Clucking or Oinking … ?

When I read this quote I was about to give myself a wee little pat on the back because I thought I had actually been doing more of this over the past few years … BUT then …  the word committed got me second-guessing myself.  Some wise soul once said:

When it comes to making bacon and eggs … the chicken is ‘involved’ but the pig is ‘committed’.

The distinction between ‘clucking’ and ‘oinking’ gave me serious pause.  Both chicken and pig are essential contributions to this vision of creating a scrumptious ‘breakfast’ … but they certainly do not reflect the same level of investment.  Those who are ‘committed’ are willing to risk it all in passionate pursuit of their dreams and goals. It could certainly be argued that the most remarkable and necessary social changes in history were oinked into being … at great personal cost to the souls whose ‘commitment’ ran deeper their ‘fear.’

I so deeply admire folks like this.  I think we all do.  Ordinary folks often capture our attention and become the ‘famous’ heroes in history whose stories of self-sacrifice are so inspiring that we remake them into Hollywood movies, captivating biographies and/or historical exhibits.  I vividly remember acquainting myself with some of the lesser known souls in an electronic book exhibit at Schindler’s Factory in Berlin, Germany.  One of the books cited courageous tales of the German ‘heroes’ of World War II who were so passionately ‘committed’ to their vision that they even sacrificed the security and safety of their own loved ones/children in order to save Jewish families and their children from extinction.  The other book revealed stories about the German people who didn’t dare resist Hitler’s powerful force and were viewed as ‘informants’ … perhaps because their fears for the safety of their loved ones/children prevailed and/or trumped their faith in any chance of  derailing the prevailing powers of that time.  I was utterly silenced  and soberly shuttered at the magnitude of daily ‘choices’ that these ordinary souls were faced with …

I remember standing there, warily wondering – wondering clear down to the deepest part of my soul – which book I would have ended up in had I endured that horrific time in history. I stood there, hoping against hope that I would have ended up in the book that told stories of courage and sacrifice but, in all honesty, I am not sure I would have.  I know I can be brave … sometimes.  I know I have strong convictions … about some things.  I know I feel tremendous empathy for the marginalized and oppressed.  I know I have always been passionate about alleviating  the suffering of humanity … but seriously … if push came to shove, could I really risk my own comforts and/or my family security to help others?

Although my altruistic convictions have propelled me into the field of social work whereby I have professionally ‘committed’ myself to the pursuit of social justice … my involvement has not yet required that I truly sacrifice myself or the safety of my loved ones.  In fact, as I reflect back on what my ‘commitment’ has meant thus far, I mostly see a lot of eggs.  I am very proud of my eggs … but … let’s be candid here, I can see far more clucking than oinking in my benevolent pursuit of social justice. And, please, don’t get me wrong. I am not subordinating the value of the chicken over the pig here. Both eggs and bacon are equally essential contributions to a successful outcome.  I am just noticing my own tendencies.

There is no denying that I’m willing to invest myself in a noble cause … and I do.  BUT … it’s so much easier to believe you’d be the bacon when you’re not actually making breakfast.  I share this because  not too long ago I was faced with a situation where I had to decide  how much I was prepared to risk (in order to advocate on behalf of others).  It sparked some deep soul searching … and … brought up all kinds of feelings.  I knew that I had nothing personal to gain, so in this instance, it would have been so much easier to simply offer up an egg and call it good … BUT … for some reason I just couldn’t.  In this particular case, I really was more committed to my vision than my fear.

So, I find myself questioning what prompted my swine-like ‘commitment’ in this particular situation.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but I just knew that I feared the consequences of not taking a stand more than I feared the price I might pay in doing so.  I knew I wouldn’t sleep if I tried to step over it.  In fact, I don’t feel like I chose it … I honestly feel like it chose me.  Perhaps the most passionate of our pursuits or ‘visions’ are not self-decided callings but, rather,  are placed inside us by something greater than ourselves?

