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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