The metronome, the violinist, and the clock

A tale of independence and disappointment

Published - March 31, 2024 02:16 am IST

During an existential crisis, we all have questions about the meaning and purpose of life.

During an existential crisis, we all have questions about the meaning and purpose of life. | Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The metronome stood on the mantlepiece, next to the clock. He was young and curious, waiting to explore the innumerable wonders of life. The violinist, one day, set him to a hundred beats per minute. Poor metronome! He could not keep up with the violinist’s pace as she quickly, quickly played. She had no time to lose. Sometime later, realising how far behind the metronome was, she increased his speed, sighing.

He was sad. Sometimes he was too slow, sometimes too fast. He could never choose his own pace. One day, he looked at the clock, always working ever so consistently. He asked it, “Most revered timekeeper! How do you keep on working without ever, ever getting tired?” It frowned and said, “It’s not upon me how I work. I’m bound by more rules than you. You must enjoy your independence.” God! Independence! Was this independence? Always being dictated to? Always having to work according to the violinist? He would rather work day and night like the clock, always achieving what is expected, never disappointing anyone than to abide by so many contrasting rules and still disappoint that unsatisfied artiste.

The violinist was playing again. This time, the metronome was too fast. The violinist stopped him, exhausted. The metronome was worried. He really did not want to anger the violinist. But he did not understand what to do! How could he understand what pace she wanted him to go at?

“Is independence that tiring?” the clock asked after the metronome told it about his day. “It’s not independence, I don’t have much choice, you see. I can only act in accordance with the violinist. I have no choice of my own. I have accepted that, but the violinist is never happy.”

The clock smiled ironically. It remarked, “My lack of independence is better than yours. I have only one job, and I never disappoint.”

The violinist was becoming more and more distressed. Sometimes she would abruptly stop her practice and disappear, sometimes she would sit down, head in her hands, and stay thus for a long time. But now she stopped changing the metronome’s pace at all. He was still doubtful. Why was the violinist still not happy?

One day, in a fit of rage, the violinist threw the metronome at the wall. He was hurt badly. He stopped working.

The metronome sat there, beside the clock, completely useless. He had failed the violinist. But why? Why would she do that to him? He wanted to cry. He noticed something strange. The clock had also stopped working. “Most respected timekeeper! Has the violinist done something to you too?” “Oh no, it’s just that I’ve worked for too long at a stretch. The violinist will recharge me with batteries, and I’ll be just fine,” it said. What a perfect worker!

The violinist sat on the sofa, staring at the mantelpiece. She took the metronome off of it, and looked at it, blankly. She examined it. The metronome felt hope surge up in him. Would he be given a second chance? The violinist said nothing and placed him on the table in front of her. Then she stared at the clock. The violinist got up, changed its batteries, fixed its time, sat down on the sofa to stare at it again. The metronome also looked at it.

“How tirelessly the clock works!” thought the metronome. “I’ll never be selected.” “Oh, if only I was like the clock!” “I’ve wasted too much time.” “I’m useless now.” “I can’t go on like this.” “What’ll happen to me now?” “How much time is left?”

“I’ll never work properly anymore, will I?” “The clock never truly stops, does it?” “The clock never truly stops, does it?”

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