Opinion | How to become Trump’s special master: Look with your heart

With apologies to Paulo Coelho and his novel The Alchemist.

The shepherd boy fell asleep in the half-ruined democracy. He always slept well among the sheep. A dream came to him. In the dream he checked a lot of classified documents and made significant explanations about them. When he woke up, he went to his father to tell him what he had seen. His father nodded and said to him, “You have to fulfill your own personal message cycle. You must seek out the special master.”

The boy sold his sheep and set off. He traveled over mountains and hills and through tunnels and over rams until he came to a prominent peak. From deep within the mountain he heard the sound of stacks of papers being shuffled, all the time.

He shouted a greeting, but there was no answer. The door opened and a shriveled arm reached out. He threw some scraps of paper at his feet. Then the door closed again and he heard footsteps moving away. The boy spent the morning putting the scraps of paper together.

At noon, as the sun shone hotly down on the boy, he paused and wiped his forehead.

“What brought you here?” asked a voice. He turned and looked. A man in black robes was there, someone who could be an allegory of all sorts of things.

“I’m trying to take my place in the news cycle,” the boy said. “I dreamed that one day I would review some important documents.”

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“You’re looking for the Special Master,” said the man in black.

“Yes!” the boy shouted. “Do you know him? Can you tell me where he lives?”

“The special master resides in this mountain,” said the man. “But before you are admitted, you must prove your worthiness. What are you doing with those papers over there?”

“I’ll put them together,” said the boy. “It’s my dream.”

The man eyed him closely. “Can you speak to your heart?” he asked.

“I – I think so,” said the boy. “I’ll try.”

“Then you can work for me and earn your keep here,” said the man, “while you wait to meet the special master.”

The boy jumped up gratefully. “Thank you,” he called.

In the days that followed, the man in black gave the boy many tasks. The boy got the man’s slippers. He steamed all his robes. He watched the man go through documents and explained that they fell under executive privilege.

One day the man led him to a clogged toilet. “Look into the heart of this toilet,” said the man. “What do you see?”

“I see water,” said the boy.

“Look with your heart,” said the man.

“I… see documents,” the boy said. “They don’t belong there.”

The man led him to a wall where ketchup and broken pieces of pottery were lying. “What do you see?”

“Anger,” said the boy.

“With your heart?” the man said.

“Economic… economic anxiety,” the boy said.

A long time passed. The sun rose and set many times, which is one way of noting the passage of time. The man led the boy to the top of the peak and gave him one final task: “You must release a document with just your mind and tell no one about it.”

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“That’s impossible!” said the boy. “Everyone knows that you can only declassify with procedures.”

“It is impossible?” asked the man. “Or do you just think it impossible, O my special apprentice?”

The boy gasped and his heart jumped inside him. “You! You are the special master!”

“Special Master is just a title,” said the man. “There are no conditions. Become acceptable to a district judge and various legal teams, and you can become one too.”

“You sly old wizard!” cried the boy. “You knew all along that I could have stayed at home and never left the sheep, and that I would have been spared all this mystery and humiliation!”

“Ah,” said the man, “but then you would never have learned the language that is in all languages, and the song that the heart sings, and the dreams that the angels in our lives dream for each of us, and like call upon the wind so that the wind may answer.”

“Have I learned all that?” asked the boy, puzzled. “Are these the powers of the special master?”

“Well, no,” said the man. “Most of the time, the Special Master is a sort of assistant judge, and his job is to familiarize himself with case details to a degree that a judge cannot.”

“Oh,” said the boy. “It’s a bit anticlimax.”

“Only if your heart says so,” said the Special Master. And he disappeared into the mountain, never to be seen again, like a dream or an improperly preserved document.

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