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I remember reading a sci-fi short story where the alien being had to be careful about every movement because each movement would wear him down a little bit more. He had to decide if he would save another creature crossing a river or flood at the cost of much movement which would shorten his life.

I don't remember if this was because he was made of a mineral like sandstone that rubbed off or if it was because he was so long-lived that he was considering the effect of thousands of years on his erodible body.

I think there were also wise elders in a temple that were just eroded nubs barely anything left at all, and the main character had to write his "wisdom" in the temple before he died.

Possibly the title may have been a single word like "Erosion" or "Entropy" or something like that?

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Found it! It's Friction, by Will McIntosh

Gruen was on the sixty-first master, and while his wisdom had grown steadily, he had worn very little. He was incredibly well-preserved–the palms of his three-fingered hands still sported the deep, swirling ridges that had worn to nothing in most people before they’d lived thirty years. Indeed, all of the myriad folds and ridges in his thick maroon skin were for the most part intact. His eyes were still housed in tight sockets, surrounded by thickly-ridged cheeks.

Besides the feet, the eyes were the greatest point of weakness for those who aspired to read the works of the masters. Ceaseless up-and-down eye movement caused the sockets to wear out, and eventually the reader’s eyes fell out. At that point they were forced to trace the carved words with their fingers. Friction quickly took its toll on the hands; readers rarely made it through one master’s teachings this way before their hands were ground to the wrist, and they were finished.

Listen to it on a podcast here: Escape Pod 144: Friction

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