When I was studying for the SAT over three decades ago (little sob), I dubbed myself “Queen of Analogies.” I know it sounds vain to confer an exalted title on oneself. (I later adopted the moniker “Cupcake Queen,” so maybe I have a problem.) If it’s any consolation, when I was taking the test, I probably thought of myself as the dunce of analogies. Perhaps good news for college-bound students is that analogy questions were removed from the SAT in 2005.
An analogy is a comparison. It shows the resemblance between two things otherwise unlike. Forms of analogy include metaphor (“All the world’s a stage”), simile (“My love is like a red, red rose”), allegory (“The Tortoise and the Hare”), and parable (“The Prodigal Son”). I recently came up with an analogy that I thought was, well, brilliant! It compared the political situation in the United States to a dress. My vanity didn’t go unchecked, however; my husband seemed less than impressed with it.
Remember “the dress”? The one that became an international meme in 2015? The garment was either blue and black, or white and gold, depending on who was looking at the photo. I became mildly obsessed with the phenomenon at the time, especially when the frock turned out to be blue and black (not the combination I saw). Explanations arose for the variance in perception, related to “the way human eyes and brains have evolved to see color in a sunlit world.” The image “hit some kind of perceptual boundary.”
The color of the dress in the photo became a topic of preoccupation, discussion, debate, disagreement, vitriolic argument, and existential crisis. The Washington Post called the controversy a “drama that divided a planet.” It was the subject of 4.4 million tweets in 24 hours. And neither “side” would give up its position. Indeed, my husband and I just spoke about it in raised tones. (He’s a blue-and-blacker.)
Now that I’ve refreshed your memory on the dress (assuming it hasn’t haunted you since its original infamy, because that would be abnormal), can you see how the current political situation resembles it? On Facebook, I’ll come across a political post that appears beyond doubt, conveying information from a reliable source. (I won’t give specifics, because the post could represent the views of either “side.”) I find myself thinking, there’s no way anyone could dispute the veracity or legitimacy of the point being made.
But invariably, someone will make a comment to the contrary. And I can tell he believes what he’s saying, 100 percent. He sees a blue-and-black dress; I see a white-and-gold dress. And budging, for either of us, would mean distrusting our senses (which we rely on for survival) and rejecting our perception of reality (a terrifying prospect). [End of brilliant analogy.]
I love analogies, even if I don’t reign over them, because they are stepping stones to understanding. If we understand A but not B, and B is like A, then we can also understand B.
Maybe, in this way, we can get all the way to Z.