On Friction

My earliest memories of friction come from physics classes in high school.

Friction (n): "the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another."

The pictorial representation of friction in school was this:

Image Source: Mini Physics

Friction, I was told, was an opposing force; it pared down progress. It slowed things down. Brought them to a halt. This concept remained stuck with me for a long time. Until, a few days ago.

I was writing my daily journal and something about the pen and paper caught my eye – how the pen moved over sheaves of paper. The sound and feel were smooth at a particular angle, but it was rough and scratchy at another angle. Of course, I was aware of friction – physics had taught me well. But there was something else – how that physical phenomenon of friction – was letting me create. It was birthing something.

Fire, one of man’s earliest inventions, kick-started the trajectory of progress. Mankind’s journey ever since – transitioning from a four-legged mammal to a biped – has primarily been shaped by fire. Without fire, the world around us would be very different. Come to think of it, fire does not exist on its own. It needs to go through a grind. One needs to rub stuff against each other for the first sparks. Either you rub twigs against each other or strike pieces of flint, or you strike a match. There’s force involved—a creative force – Friction.

Another beautiful example of friction birthing creativity is when thoughts rub against each other. When you hold opposing ideas in your mind, you come to interesting conclusions. Without friction, there’d be no writing, and without writing, the world would be a sad place. To create, one needs to oil the machinery and overcome friction. There would be no means to share that which people knew with one another. This is a thing of beauty in itself.

Friction not only cradles the infants of creativity but also oversees growth. Where there is friction, there is progress. Unfortunately, it so happens that when comfort sets in, there is stasis. And where there is stasis, there is entropy, decay. For growth to happen, one needs to be inconvenienced. Like a blade that needs to be rubbed repeatedly to keep it sharp, one needs to bother themselves through action to bring about change. Friction causes us to take this action. Friction ensures that you put in the right amount of effort to keep entropy at bay.

With creation, there are 3 stages. – there is the void before creation, the process of creation itself and the end product. Anyone who creates knows there is no meaning to creation at either extreme. It lies in between. I for sure didn’t enjoy it when I was breaking my head wondering what I should write about. Nor will I be contented when writing ends. Instead, I find meaning between these endpoints. That’s where I’m pushing against friction. Doing the work is where the joy is. Friction helps you find meaning.

A bad pun comes to mind – Overcoming friction is a moving experience. In that sense, friction engenders a sense of gratitude, something that moves you. Friction has an exquisite quality because it produces change. By overcoming it, something beautiful is born. An aspect of friction that hasn’t been appreciated enough. Here’s to friction. The silent force that keeps the Universe going, even though it is rebellious.

I was rarely allowed to think like this in school. I’d never looked at friction as a creative force. As a student, I looked at friction as an impediment. Something that opposes and detracts from progress. When viewed with a fresh pair of eyes, I see friction to be unique – while on the one hand, it was ebbing motion, on the other, it was birthing flow.

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