Sunday, October 18, 2009

Optimysticals (4) – Summer’s in the mind

Optimysticals (4) – Summer's in the mind

Torrey Orton
October 18, 2009

Melbourne is always special to those who inhabit it, leaving a small space for recent arrivals' discourse of distress for our 4-seasons-in-a-day weather. We are now sliding forwards and back into spring. Backsliding is more prominent in the last few weeks with more snow on the mountains than the rest of the season and a serious upturn in water resource holdings. Still, our ever optimystical* weather people promote ideas like sunny and warm (20C) in the midst of an evidence-based assault on heating systems, both personal and mechanical.

On such a day a client showed up in short sleeves (with T undershirt) and cargo shorts ready for therapy. I queried the premise of his presentation: that the day's forecast had predictive validity. He produced a model of optimystical perception. Roughly, it's time for summer and so I dress for how it should be, and appreciate whatever approximation to 'should be' I get. This is akin to my farmer friend's view that it will rain, sometime. Both have an indefinite certainty of what the future holds for them, modulated by flexible expectations of the turnaround times required to reach it….

…which reminds me of an experience 28 years ago when living in Beijing. The Chinese traditional calendar is lunar and is used for various festivals, underlying which is the schedule for managing agriculture. The autumn festival, around full moon time in September, signals the end of summer and start of harvest. Our students (in 1981-83) put off their light cottons and put on medium cottons with long underwear.

In Hong Kong at the same period the pools and beaches closed. The students did not seem to sweat in 30+C temperatures, while HKers were possibly thrilled to know they no longer had to run the sharky gauntlets of their beaches. Minds over matters. For both northerners and southerners it always got as cold as their superficially silly behaviour predicted.

Therewith, I've now established, to my evidence needs, the cross cultural substance of optimysticality. It's a human capacity and not merely a product of our Bureau of Meteorology or my need for linguistic cuteness. It may become a test parameter for distinguishing artificial intelligences from the real things. Feel free to shop it around to likely users.


* an optimystical is a purveyor of hopes I wished someone would purvey once I heard/understood they were doing it. It is often a counter-intuitive, maybe ironic, communication.

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