Dali Clock

My son Colin bought it at the Museum of Science, this silver-framed melting clock straight out of Salvador Dali’s time bending work, The Persistence of Memory (oil on canvas, 1931). Except for the Roman numerals on the face, it looks just like the timepiece draped over the oozing self portrait Dali put in the center of his painting. Right now, it hangs off the side of a tall bookcase, just over a floor lamp. It’s been moved several times over the past few years, and I’m sure it will find itself spending time in another location in years to come.

The thing about this clock, it doesn’t work anymore. It’s been knocked off shelves so many times by people, cats, and Nerf balls that it’s always 10:20. Even when it worked, it was hard to tell time by it; the silver frame and curved plastic front reflect light back, often obscuring the numbers and hands. XI, XII, and I are folded, resting on top of the shelf and partially hanging down. VI and VII are slightly flared to the front, and the whole thing is off center – not a straight edge anywhere on the face or circumference.

As a rule, I have two reasons for keeping things: beauty and function. If someone here finds it beautiful or useful, then its presence adds to the quality of life. If something doesn’t work or isn’t beautiful, then it needs to find a life elsewhere. This clock isn’t beautiful and doesn’t function anymore, but it’s here to stay because it’s in a category of its own: truth bearing.

Time isn’t separate from reality, it’s part of the created universe. It bends with gravity and is affected by life experience. It’s part of life’s fabric. Awareness of measured clock time doesn’t guarantee a life well lived; preoccupation with the passing hours leads to getting through life, not experiencing life as God given and God held. When time in my front room is perpetually 10:20, I remember it is also perpetually and eternally God’s. Perhaps a bit hard to see, but it is a beautiful and way beyond useful truth.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Dali Clock”

  1. Brilliant–you speak of myth and profound truth vs. provable/perceived truth–which is why I think Jesus didn’t bother to answer Pilate’s question and perhaps why no one can.

    1. Thanks, Bill. Pilate’s actions and words intrigue me, and Jesus’ refusal to answer him was perhaps the only way to indicate that Pilate’s version of reality needed adjusting before a true question could be asked. Only then could a true and life-giving answer be made..l

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