One of the aspects of modern life that people most value is that life is easier than it used to be. Technology has gotten rid of many of the hard labor tasks in which people used to engage in order to survive. People now have machines that can lift and move heavy loads. Such machines are important for moving merchandise in warehouses and for constructing tall buildings. There are machines that can drill through rock, concrete, and asphalt. Tunnels can be put through mountains, and sidewalks and roads can be broken up in order to put in new cables and pipes. There are machines that can plant, harvest and process agricultural products.
There are also machines that can do all the drudge work tasks of maintaining a household. There are vacuum cleaners, washer-dryers for clothes, dishwashers, and lawnmowers.
Also, we now have machines to make the long-distance transporting of humans and goods more frictionless. Trains, modern ships, cars, buses, trucks and planes.
And machines to help us find, sort and manipulate information for all kinds of purposes. Computers, tablets and smartphones.
And machines that can replace humans for increasing numbers of both physical and mental tasks. Robots.
In the process of making life easier for humans, more and more of the work of more and more workers is being made irrelevant. Redundant. And as people start to fall outside of the daily processes of life, they become increasingly irrelevant to these processes. And far from turning life into a dream where people can engage in effortless reverie, these machines create conditions where people become disoriented. Modern people tend to have few meaningful processes to help them stay engaged with, bonded with, and grounded in the external world. And they become numb from a lack of meaningful activities that are filled with the kind of friction that helps to stimulate people to life. I want to differentiate this kind of friction from the kind of friction that is so painful or uncomfortable that it leads to a person disengaging from the external world. A lot of the static friction in today’s vacuum and tension pocket living environments fits into this category.
Perhaps the best way to differentiate these two kinds of friction is to analyze the mix of stimuli of which they are made up. Organic friction can certainly be composed to some extent of discrete stimuli. It is the discrete stimuli that give the organic friction its punch, its sting, its slap. It is this component that gives the process from which organic friction is generated, its spark, its crackle. But just because it is partly abrasive doesn’t mean that a person pushes it away. What allows the person to absorb the organic friction for a period of time is that there is a component of organic blendable continual stimuli. The continual stimuli coat the discrete stimuli like a cough syrup coats a throat. The continual stimuli allow a person to absorb the intense impact of the discrete stimuli, so that the person can continue to participate in the activity generating the organic friction.
It may require an intense abrasive outlay of energy for a hunter in a traditional hunting society to chase after an animal in order to kill it with a spear. But the running is couched in the feet running on ground that gives as the feet press down, allowing the feet to leave imprints on the soil. The stimuli of the feet interacting with the ground are at least partly organic blendable continual stimuli as a result of this. When a person is chopping wood, the axe goes into a log that gives way gradually under the pressure of the logger. When a fisherman goes out to sea to catch fish, there is the give of the line as the fisherman gradually reels in a fish. All of these processes have a certain give to them, and that give aspect contains the organic blendable continual stimuli
This is why no matter how arduous and uncomfortable are the activities that involve organic friction, the continual stimuli allow a person to stay bonded to the activity for as long as he has to perform it. The person is able to absorb the experience of the activity with the organic friction. He is able to receive the imprint of the organic friction. And, as a result, the person is able to integrate the activity with the organic friction into his identity. Because, not only is he able to absorb the experience and receive the imprint of the organic friction in the activity. He is, also, as the agent of the activity, able to use the organic friction as his experiential signal or referent point that he is, in fact, leaving an imprint with the activities he is performing. The organic friction is basically his means for impacting a surface in his field of experience.
On the other hand, static friction from the tension pocket sensory distortion of modern technological living environments has a very different impact on humans. Static stimuli are usually the result of two hard figure machine components grating or hitting against each other. Or else a machine component and a human impacting against each other. Or else a product of machines impacting against a human. Because these static stimuli are the waste products in the human attempt to create a frictionless environment, we call them pollution. There is the noise pollution from machine components grating or hitting against each other. There are air and soil pollution which are the secondary material products of machines that grate against humans by poisoning them. There is impact pollution from any modern industrial machine that requires repetitive motion from humans for long periods of time to operate it. Impact pollution from operating certain machinery that requires strength like power drills that break up concrete. Impact pollution from typing for long periods of time on a computer. In all of these processes, the configuration of stimuli in the friction involved is almost exclusively discrete stimuli. What this means is that in all of these static friction processes, there is little experience of give from the phenomena being impacted by the humans. There are few if any organic blendable continual stimuli involved in the process. It is as if the humans involved with these processes have no stimuli to connect them or bond them to the machines they are using and so they are constantly bouncing off the machines experientially in the process of using them. Bouncing into the experiential vacuum that is created by and that surrounds these static-producing machines.
As a result of constantly bouncing away from these static-producing modern machines, people are unable to leave any meaningful imprints to help them feel more vibrantly alive and to help them to prepare for death. Organic friction is the means by which people can make and preserve meaningful imprints in the external world. Static friction just brings sensory distortion. People become temporarily overstimulated, and then they withdraw into understimulation or numbness to recompose themselves and to protect themselves.
But constantly ending up in numbness can be very disorienting for certain people. They are unable to leave their imprints on the world, and they end up feeling psychologically impotent. Furthermore, the smooth state of frictionlessness that is the result of the experiential states created by static-producing machines also results in people being unable to find experiential surfaces on which to make and preserve meaningful imprints. Too much frictionlessness, the sensory state towards which modern technological society is constantly pushing toward, is very harmful. We not only use static friction machines to create frictionless states; we use frictionless computer apps to create higher and higher levels of frictionlessness. And all that frictionlessness leaves people spending more and more time floating in an experiential vacuum.
Without organic friction, we are not grounded in the external world. We don’t have the processes, the activities to bond us to the external world. We are unable to leave and receive meaningful imprints on the surfaces of our fields of experience. And some of us feel so impotent, that we lash out at the world, particularly against other humans, in order to jolt ourselves to life and in order to attempt to leave imprints in the only way we know how in a sensorily distorted environment – through dramatic destruction, violence, even murder. If we keep making daily life more and more frictionless, we are inviting more and more senseless violence against the members of modern industrial society that maintain the structures of sensory distortion. This accounts for the violence of the shooting spree mass killers who are themselves, apart from their killings, members of modern technological society, as well as the violence of the terrorists and the members of drug cartels, neither of which group could be considered mainstream members of modern technological society.
So paradoxically, more and more frictionlessness will not lead to more and more peace, but rather just the opposite. This is why we have to limit our use of modern machines and computer apps. Too much frictionlessness is not good for anyone, even people who are not becoming violent. The non-violent people simply feel more separated from the external world, floating in an experiential vacuum, and falling apart into fragments. In today’s world, we need less frictionlessness and less static friction. We need more organic friction for healthy lives.
(c) 2013 Laurence Mesirow