I sat on the hard piano bench and the metronome thumped on, each tick as demanding as an alarm bell sounding. As I began learning the piece, I was painfully conscious of the sound of the metronome and the movement of my fingers, the notes on the page.
I found myself hanging back, afraid to be ahead of the next beat, but then hurrying to the next bar line because I feared I might get behind. I felt like a cowboy, wrangling an unruly calf, as I played the piece over and over, the metronome as inexorable as the passage of time. I struggled to get the tempo in my fingers, in my body.
The second time through, my body and mind relaxed. The ticking become part of my pulse, like the beat of my heart; the notes fell directly in line with the throbbing of my marker. I stopped hearing the tick-tock in the background.
Unbidden, the words of an Isaac Watts hymn came to mind: “Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.”
Time ticks on, yet I will be glad, for: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” [Ecclesiastes 3:11]
“Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
Under the shadow of Thy throne
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.
Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.
A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.”