Clausewitz (On War) comments that in warfare everything important is simple, yet the simple is extraordinarily difficult. He attributes this difficulty to a kind of "friction", a relentless resistance to action that emerges from conflict.
But friction is universal, not just a wartime phenomenon. We almost always know what we should do: be kind to each other, take care of ourselves, strive for wisdom, and so forth. More often than not we try, or at least intend, to do the right thing. But actually doing it is another matter. Nothing goes as planned; people or events get in our way; we run out of time, or money, or energy; and we lose our temper, act hastily, and fall short of our goals.
Physical friction happens when objects rub together or push through a fluid. Friction takes motion and turns it into heat, the random vibrations of particles and fields. Energy cascades down from large-scale organized activity into smaller and ever more chaotic jitterings. Precisely the same thing happens in life --- our important plans dissolve into a series of tiny distractions, local events that knock us off course and wear us out.
How to reduce friction? Move slowly but purposefully. Seek paths where resistance is least. Smooth interfaces where clashing may occur. Lubricate interactions by sharing information, so individuals can find a common vision and go forward together. When conflicts block progress, relax, regroup, remember the ultimate goal, and return to work with hope and good cheer.
Saturday, August 14, 1999 at 20:50:40 (EDT) = Datetag19990814