The Well Is Dry, Man
In a rural area a farmer was assigned a well by the king. The well was dug on that portion of the land to which the king had already entrusted the farmer, and the farmer was told it would be part of his duties from then on to draw water from the well at least once per week and serve it to the many thirsty people passing through the realm.
In the beginning, the well was productive, and many people wandering through the entrusted lands were happy to drink the water and converse with the farmer. This went on for some time, but local ordinances were changed to make it more difficult for visitors. People who wanted to drink from the well were now required to place requests and receive permission before engaging the farmer in conversation. Although this reduced the traffic somewhat, some people still continued to visit.
Eventually, though, the well produced less and less water. People who traveled through this part of the country found this farmer was offering less to drink than before, and as a result the people had less reason to visit the farmer. They sought their refreshment elsewhere.
In time, the king was replaced, but the old laws remained in place. One day the farmer came to realise that no one had visited his entrusted lands in many months. He was forced to admit that the well was dry, and there was no reason to continue attempting to draw water from it. He sent word to the town crier and posted bills asking for acknowledgment if anyone left in the world had any interest in visiting his well again. If not, he said, he would close the well entirely and devote his time to more productive enterprises.
Not a single response came. The farmer closed the well.
Several months later, the authorities reminded the farmer that he hadn't been pumping anything from the well, and that it was his duty to do so. He protested that the well was dry and that no one was interested. He was told simply that he was under obligation to continue pumping, and that if even one visitor wanted to drink from the well, his efforts were not in vain.
Having no choice, the farmer returned to his original task of pumping from the well once per week. He even set aside a day, in the middle of each week, when he would pump and pump to force up whatever might come. All the well would yield, however, was mud. Not a drop of the pure water he recalled from bygone days would surface.
The king was replaced again, and then again. The farmer grew old. He still saw no sign of any human traveler, and accepted that he never would. On occasion, the king's authorities would acknowledge the bits of mud the farmer had to show for his labour, but no indication that anyone on earth still recognized the well's original alleged purpose.