The Wheels of Friendship

When I reached high school, my curiosity led me to wonder, how do a train’s wheels, which are on a fixed axle, negotiate a curve?

If a pair of wheels negotiate a curve, the outer wheel has to travel a greater distance than the inner wheel. How can this happen when both wheels are on a fixed axle? It was a few years later that I found the answer.


The wheels of a train are not flat, they are cone-shaped.


When negotiating a curve, the centrifugal force of the train moving along the curve results in the outer wheel rotating with a larger diameter while the inner wheel rotates with a smaller one.

(A big thanks and gratitude to Danijel for these simple, illustrative figures. And in those years and several years hence, I often wonder how others, even adults, don’t have the same questions I had as a kid).

A friendship is quite akin to a pair of wheels. It is in harmony when both the wheels turn with the same rhythm, both travel the same journey, towards the same destination.

What happens with friendships that are on a curve, when one wheel feels the need to travel to a different destination? Is the other flexible enough to be cone-shaped to accommodate?

Most people who drive a car never wonder about how this difference in the distance wheels travel on a turn is achieved via the engineering genius of the differential gear.


The differential gear enables one wheel to travel a greater distance than the other, thus allowing us to make turns with our four-wheelers. I have always regarded it as a marvel of human ingenuity.

If and when a friend takes a different turn, our wheel needs to be greased enough with a differential gear to accommodate the others’ turn.

Friendships on a fixed axle don’t last long.

Ones with differential gear in their core can.

Individual wheels are lives that have their own destination. If one wants to carry the other wheel along with its journey towards one’s destination, one needs one’s friend to have a differential gear. If one is willing to travel the journey our friend wishes to reach his destination, one needs a differential gear within oneself.

Instead, the way we usually treat friendships is as if they were on a fixed axle. The other person is neither cone-shaped, nor do we accommodate a differential gear. The end result is friction.

The best, and only way, to avoid friction in our friendships, is by employing the differential gear.

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