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Physicists say there are only a few forces that control the universe.

One is gravity. Another is magnetism. Then there's something called the Weak Force. I forget the others.

My own feeling is that one of the strongest forces is inertia.

Inertia is the tendency of an object in motion to stay in motion, or if at rest to stay at rest.

Inertia can be applied to other things. Sleeping, for example.

Let's say Ruth's normal sleep period is 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. But one night she's feeling weary, so she jumps into the sack at 10 p.m. and drops off.

Wouldn't you think she'd probably wake up at 6 a.m., an hour early, just because she would have packed in her normal eight hours of ZZZZ's by that time?

She doesn't, though. She doesn't even get up at her regular time, which is 7 a.m.

Instead, Ruth snores on until 8 a.m. or 9. The reason: inertia.

A corollary of inertia is this: the more you do it, the more you tend to do it. So instead of sleeping less, or the same amount as usual, Ruth added a full two hours, just from inertia. Haven't we all done that?

Cussing also works that way. Jerry starts off at age 10 saying "Goldarn." Each year he adds another cussword or two. By age 25 he can really turn the air blue.

Then he meets a sweet girl, joins Rotary, and tries to stop cussing. But he finds it almost impossible to do so. Inertia has taken hold of his speech habits, or at least the cussing segment of them. Inertia tries to make him continue with his bad language.

Inertia can be both a hindrance and a blessing. Take running, for example. When Manfred cranks up for his daily three-mile jog, inertia clogs every artery and pore of his body, trying to keep him at rest. The aches and pains he feels as he starts off aren't his muscles and joints complaining. It's simple inertia that Manfred feels, protesting at his violating one of the principles of inertia.

But after a mile or so, inertia reverses itself. Manfred has worked up a sweat. The juices are breaking loose in his body. The grease in his joints is heating up and doing its good work. Manfred is in motion. He's feeling wonderful. From that point on, inertia will tend to keep him going. Inertia is his friend.

The trick, I suppose, is for all of us to learn how to manage inertia so that it serves us rather than hinders us.

I once heard a marvelous talk by a children's book author named Konigsberg. She said she goes to her desk each morning at a specific time, and tries to write. Sometimes she succeeds; sometimes the words don't come well. But at least she's in place, ready to write.

Isn't that a form of inertia? Daily during the course of years the writer placed her body in motion. She pointed it toward her writing room, and let inertia take over.

Once seated before the keyboard she let another kind of inertia keep her there for X number of hours, or perhaps until X number of newly minted words had shown up on her computer screen. Only then does she turn off the inertia.

She probably didn't think of it that way. Still, the theory sounds plausible, if not for Mrs. Konigsberg, at least for others.

Faithful readers, I hope you spend the weekend in the grip of the most pleasant, profitable or at least non-injurious inertia you can summon up. Good luck to you.

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