How my self-importance was defeated by two old men, a Meatloaf song, and a dangerous car trip
“Now we are concerned with losing self-importance. As long as you feel that you are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you. You are like a horse with blinders, all you see is yourself apart from everything else.” ~Don Juan Matus
It was a beautiful early autumn afternoon in Trenton, New Jersey, but I had shut myself away from the world, a bitter ball of self-pity sulking in the shadows of my empty house. I was struggling with life and (thanks to my powerful sense of self-importance) feeling supremely sorry for myself. I had recently lost my job. I had also recently lost my girlfriend, probably because I no longer had any money to buy her things. My self-importance kept telling me that I deserved better out of life, mostly (I suspect) to suppress the emerging realization that I was loser.
In the middle of my pity party, unexpected visitors arrived. It was Larry, the owner of the house, and his friend George. Both men were in their late 50s, divorced, unabashedly free-spirited and boisterously fun-loving. Exactly the kind of people I wasn’t in the mood to meet. They had come to take a bike ride along the nearby Delaware Canal.
When I (so seriously) told them why I was feeling down they proceeded to tease me about being unemployed and without a woman. My self-importance forced me to feel offended by their jokes, and when they tried to cajole me into joining them on their bike ride I indignantly refused.
After they shared a joint with me I relented and threw my bike in the back of their pickup truck.
We drove a few miles up the road to Washington Crossing Park. The bike ride was uneventful. The guys continued to crack jokes and act silly, and though I was stoned I was still wrapped up in my own self-importance. I ignored them; in fact, I ignored everything except my own problems. I was completely oblivious to the beautiful day that I was finally (partially) taking part in.
When we returned to the pickup truck and climbed in for the ride back to the house, something frightening and wonderful happened.
George was driving, Larry was in the passenger seat, and I was wedged in the middle between them. George turned on the radio and we found ourselves smack in the middle of that epic ode to teenage lust, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf. Within seconds, I noticed that George was managing the steering wheel with the crooks of his elbows, leaving his hands free to bang the shit out of his dashboard like a cheap set of drums. His head was tilted back and rhythmically shaking side to side, his eyes were mostly closed, and an ecstatic smile lit up his face.
Alarmed that our driver was being so reckless, I looked to Larry for help. I didn’t find it. He was hanging halfway out the window like a dog, singing into the oncoming breeze at the top of his lungs, “Do you love me/ Will you love me forever/ Do you need me/ Will you never leave me…”
Panic struck. I was surrounded by madmen! My self-importance nearly exploded: how dare they put my life in jeopardy with their irresponsible behavior! I envisioned the pickup truck hurtling off the road into the canal and all three of us dying because these two were too busy rocking out to notice that we were drowning. Still stoned and faced with impending death, I irrationally decided to join in their madness and at least die with a smile on my face.
But how? My self-importance held me back. How could I act like a fool in front of these grown men? And what if someone in a passing car saw me? Death would be preferable to such embarrassment.
Then something snapped in my brain – my self-importance finally gave way. I shrieked “Screw it!” and closed my eyes, started banging my head, and played the meanest air guitar you’d ever want to see. And before I knew it, I was back home safe and in a much improved mood.
These days, whenever I feel my self-importance threatening to assert itself, I think back to that ridiculous ride on that beautiful day as a reminder to just get over myself, enjoy life, and appreciate the world around me.
Share your thoughts on self-importance or any other ideas for activities that help us overcome our self-importance by leaving a reply below!