A beginning!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A comment like Iceberg!

“Man vadhay vadhay ubhay pickatla dhor, kiti hakla hakla firi yete pickavar” Sant Bahina Bai in one of her abhangs. (Meaning: Human mind is notorious like cattle. Even if you try to shoo it off, again and again, it will come back to eat the crop!).
“…Sri Lankan score is running like an Indian taxi meter…”, “Nobody travels on the road to success without a puncture or two”…. Most popular contemporary commentator Navjot Sidhu is talking.

“Familiarize yourself with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them.” Abraham Lincoln quote.

These are people from diverse background, trying to convey something to you and me. What do they all have in common? Everyone is relying on giving analogies to get their point across.

This is not uncommon. Any article, speech, poem, report… anything that is directed to public is often made ‘simple’ by giving analogies. Human mind is capable of learning fast by comparing and picking up similarities about the things that it already knows.

At the same time this confines one’s idea about the issue to the analogy given to explain it. Can’t concepts be understood without crutches of analogies? The answer to the question lies in the question itself! I had to use analogy of ‘crutches’ to get my question across!! Not that it is impossible otherwise, but more often than not, the fastest way to acquaint oneself with new concepts is to resort to analogies. The subject should be shrewd enough to grasp the essentialities pertaining to the topic through the analogy presented and not allow it to impede the learning process. He must contrast the subtleties of new concept with the analogy itself, and gain better insight.

Wont it be fitting to present an analogy to get this point across ? Analogies should be used the way a child uses supports to learn walking. First he crawls. Then he attempts walking but uses wall, cot or table to support him. But very soon he is walking on his own without using any aid!

Often, you will realize that we tend to approach and learn new things ‘in terms of things we already know’. If, like me, you knew of typewriters before, you initially thought of computers as typing device with special feature of ‘backspace’. When you saw people playing baseball for first time you thought, “Oh! it’s cricket played with stump as bat!”.
Remember the scene where Bhuvan and his fellow villagers (in Lagaan) watch British people playing cricket? First reaction is ‘Aapne gulli-dande jaisa hai’!
Thus, learning in terms of what is already known comes naturally. These analogies when refined and applied in systematic scientific manner take us closer to ‘Modeling’ - simplification of reality in order to better understand the system at hand.

If your head is wax, don't walk under sun!