Erasmus was a man of great stature in his community. To the ignorant he gave knowledge. To the sick he gave cures. To the needy he offered jobs helping others in their community. Even the wealthy and powerful benefited from the generosity of Erasmus: to them he gave his endorsement (no small thing) of their claims to merit their great wealth and power. All of these — the ignorant, the sick, the needy, and the rich and powerful — held Erasmus in high regard.


A day came, however, when his knowledge was not so highly prized as it had once been. When the clinics established by Erasmus counted their gold pieces before they counted the number of people they had cured. When his employees cared only that they had jobs and no longer cared what it was they had been employed to do.


As for the rich and powerful, who in this community of perhaps 320 million people numbered around 400, they had never been more pleased with Erasmus. Because Erasmus, as his reputation for wisdom and benevolence declined, chose not to rededicate himself to his original, selfless concern for the wellbeing of his community, a concern which they had always merely tolerated anyway.


Instead, he calculated that he might return to his former stature by a simple expedient: he would secure the consent of his wealthy and powerful supporters to allow him to hold a lottery, which he reckoned would be popular with their community. The holder of the winning ticket — one person out of millions upon millions — would join the 400. From time to time. Perhaps. No guarantees.


Erasmus waited. He built more classrooms, clinics, and research centers with money from his wealthy and powerful friends, whose own names (they were pleased to see) adorned these buildings. Still he waited. He gave speeches in which he used words like “success” and “world-class” and “networking” and “real-world” and “hands-on” and “premier” to signal to the community the new and actual purpose of his current endeavors: to make it possible for at least a few of them to become rich and powerful, by ensuring that when their time came, there would still exist such a class of people, people whose names deserved to be prominently displayed upon the many good works of Erasmus.


Still he waited to return to favor. And waited some more.



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