I don’t know for sure what inspires someone to oink versus cluck, but my musings about it have left me seriously pondering Helen Keller’s bold declaration that: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”.   I find myself wondering if this insight speaks to a niggling truth inside all of us.  Perhaps there is a unique and particular ‘vision’ silently seeded within each of us that will simply not be stilled by fear once it’s been brought to light. Perhaps it is different for each and every one of us …

Perhaps life represents a series of invitations for us to contribute a brave and daring oink … and/or …  to invest a safe cluck-cluck here and a secure cluck-cluck there?  What would be the rewards of living such a daring and ‘committed’ life?  What would be the risks?  What are the gains ‘involved’ in clucking?  What are the costs? Maybe there is a time for clucking and a time for oinking?

And so …this reflection begs the ultimate question: what if I dared to oink more than I cluck?  Perhaps it doesn’t have to be either-or?  Maybe the juiciest lives are a compelling mix of both?  I can’t say for sure, but I can feel that this conversation resonates very uncomfortably within me …  bumping between my anxious preference for safety and my compassionate vision to live a life that is bigger than my fears.

I wonder what my answer to the next call will be.

With deepening reverence for all the oinkers and heartfelt gratitude for all the cluckers. No scrumptious breakfast nor amazing vision happens without both,  Karen








6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CoachBarbie
    Mar 20, 2014 @ 10:53:24

    What excellent questions you pose here, Karen! These are questions I’ve been asking myself for a long, long time. Even as a child listening to Bible stories about those who had died for their faith, I would quietly think, “I would lie and stay alive.” Oh, the guilt and shame of my commitment to self-preservation!

    I like the distinction you make about the calling choosing us. There have been times in my life when I did the courageous thing, when I stepped up and risked myself for another. In retrospect it never felt like I had a choice. I just “did what had to be done.” I’ve heard others describe it that way, too. I wonder if anyone really sees himself (or herself) as a hero.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Lots of good things to ponder!!



    • Karen Lanser
      Mar 20, 2014 @ 20:38:31

      Thank you Barbie … Your thoughtful response has taken my reflections to an even deeper place. There are likely so many point of ‘commitment’ that grab hold of our hearts and we don’t spend a lick of time questioning our responses. You leave me pondering those who have surrendered it all for their faith. Thank you for stretching me even further in terms of where our commitment shows up …. and … how we interpret it! 🙂



  2. Marie
    Mar 23, 2014 @ 11:19:48

    I think you CAN give yourself that little pat on the back, Karen! I do believe we can always do more to stand up for what’s right and it’s a continual process to keep analyzing and making sure we’re in integrity with ourselves. BUT… of the many things that I admire about you is the way that you model doing what’s right and are “committed” to taking that stand, even when it may cause fear or anxiety to do so. Thank you for, once again, giving me much to think about!



    • Karen Lanser
      Mar 24, 2014 @ 07:18:28

      Thank you Marie! You raise such a good point … maybe our willingness to risk our safety and take a stand is driven by a subconscious desire to remain in integrity with ourselves. Perhaps the point at which we might be willing to ‘sizzle’ in the pan is when the situation would betray our own sense of being ‘right’ with the world anyway. Maybe it is just a different kind of ‘risk’. Thanks for stretching my perspective … such great conversation!



  3. Lorraine
    Mar 23, 2014 @ 19:23:58

    I too have wondered what I would do in such situations – hide or snitch on those being persecuted, send my children off to save them or keep them by my side, stand up against the forces in control or stay silent, or even if I only had a year to live. The honest answer is – I don’t know. And for many situations hope never to know. I don’t think any of us truly know how we will respond until we are faced with the situation.

    The view from another perspective is the pig only has to show up once, albeit in a big way and we rely on other pigs to keep showing up to put bacon on the table. The chicken, however, gives a lifetime commitment to show up day in and day out whether it wants to or not. This is no small feat, as you well know as a mom. Putting more worth into the big moments at the diminishment of the small is doing a great disservice to what is accomplished and changed quietly over the course of time.



    • Karen Lanser
      Mar 24, 2014 @ 07:12:48

      That is such an interesting perspective Lorraine! I hadn’t been thinking of it as putting more worth on on oinking than clucking because they are both essential, necessary and valuable ingredients. I like how you framed the investment though …

      I was more fascinated upon the energy of risk that is required to be the bacon … and how that vibrational frequency can get stirred within us without our conscious invitation. I was shocked to feel something pull me out of my own preference for ‘safe’ contribution …

      Thanks so much for the twist of kaleidoscope … I’m thoroughly enjoying all the juicy conversation that has been sparked around this topic!



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