meloni bologna

October 18th, 2010

The Flow of Time

Posted by meloni in Uncategorized

"Exploding Clock" by Salvadore Dali

Salvadore Dali’s painting Exploding Clock is the most provocative image of the classic time keeping piece that comes to mind when contemplating clocks and their advocacy of a particular psyche and view of the world. Dali strikes at the heart of the matter – how can we really measure time? Civilization prides itself on recording schedules, time-lines, and history, recalling dates, facts, the time the first phone call was made, or when dinosaurs ruled the earth. Why is something as subjective as time a major component of society today and of societies of generations and civilizations past? Time, as purported by the classic clock, is measured in hours, minutes, and seconds. But what about months, years, light-years, solstices, the first fallen leaf of fall or the first breath of the first baby chick born in spring? What about the fact that time is never really concrete or dependable? Society does not confine itself to concrete measures of time, even in conversation – “Boy, time sure does fly”, “Where has the time gone?”, “The minutes are just crawling by”. Time is open to interpretation, subject to perceptions of reality. Artists consider the idea that time is relative to the reality of the time-keeper alleging ideas like, “Life on earth is like a heart-beat in heaven”. Perhaps it is Dali’s idea, when painting a clock that is melting and exploding, that time cannot be contained, cannot be compressed into a simple device. Time is infinite and all-encompassing. Time flows through all things, all people, and all life. With time moments pass, life changes, civilizations crumble, earth erodes, and souls die. Life is inconstant, but time evades all restraints, time is forever.

Slaves in the United States were viewed as less than human, and therefore their birth dates were rarely recorded by their masters. Their own time-line was deemed insignificant and meaningless. Indeed, one of Robinson Crusoe’s major priorities when shipwrecked on a deserted island was to figure out a way to keep track of time, ticking off his days in isolation on a piece of wood. Edmund Dantes, the protagonist in Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, counted the days he spent imprisoned by carving them into his cell wall as evidence that even if no one else knew he was living, if no one else could witness the time he spent living and breathing, he could recognize and testify to each new day. Does our time on earth lend to our identity as human beings? Is the clock the image of seeking to conquer time, to preserve the evidence of our longevity as a civilization, country, government, individual, partner, mother, son, husband or sister? Does Dali’s image of the melting and exploding clock indicate that in the race against time between human birth and death, human-beings cannot possibly stop the hands of time from ruling their lives and bodies? Perhaps in acknowledging humanity’s desire to record the length of its impact, Dali’s Exploding Clock, its shattered face and deformed structure, shows that time is actually meaningless – that it is not the minutes, days or hours of life that are important, but the quality of life, no matter the length. Why relish eternity if it is spent in vain? Perhaps this image serves as a reminder that time, if not used wisely, is actually useless.

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One Response to ' The Flow of Time '

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  1.    lostforwords said,

    on October 20th, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Wow. Amazing post. Thank you!

    Props also for referencing Monte Cristo… one helluva novel, that one.

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