The term comes from a fable of the same name (among others). It’s about a group of mice who propose to put a bell around the cat’s neck to warn of its approach. The plan is heartily cheered until it comes time for a volunteer to step forward. The fable has given rise to the idiom “to bell the cat” which refers to attempting or agreeing to perform a difficult task.
I’ve had some experience belling cats. At times I tell myself this has stemmed from a latent inability to refrain from volunteering for jobs nobody wants. This is not an admirable trait. Guilt on one occasion is somewhat understandable. To repeat the mistake multiple times borders on either insanity or utter stupidity. The jury is still out on which suits my particular case.
I place the blame for my escapades on a Don Quixote Complex, part of which is the inability to resist the challenge of reaching for the unreachable. Perhaps it’s due to an inflated ego. Then again, stupidity cannot be ruled out.
I have answered a few such challenges with varying degrees of success at the behest of multiple mouse councils. One inescapable consequence of each challenge is my being scorned by the very council of mice who proposed the adventure in the first place. They like the idea as a proposal, but when it happens—it’s too much trouble, it’s not what they expected and it’s all my fault their dreams are shattered. Wishing for the thing always seems to be sweeter than obtaining it. If I had just left things alone, the sweet dream would still be intact.
I have learned to recognize that “we’re behind you all the way” is a blatant lie spoken to bait the mouse crazy enough to act. Stand up or stand out, and you stand alone. That’s the reality no matter how fervent the promise of others to jump on the bandwagon.
Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain, Though your dreams be tossed and blown, Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart, And you'll never walk alone…
I like Rogers and Hammerstein, but boy did they ever get that one wrong.