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Comparing unlike objects usually comes down to using a scoring system of sorts. So it is that teachers in school grade essays, adjudicators in jazz festivals evaluate performances, and judges in Iron Chef America score dishes. For my part, I will attempt to use a scoring system of my own to compare apples and oranges. Judges in Iron Chef America score chefs’ dishes based on taste, plating, and originality. In a similar vein, I will score apples and oranges based on taste, appearance, and texture, awarding up to 10 points in each category.
An apple, with its satisfying sweetness, bright redness, and rigid crunchiness, receives an 8 in taste, 8 in appearance, and 5 in texture, for a total of 21 points. An orange, with its iconic tanginess, dimpled skin, and juicy pulpiness, earns a 9 in taste, a 6 in appearance, and a 9 in texture, for a total of 24 points.
A rubric demands that there is one of three outcomes: apples are better than oranges, oranges are better than apples, or they are equals. Given the higher score of the orange, one could logically conclude that oranges are better than apples or at the very least that I like oranges more than apples. Yet I cannot say that this is true. There are times when I would prefer to have an apple over an orange. So did I score them incorrectly? Is one of the two other possible outcomes correct? I cannot say that they are equals, for that is simply not true. An apple is not that same as an orange. Nor can I say that apples are better than oranges, for the same reason I cannot say that oranges are better than apples.
The error here must therefore lie in the system used to compare apples and oranges. A cold, unfeeling, 5 in texture cannot express the gratifying first bite into a firm apple, nor can an 8 in taste truly convey the exquisite sweetness of the juice that fills your mouth afterwards. A 9 in texture cannot depict the smile that creeps across your lips as you sink your teeth into an orange and are greeted by the cool, refreshing feel of orange pulp bursting open within your mouth. Nor can a 6 in appearance illustrate the vibrancy of the orange’s skin, which seems to capture and concentrate the sunbeams that sneak in from behind curtained windows, culminating in the pure brilliancy that resonates with the word “orange”. The scoring system must be wrong, for numbers are static and dead. How can they be used to compare something as vivid as fruit? One fruit cannot be better than the other, nor can they be equal. The only way to compare unlike objects, whether they are fruits, essays, jazz ensembles, or Iron Chef America contestants, must be through feelings. I cannot directly compare the flavors of apples and oranges, but I can compare the way they make me feel when I taste, look at, or touch them. Feelings are dynamic. Feelings are alive.
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