What Salvador Dali Taught Me About Life

AUGUST 6, 2015


While recently visiting the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL, I became completely fascinated with him. Upon hearing the interpretations to his brilliant art, I couldn’t help but relate to his insights. It was as if Dali was a twenty-something post-grad going through his soul searching period, like I was.

I graduated a little under a year ago with plans of landing my dream job in a city far away from home. After countless job applications and cover letters followed by system-generated responses of rejection, back home to mom’s it was. Should I go back to school, should I advance at my current job that has nothing to do with my degree or should I just call it quits with my responsibilities and buy a plane ticket to Europe? Confused was an understatement.

But after discovering Dali’s works and their deeper meanings I realized that everything happens for a reason and that everything would fall into place in time.

This is what Salvador Dali taught me about life:

 1. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture

Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea by Salvador Dali


This painting examines the dual nature of our world. Up close we see Gala (Dali’s wife) in all her glory, gazing at the rising Mediterranean sun. But if you step back to twenty meters from the piece, the image becomes a pixilated portrait of president Abraham Lincoln. Inspired by an article about visual perception, Dali was challenged by the idea of the minimum number of pixels needed to recreate a human face. At 121 pixels Dali successfully symbolizes the fleeting nature of beauty, creates a portrait of Honest Abe and teaches us all a lesson in perception. Not everything is what it seems. In any circumstance, whether it be a job, a relationship or simply a bad day, remember: always take a step back and examine the situation from every angle, because in time (or at 20 meters) you can see that there is actually an alternate meaning.


2. Time is what you make of it

The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali


Arguably one of Dali’s most famous surrealist paintings —you know the one with the trippy melting clocks — The Persistence of Memory makes a statement on the arbitrary concept of time. Dali was enamored with the psychology of dreams and the subconscious mind. This painting has multiple interpretations; not only does it depict a dream, a world where time is irrelevant and erratic but it is also a depiction of Einstein’s theory of relativity, that time is relative and not fixed. Either way we can take something away from Dali here: time is what you make of it. We all have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé. So instead of making excuses about how you ”don’t have time” to apply for that job, think of Dali’s melting clocks and remember: time is a concept. You can construct your future on whatever time frame you choose.


 3. A new start is always possible

Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man by Salvador Dali 


This Dali painting is making a major political statement re World war 2. The man emerging from the egg is said to be portraying the United States, and the blood representing WW2. What Dali is morbidly showing us is that no matter how much pain and suffering we have been through, we can always move past it and come out as newer, stronger versions of ourselves. We always have the ability to start anew, and be the major force we are meant to be. I’m sure if Dali were here today, he would tell us “If Brittney Spears could get through 2007, you can get through your day.” Thanks Dali (insert sassy emoji).


4. Always be open to love

Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Salvador Dali

Metamorphosis of Narcissus 1937 by Salvador Dal? 1904-1989

The story behind this painting is based on the Greek myth of Narcissus, the god of vanity, known for breaking many hearts. According to Greek Mythology, Narcissus fell in love with his own reflection looking into a pool, and eventually died trying to embrace it. The Metamorphosis of Narcissus is Dali’s interpretation of this myth. On the left we see Narcissus unsuccessfully seeking his reflection in the muddy water. To the right he transforms into a hand with an egg cracking, symbolizing new life- hopefully one with a better fate for poor Narcissus. The moral of the story here is that we need to let love in. Yeah, independence is great but allowing someone else to love you as much as you love yourself is even better. Life is too short to spend alone; find someone to share life’s beauty with. Don’t be a John Mayer in a world of Justin Timberlake’s, okay. Just don’t.

Salvador Dali is a man of many talents: his surrealist paintings, his ability to tap into the subconscious mind and most importantly his sweet mustache growing skills. We can also add one more thing to the list, a twenty-something’s best friend. Dali really gets us twenty somethings. Life after college and in the real world is a stressful and confusing place. But Dali is here to remind us the world is a beautiful place, full of love, beauty and wonderful things to come.

As for me, I am now working at a job in my field that I enjoy, have just returned from a European getaway, and am writing this article that is about to be published. It seems life has a funny way of working out.

Sometimes all you need is a sign (or a piece of art) to remind you that everything is going to be okay.

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