What I Learned From Salvador Dali

The lovely Robert Hruzek over at Middle Zone Musings organises a regular group writing project in which the title always begins with ‘What I Learned From…’ followed by that month’s theme. This month, the theme is ‘What I Learned From… People’. I’ve never participated in one of Robert’s writing projects, but I knew I wanted to contribute a post to this one, so I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think who I should focus on. I considered family members, colleagues, past teachers, and current teachers, and although all of these people in my life have taught me more than I could possibly sum up in a blog post, I wanted to choose a personality that everyone would recognise. As the title of this post suggests, I ultimately chose Salvadore Dali.

Now this might seem a somewhat surreal(!) choice to make, but what led me to it was the following YouTube clip.

This is a 10 min clip of Dali as the guest on the 1950’s American show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ that I found on haha.nu this morning, and which made me laugh uproariously! The premise of the programme is that the four panelists are required to ask questions concerning the identity of the guest, and the guest must answer them with a “yes” or a “no”. What tickled me so much about his appearance on the show, is that his unwillingness to categorise himself leads to the panelists’ utter confusion. He does not conform to the tight constrictions of a pigeonhole, therefore making it extremely difficult for the panelists to discern his identity and his occupation. When asked if he’s a writer, he responds, “Yes”. When asked if he’s a sportsman, he says, “Yes”. When asked if he’s a performer, he says, “Yes”. Dali conceived of himself as possessing many roles, but what he always was, was himself. As he once famously said, “Each morning when I awake, I experience again a supreme pleasure – that of being Salvador Dali.”

Now, I am not for one minute suggesting that when I rather ingloriously drag myself out of the depths of sleep at 6.30am, that I also bask in the ‘supreme pleasure’ of being Amy. What I learned from Dali has more to do with his determination not to close off any avenues to opportunity, to creativity, to self-expression and that rather than focussing on one area and truly excelling at it, that I should, perhaps, focus more on excelling at being me.

I think this line of thought has partly arisen because lately I’ve been considering the evolution of this blog, as I tried to come up with a way to encapsulate what I do here in one concise sentence. I always find that if I can articulate a project in one sentence, then I know that I have a good understanding of it. However, I’ve always really struggled to do this when I try and explain to someone what I blog about. After watching this Dali clip, I feel that I have a better grasp of what it is I do here. I haven’t yet condensed it into a sentence, but I know that it has to do with my own determination not to close off any avenues to opportunity, creativity and self-expression, whilst simultaneously hoping to inspire others to do the same. Its definition is tightly bound up with my own identity, rather than a niche, as such. And just as keen as I am to evade classification, I am also keen to extend this evasion to the blog itself.

So those are a few of the lessons which I learned from Dali this morning. What do you make of the clip? What lessons did you derive from it?

PS There’s more from the arch-surrealist over at the Tumblr blog.


February 6, 2008. Inspiration.


  1. Robert Hruzek replied:

    Hello, Amy! A great lesson from a rather interesting person, to be sure. I like your conclusion, too: “Be yourself, but don’t stop there – see what else you can be, too.”

    Thanks for joining in the fray this month!


  2. Joanna Young replied:

    Amy, what a great contribution to WILF. The video clip was priceless, thank you.

    I don’t want to pigeonhole your blog or your writing but what it’s saying to me is… an expression of, an enquiry into, an invitation to live a life less ordinary.


  3. amypalko replied:

    Thanks for popping by, Robert, and I’m glad you liked my first WILF effort 🙂

    I just loved that video clip, Joanna. The kids actually came over to see why their Mummy was laughing so loudly!
    Thank you so much for telling me how you see Lives Less Ordinary. Another person’s perspective can be so valuable, and I so appreciate your opinion. Your description really resonates with my own take on what I’m doing here. Thank you!

  4. Daz Cox replied:

    that was brilliant! I spent all day looking at a painting I’m working on and doing everything but painting, tres Dali!

    My favorite Dali ‘stunt’ was when he signed hundreds of blank sheets of paper to mess with the art world. His art was always personal and unique and when you establish a firm identity based on something that satisfys you it is easy to have confidence!

  5. nengaku replied:

    This was brilliant and reminded me of a wonderful stunt a friend of mine pulled back in high school (1960s). You must understand that this guy was painfully shy. I knew him for months before I ever heard him speak a word. One day he took many pieces of paper – hundreds maybe – and wrote on each one just one word “yes”. Then he took those little pieces of paper and slipped them into lockers all over the school. He just wanted to see what would happen and really enjoyed imagining all the pleasure this little note would bring to people.
    It was performance art at is purest and came from a guy who never claimed to have an artistic bone in his body. Wonderful!

  6. Damien Riley replied:

    If Salvador Dali’s persona is anything like his art, you’ll never come up with a tagline for that lol.

    I really like his art. I haven’t seen the video but I will. THis post is very well penned.

  7. Damien Riley replied:

    Wow! I can’t believe she got it. His moustache was unsettling.

    Great video and the point you related it to on blog definition was just poetry. Good work.

  8. Blog Safari 2-9-08 replied:

    […] unfair slur leveled at Chelsea. Very humorously worded. Catboot will never mean the same to you. What I Learned From Salvador Dali « Lives Less Ordinary A great connection to a hilarious retro game show with Salvador dali and the difficulty we have in […]

  9. amypalko replied:

    Dali was always coming up with these kind of stunts, wasn’t he, Daz? And yes, I love too how his identity stems from his absolute belief in himself.

    That sounds brilliant, Nengaku! Obviously a rare individual, that one 🙂
    I wonder how that affected the decision the recipients made that day.

    I’m so glad you liked the post and the video clip, Damien. Oh and thank you for including me in your blog safari!

  10. Middle Zone Musings » All Entries: What I Learned from People replied:

    […] Salvadore Dali, by Amy Palko at Lives Less Ordinary … People, by Trevor Hampel at Trevor’s Writing … Things […]

  11. Mother Earth replied:

    when ever we melted dishes in the dishwasher, you know the plastic that one shouldn’t go in in the first place ? We would label then as dali-esque, I’ll never forget my younger brother saying at the dinner table – who the heck is salvador dali and my father didn’t say he was an artist – he said he’s a character! Of course that didn’t really explain why drippy plates and bowls were dali-esque, at least at the time.

    Mother Earth aka Karen Hanrahan

  12. amypalko replied:

    Oh, I love that, Mother Earth! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  13. Results from the What I Learned From People Group Writing Project } Group Writing Projects replied:

    […] Salvadore Dali, by Amy Palko at Lives Less Ordinary […]

  14. WILF festival final entries… | Freaked-Out Fathers replied:

    […] Salvadore Dali, by Amy Palko at Lives Less Ordinary … People, by Trevor Hampel at Trevor’s Writing … Things […]

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