Self Importance Proverb

Text: “The Cemetery is full of people who couldn’t be replaced” 


My dad told me he remembers hearing this from his father on occasion. He describes it as a reminder that you can always be fired or replaced, and not to take yourself too seriously. He notes that it was essentially a warning about excessive self importance. My dad remembers being met with this phrase if he was being big headed, or cocky. 


This phrase is somewhat of a cross between a proverb and a dark joke. It’s not metaphorical in the typical sense of a proverb, but it uses pre-formulated language to communicate the largely agreed upon idea, that excessive self importance is a bad thing. It’s interesting to note that my grandfather grew up Christian in the Midwest on a farm. This community typically frowns on self importance, so his use of the phrase may reveal rural Christian American beliefs. Then there is the other aspect of this phrase, which is that it makes light of mortality, and the dissolving of identity through death.This phrase falls into the camp of dark humor, which as a genre serves a few societal purposes. It’s possible to apply Peter Narvaez’s idea that in the television age, we are inundated with images of death and destruction while being told that we should mourn for individuals who we have no direct relation to. Dark humor becomes a way of rebelling against the societal pressure to mourn, as well as the institutions that put these tragedies in front of us on a daily basis. In addition, jokes about death such as this one, deal with the inescapable fact that no matter what, death is inevitable. Unlike Narvaez, I also believe that dark humor serves another purpose as a coping mechanism to deal with heavy subjects such as mortality.