The land of giants



When I was small I lived in the land of giants. People and building loomed large, towering over me in a world that pulsed with power and strength. In my first eight years when the year changed, I sat on my grandparents’ porch, coated and mittened, to watch the New Year’s parade march down the broad street. The porch stretched half a block in length surrounded by concrete walls I first had to tiptoe over to see the marchers.


When my years grew large, my grandparents’ home grew small, their porch unable to hold more than a few chairs, a table, a bench, and two or three small children.


I knew a man once who slept in my mother’s bed, a man not my father but who owned her when he changed her name. He walked in fierceness, his words the mace he swung to shame and mock and ridicule. He slew me more than once. Though I had more than a decade to stand on, he towered over me, an insurmountable wall that kept me in a place of fear. I hated him.


A full generation passed before I saw him again. This past week we met. The years have left him frail, thin, and sick. His legs hesitate when he tries to walk, and his ears fail to listen to the soft voices around him. Old angers still smolder in his words, but the flame no longer leaps out to scorch and singe.


All of us come to rubble eventually. The mortar weakens and our walls collapse. We lay down our weapons and surrender to the years.


We talked, the two of us, and told our stories. I searched for my old hatred and found it gone, lost on some path I took decades and decades ago.


I left that man, surprised at my great peace and my great guilt. I am not innocent. I have wrecked havoc, too, shook the ground with anger, pierced hearts with sharp-edged words, and held others hostage behind walls I built myself.


I have grown small again and hope to stay that way until I leave. I have had my share of hurts, but I have also hurt others and must make amends, for none of us escape this world unscathed or guiltless.

When personal guilt is not enough


When the thrill of carrying personal guilt wanes, life can grow dull, and you may begin to feel powerless, even depressed. You may look back with longing on your childhood when you first felt the thrill of knowing you were responsible for the feelings of other people. All those adults with their volatile emotions relied on you, a small child, to maintain their equilibrium. Heady days, indeed.


Just follow this road for the rest of your life. (Photo courtesy:


As you grew, did your responsibilities expand to include the feelings and well-being of your friends? If so, you are just the person I would like to talk to today: an adult with a strong sense of responsibility. Now, not only do you carry the blame for the moods and poor choices of your spouse and children, but you also have culpability if your relatives, co-workers, boss, or anyone you encounter in your daily life experiences negative emotions or engages in bad behavior. You stride through life with confidence, on tiptoes, blindfolded, across broken glass, barefoot, while walking backwards, and you do it with aplomb and lots and lots of band-aids.


You think life cannot get any better than this, but then something changes. The adrenaline rush of your power over people and that crazy, wild ride on the roller coaster of other people’s emotions starts to depress you. When you wake up in the morning, you are no longer energized by the idea of trying to make all of the people in your life happy and solve every single one of their problems. Wallowing in guilt over the bad choices other people make starts to feel like a duty instead of a pleasure. One day you wake up and think, “I am tired of carrying all of this guilt. It’s too much for me.”


Friend, I understand how you feel. However, giving up is never the answer. You may think you need less guilt when you actually need more guilt. You have grown accustomed to your personal guilt and are starting to find fault with it, to resent the way it nags you, or wakes you up in the middle of the night to talk.


Don’t get rid of your guilt until you hear my solution. I’m here today to help you re-energize your life, to infuse your life with new meaning. I know you’re thinking it is too good to be true, but believe it, friend, I can help you enjoy guilt again!


How, you ask? By assuming regional guilt. Yes, you heard me, you can assume responsibility for whichever region you live in! Fresh guilt is the answer.


Map of Wisconsin, my adopted homeland, where I gargle guilt for breakfast.

Let me illustrate. I live in Wisconsin. Normally we have a lot of snow in the winter; however, this winter we have had very little. Since I do not like the cold, I am enjoying this weather. To certain irresponsible people, that seems like a guilt-free pleasure, but that’s where they are wrong. States like Wisconsin are the freezers where other regions store water they will need in spring. We keep it here in the form of snow because ice cubes are hard to shovel. But what if this year, we don’t produce enough snow to melt and send  down the river to the thirsty people who are too busy sitting around in the sunshine to come up here and get it themselves? They will suffer, and the reason they will suffer is because I am selfish. I wanted a warm winter and I got it. Can I control the weather? No, of course, not, but what does that have to do with anything?  I secretly wished for mild weather, so I must take some responsibility for the drought that follows. Wishes have consequences, folks.


But, you say, what about next winter? Maybe next winter you will have record snowfall, and then where will your regional guilt be? Friend, I have this guilt problem under control. Lots of snow leads to flooding in the spring. Through my taxes, I help support a state that idly stands by letting snow melt and fill up rivers that overflow their banks. Do I do anything to stop it? No, I’m happy that the snow melts. Do you see how my selfishness has once again brought misery to the multitudes. Snow or no snow, it’s a win-win situation for me. Behold the beauty of the logic of guilt.


Today if you are ready to give up your personal guilt, stop and think about it first. Do you really want to give up that kind of power? Do you want to go back to being an ordinary person, responsible to manage only your own feelings and choices? Or, do you want to expand your power and responsibility and achieve world dominion through guilt?


If you have come to the place where personal guilt is not enough, please consider regional guilt. You are only limited by your imagination. Take control of your life today. Be a responsible adult and choose guilt.

Dear reader,


If this message has been meaningful to you in a negative way, please let me know. I count on my readers to be troubled and disappointed by the things I type. Could you take a minute and write to me, letting me know that I am responsible for how you feel today. And if you are planning to make a bad choice based on something you read on this blog or some comment I made on your blog, could you drop me a line. It would mean the world to me.


Culpably yours,