Cathedrals Made of Pebbles
The other night, I was teaching an eighteen-year-old girl who has been playing the piano for about three years. She had finished playing Mendelssohn’s beautiful Venetian Boat Song #2, and had started to play an arrangement of the jazz classic Lady Bird, quite a syncopated piece. Her rhythm was all over the map, so I stopped her and explained how jazz pianists often tap their left heel to feel the beat much more strongly. (My jazz teacher insisted I do this with every piece and would shout “foot!” whenever I didn’t.) While I was telling her this, I demonstrated how it is done.
My student shook her head and blurted out, “But I could NEVER do that! You are tapping with your left foot, pedaling with your right foot, playing different notes and rhythms with both hands, AND you are talking at the same time. I COULD NEVER DO THAT!”
In that moment, I was taken back to when I was at her stage of the game—nearly four decades ago! I would have felt the same way, and I would have looked at my future self in amazement. Yet, here I was, easily and confidently doing all these things at once. To think there was a time when I couldn’t even play a simple tune on the piano, and a much earlier time when I couldn’t even say a simple sentence!
One of the great beauties of aging is that we have daily opportunities to cultivate more skill, knowledge, or wisdom. Each day we can add a pebble to the pile, and after a few decades of this, we have made a cathedral or two.
In a culture absolutely obsessed with the appearance of youth, it was rather calming to take a moment to appreciate this bright side of aging. In a society that hungers for instant gratification and lusts for fame, it’s rather sweet to gaze upon the cathedrals we build by quietly and steadily piling up pebbles, day after day after day.