Similarities in Design and PurposeBY Adriana Sclafani
Thought is like the subway. The subway allows people to get from one place to the next, and thought acts similarly by allowing people to move from idea to idea, perception to perception, until they reach a conclusion. Sometimes, the process to reach a conclusion is as simple as hoping on a train and getting off a few stops after. Simple thoughts need only travel so far before these thoughts have reached their conclusion, or “destination.” However, sometimes moving from thought to conclusion, or moving from thought to thought proves challenging. In some ways, the subway resembles a more complex version of thought. Often, people need to take a train as far as possible, then transfer. Therefore, the chaos found in using the subway parallels the chaos encountered when using thought. Sometimes, thoughts need rearranging, and sometimes one must go back to the origin of a thought in order to sort out the complexities of one thought alone. When people get lost on the subway, or take the wrong train by accident, they need to reroute and figure out the best way to return to where they started from, or at least to the point before they got lost. The subway system is also made up of multiple trains. Thought, as a whole, consists of many sub-thoughts, all part of the larger process. Multiple thoughts, just like multiple trains, allow one to reach a destination or conclusion that would have otherwise not been attainable, had there only been one way to get there. Thought resembles the subway as a means of getting from one point to the next. Not only does thought resemble the subway with its intricate design but in purpose as well.
Despite the similarities in design and purpose, thought and the subway differ in a few ways. Thought, as a process, does not have any alternatives. In order to get from one place to the next in one’s mind, the process of thinking is essential. People, however, have the choice to take other alternatives for transportation besides the subway, such as driving and walking. Not everyone needs or wants to use the subway as their method of transportation. Taking the subway may just be a personal preference. However, using thought as a process cannot necessarily be a “personal preference”. There are no alternatives for thought as a process.
Thought and the subway also differ in the sense that subways are relatively easy to navigate, whether or not one is familiar with the system. For people who are not as familiar with the subway, there are maps to help one find his or her way around. With no such thing as one universal “map” for thought, there is no specific way in which everyone can learn to navigate through thought, without experiencing thought as a process as first. However, there are certain places where one can look to for “maps” of thought, such as an essay. The ideas presented at the end of an essay result from a series of other concepts derived from the main idea of an essay. Essays serve as maps for thought because they lead you from one idea to the next, allowing one to organize each idea into a more interconnected concept. Essays however, are not necessarily universal maps for thought. Even if a universal “map for thought” did exist, the map would not be very useful. Maps are most helpful to someone with a destination in mind. When using the subway, people know their destination; people have an endpoint in mind. When using thought, people don’t always know where they are headed or how long the journey will take. With the subway, generally people do not just get off at any random stop because they could get lost, or end up somewhere they do not want to be. Thought as process differs in the sense that “getting off” at a random stop, or diverging from one thought to a seemingly unrelated one, might have its benefits. One might discover something or reach a conclusion that would have never been found if strictly following an intended route.
By using the subway as a means of comparison, one can start to understand more deeply complex concepts such as thought. Analogies do not have to be perfect in order to help explain large concepts. In fact, analogies are rarely perfect. However, one can learn just as much about two individual concepts, through their differences found within an imperfect analogy. While the analogy of thought like the subway may not be perfect, one can still learn a lot about thought by how it resembles and how it does not resemble the subway. Often, one must make more than one attempt in order to find an analogy that works, but just by making these attempts, one can already begin to understand a lot about the larger concept.