|But I count five...|
1. The novelty of an analogy hooks people, and an idea conveyed analogously is more likely to stick.
A Technical Tony is wont to bear down on any given situation with more and more details. In this way, there are no forests but only many trees with even more branches and innumerable leaves. And it's not really helpful to label a national park on a map as "542,600 trees; 3.7 million branches; 189 million leaves."
|Just an ink drawing of my ally I scribbled. It took me, like, thirty seconds.|
Straw men aside, Kierkegaard is on my side. He argued that as a mind is not an undisturbed evaluator assessing information from inside a vacuum, it's necessary to, borrowing language from V, use lies to tell the truth. Just as good sentences tell the truth by referencing the latter part of the previous sentence, and then introduce a new thought at the end, Kierkegaard argued communicating indirectly "does not begin directly with the matter one wants to communicate, but begins by accepting the other man's illusion as good money."
This almost works as a sort of open sandwich method whereby the listener is greeted where he already stands then turned around to view matters from a different angle. He listens to the welcome and then just might understand the second part more as he has to process it himself.
2. Analogies don't merely scale with degree, but morph.
Whereas details are Fatburgers, available in various sizes but compositionally identical, analogies are from Jack in the Box. I could order two tacos if I were a little hungry, a sourdough breakfast sandwich if I were a little hungrier, or a Jumbo Jack with Cheese if I were famished. Each level is unique even as they differ in magnitude.
Simple conceits tend to convey more than basic facts. English comic Stewart Lee is highly metaphorical, and he explained the current coalition government as a relationship between two dogs. Whereas David Cameron was bred for power as a bloodhound for hunting foxes, his having to ally with Nick Clegg to wield that power is as if that blood hound could only catch foxes with the help of a small chihuahua. And if British politics don't do it for you, singer-songwriter Cass McCombs is indeed a lionkiller, and I would maintain that Nicki Minaj is a successful reliever who has outgrown the bullpen but doesn't yet know how to pitch for six or seven innings.
|Still better than 2010 Jenks.|
Unlike clichés, parables and fables might actually incite thought. Jesus taught in parables about sowing seeds and preparing for wedding feasts to much acclaim. On the fable side, Aesop’s tortoise and the hare have been codified in cliché: "Slow and steady wins the race." If the fable itself is too weathered to be useful, here's a fable update: At rush hour in West LA, it's faster to drive from Santa Monica to LAX on Lincoln than taking the 10 to the 405.
And, of course, there are allegories which can vivify seemingly dead weight. Whether it's spiritual works like The Pilgrim’s Progress or Flatland, a Cold War allegory like Dr. Seuss's Butter Battle Book, or the solid account of a Muslim’s relationship with America post-9/11 in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, allegories make the abstract much more perspicuous. I wonder if someone could explain modern East Asian history as a conversation between three students at a UC Irvine library....
Metaphors and conceits, parables and fables, and allegories should not be confused for each other. Just as you should not expect a breakfast sandwich to suffice for supper as a cheeseburger would, it’s not helpful to think Nicki Minaj chews tobacco or Nick Clegg is used in Taco Bell advertisements.
|Actually, I think this works.|
3. Analogies require more thought all around.
An analogy is harder to conceive than a simple fact because it requires sufficient understanding of at least two ideas rather than one or, more likely, half of one. The string theorist who can explain the theory as the music of the universe is, by my estimation, a better scientist than his colleague who can only write in obscure and technical language.
But analogies are not received at face value. If they were, they would be reductive at best and misrepresentative at worst. The third-grader who listens to a lecture on string theory will probably absorb nothing, but if he understood strings as playing the music that generates the universe, he would actually begin to think about string theory. This would probably get the young student discussing strings beyond the lecture, clearly a much better outcome than napping through a presentation.
That all having been said, you all need to read The Little Prince and watch Pink Floyd's The Wall if you haven't already.