I’ve been doing various research recently that involves propagation of energy. In one case I’m using it to make cool interactive animations of water waves. In another case I’m simulating the propagation of forces through solids, to find out, for example, how strong a building is, or where an overloaded bridge would be mostly likely to collapse.

These may seem like very different problems, but it turns out that the math (at least the simplest version of the math) is pretty much the same in these and lots of other cases. Essentially, the value in each location is decreased, while some of the values in the locations next to it are added to it. This is done everywhere at once. Repeat.

That probably seems too simple, but it works amazingly well, and it’s a reasonable approximation of how various kinds of forces propagate in nature.

And it has occurred to me that this is also a nice description of what happens between people. As we interact with each other, and get to know one other better, we each gradually become a slightly less pure version of ourselves, and instead begin to incorporate little bits and pieces of the people to whom we are closest.

Just as with water waves and the weight of buildings, this exchange of forces can seem imperceptible in any one given moment. But over the course of time the ripples that travel from person to person can span the globe, and the force of our collective being can grow beyond all imagining.