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THE TERMITE

    Once a termite applied for a grant to carry on with its work.
    Seeking assistance was not something the termite did lightly, convinced that it would lose much of its independence as a result. Lately, though, it had begun to have serious doubts about its ability to keep up with the task of clearing the world of deadwood and decay.    
    Despite its misgivings, therefore, the termite was encouraged when it was invited to appear for an interview regarding its application. It took the invitation as a positive sign and felt new enthusiasm for its work in the thought that its efforts might be recognized and find timely support.
    The termite had barely taken its place in front of the grant committee, however, when the chief interviewer declared, “Your application is, frankly, one of the most unsettling we have ever received. I must tell you at the outset that the committee is not inclined to support it and that you have been invited here solely to satisfy certain requirements for transparency in the selection process. Now, if you have a short statement you’d like to read, you may do so.”
    The termite did have a statement, over which it had toiled for days. But now all that seemed pointless in the deepening humiliation it felt while reading out a plea for support under the wide-eyed, alarmed stares of the committee members. Each word felt like dust in its throat.
    When the termite finished, there was a long pause. Finally, one of the interviewers asked, “Let me understand this correctly. Are you actually claiming that you can be of benefit to society?”
    “I believe I can, yes,” came the hoarse reply.
    “And you propose to render this supposed benefit by attacking everything you see as rotten in society?”
    “If we don’t clear away what’s old and rotten, how can something better take its place?” the termite offered hopefully, but the response was a caustic “Who are you to decide what’s rotten when so many of those who should know are convinced everything is still quite sound?”
    “I only point out what ought to be obvious to all.”
    “Well, it’s not obvious to us, let me tell you!” 
    The termite saw in the expression of hostile umbrage on the faces arrayed before it that its proposal to take on the Herculean labor of chewing through every senseless venture and outright folly it encountered was viewed as a direct challenge to much of what the interviewers prided themselves on having encouraged in the past. They were not about to question that encouragement just because a termite had shown up. 
    There was nothing left but to listen as the loud throat-clearing died away and the head of the committee signaled that the interview was at an end: 
    “Thank you for your interest. We wish you success in finding support for your endeavors elsewhere. Now, if you’ll excuse us . . .”