In other words, buy what you love, but don't forget to check whether others love it, too, especially those who, supposedly, know better. And, of course, whether anyone else is willing to buy it for this kind of price.

Don't get me wrong: I don't blame anyone in particular for this; I rather tend to think it's a sort of "invisible hand" phenomenon, an "emergent" structure nobody has designed, but which naturally creates and re-creates itself. Its root cause, I believe, might be in the blurred distinction between accomplishment vs. recognition (which brings me back to the conversation I mentioned in the beginning: an instance of recognition -- being accepted into a group show -- obviously perceived as an accomplishment).

I've read, written (and edited) my fair share of CVs and resumes from various fields in my life: academia, engineering, and, more recently, arts. And here is what I've noticed: both academic CVs and engineering resumes tend to distinguish accomplishments and recognition more or less clearly (although this tendency seems more pronounced in engineering CVs), but an artist's CV blurs the distinction altogether. Or, to put it in other words, an artist's CV is all about recognition construed as accomplishments

In an exhibition catalogue written by someone else, you can find a description of what the artist has actually achieved in a particular work or a body of work; but not, as a rule, in an artist's self-presentation in the form of CV. No wonder exhibition catalogues tend to be a much more interesting read than CVs. But it would be even more interesting to read such a description from the artist themselves.  

We do occasionally find bits and pieces of such descriptions in published letters and, sometimes, essays and "manifestos"; but rarely as a full story constructed by the artist themselves at a particular stage of their life and work. I sometimes imagine an ideal world in which such stories would be found on artists' websites, along with reproductions of their work, and, ideally, instead of lists of recognitions. That, I feel, would give a visitor more essential information and let them explore the work in complete freedom from societal pressures of recognition in the past.  

And while I am waiting for this world to come, that's what I've tried to do on my own website.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

All you want to know about painting: "routine" colour choices

The next question in "All you want to know about painting" series comes from +Terrill Welch
What has an artist limit their colour palette in such a way that all their work looks like it is painted on the same day at the same time of day? Or with no light reference at all? This might be asked more accurately as what is the influence of artificial lighting and colour theory in painting? Or maybe it has to do with this idea of creating a solid body of work in one style? I have no idea. I am just puzzled when I notice this result in an artist's work - my own included at times. I wonder - what is really happening here? 

Pablo Picasso. Old blind man with boy. 125x92 cm. Oil/canvas. 1903
It seems to me that there are many questions in one here, and I would like to split the topic. First of all, I'll save the influence of artificial lighting and colour theory on painting for later; also (and this is a partly related issue), I will, for now, exclude the cases where a painter limits their colour palette deliberately, with a conscious expressive intent. In such cases, I believe, it's more or less clear what's happening (even if it's not always easy to express in words). 
Here is one of the most famous examples of this, from Picasso's "blue period", as an illustration of what I mean. 

It seems to me you are asking rather about situations where an artist "falls" into a limited range of colour harmonies without conscious intent, almost without noticing it. Obviously, we can never know for sure about other painters, but you mention your own work -- and more generally, I know that such things do often happen unintentionally, as a result of choices made unconsciously. No wonder, since, apparently, all our actions are initiated unconsciously...  

I believe there is a very general reason for this kind of unintentional repetitiveness: in most general terms, the more frequently one does something, the more likely they are to do the exact same thing in the future, especially if one somehow gets a positive feedback from earlier times. That's just how the neural underpinnings of our inner lives work: the more we do something, the "stronger" the neural pathways for doing it; and the stronger the neural pathway, the more likely it is to get activated again, and again, and again. This is essentially the same mechanism one can use deliberately to develop a certain habit (and I believe it's also related to what people sometimes call "comfort zone"). 

So, if a painter has successfully used a certain colour harmony -- and falling in love with the resulting painting created a positive feedback for their unconscious, they are likely to take the same path again. And the more they do it, the more likely they are to repeat it. And then it just might happen that you look back at your own work and suddenly see the repetitiveness you haven't noticed in the process, the limitations you unconsciously imposed upon yourself, as though you've become addicted to a certain colour harmony. 

It may happen with colour harmony, or it may happen with some other aspect of your work -- the mechanism is the same. As far as I know, the only way out (if you don't like it) is to make a conscious effort to "shake off" this unwanted routine. One can use some totally different subject matter to paint, or one can actually limit the palette in a novel way, to force oneself to work with other colour harmonies. I know some painters deliberately eliminate some favourite and seemingly essential pigments from their palette when they feel themselves falling into routine, automatic colour choices. 

But one way or another, the most important thing is to be aware of the effect, and to make a conscious effort to counteract this tendency. And the good thing: this, too, becomes easier with repetition -- the same mechanism "wired" into our brains is now consciously exploited for another goal! 




Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On painting and silence

Life, my sister III: out and out, my reason is laughable (after Boris Pasternak). 20"x20". Oil on canvas. 2013.
I should really start on the next question in my "All you want to know about painting series", but I desperately want to tell you something I've just recently clearly understood about painting; or, to be more precise, about its role in the modern context. 

For a very long time, I had believed that painting is, in a sense, a thing of past, barely surviving just at the margins of today's art forms -- just a shadow, or an echo, of its former glorious summits. There are, indeed, new art forms, thriving in discoveries yet to be made and more suited for the modern life. It was, actually, the "elephant in the room" I avoided mentioning in all my four posts on "Stories in painting": that the social function of visualizing stories had been long since passed from painting to cinema. By the way, I believe this might be the future of e-books: when in lieu of illustrations, one will be able to pull a movie version of the same episode to their tablet screen with a single click (and even choose their personal favorite among all the existing versions).    

Anyway, this belief did not lead me to even consider a change in occupation: one has to do what one has to do, even if it's an old-fashioned dead end in the grand scheme of things. But it had been there, in the back of my mind, before I started a major overhaul of my website -- which, old-fashioned as I am, involved mainly thinking and writing; among other things, thinking about the role of painting in modern life. And it crossed my mind that, far from being outdated and marginally relevant, it might be one of the most essential, fundamentally important art forms today -- not less (maybe even more) than ever.   

You know there is this idea floating around -- that we live in an "attention economy", where people's attention (actually, your attention) is the major resource for which everyone is competing? Well, I think that, looked from the opposite point of view, what is really in shortage today isn't attention; it's silence. Meaningful, mindful silence; lack of noise; genuine freedom of mind. 

You may say that one doesn't need any art forms for silence; one can just go for a long walk, or close their eyes in meditation. And I agree, of course -- painting isn't a replacement for this utmost solitude. But it has something else to offer: a combination of solitary silence with meaningful communication; interaction without obtrusion; conversation without noise. And it is an interaction, because the true magic of painting only happens through a connection with its viewer. 

It is, doubtlessly, true of any art form: a book cannot live without the reader, and music needs a listener; every work of art is re-created, and co-created, by its thou, the one who perceives and responds. And yet a painting is most silent and least obtrusive of them all -- it doesn't initiate a contact with you, it doesn't guide you through a story, it just sits there, waiting to be seen and come alive. You can pass it by on a wall, or browse away on the internet -- but if you stop, and the connection happens, your response is entirely your own.