Could you create a "perfect" Sherlockian society?
A bit of Twitter discussion this evening raised that question, following yesterday's post on the barriers some consider necessary to make things work the way they'd like. Given current events of the week, one hates to start suggesting mental exercises in autocracy, but if you could control everything you'd like to control, how would you build your ideal Sherlock Holmes society?
The first question one has to ask before even beginning is this: How great are the powers we're being given? God-like? Or merely unlimited funds? Or nothing but a friendly venue, a website, a publication, and whatever else one might consider basics?
Would you go for a posh old club building, with leather wingback chairs, a classic bar, a theater, a library, etc.? Such fine surroundings are sure to draw in people who just come for the fine surroundings, and not the subject at hand. If you go for monastic simplicity, the most basic furnishings with a few carafes of water as your only refreshments, you're more apt to ward off the truly uninterested, but you're probably going to lose a few folks who can't stand such deprivation. ("Deprivity" would be a fun word, if only one could work out a good meaning. "Depraved levels of deprivation?")
I know from long experience that my ideal workday lunch outing is a four person group, but is there an ideal number for a Sherlockian discussion? Would you limit your ideal group to that number?
Do you recruit especially learned scholars? Celebrities? Skilled artists, writers, web-masters, editors, and others with the functional skills to build your society's fame, output, or reach, as if you're playing a Sherlock Holmes society version of "Settlers of Catan?"
Ah, but I realize now that I'm getting ahead of myself.
Before deciding all the rest, a person probably has to decide what the purpose of a Sherlock Holmes society is. To further Sherlockian knowledge? To offer an evening's entertainment? Or simply to give like-minded lovers of Sherlock Holmes a sense that they're not alone? That might inform all of the decisions that follow.
The first American Sherlock Holmes society put its mission statement in writing in 1934, which read, "Its purpose shall be the study of the Sacred Writings." Has that group gone far beyond simple studies in its 83 year history? Oh, yes. But it started with a purpose. And it also demonstrates the great challenge in any organization of Sherlockians.
No matter what one envisions as the perfect Sherlock Holmes society, the minute people start walking in the door, things start to change. You just don't know what that seemingly quiet, bookish lad or lass is going to bring to the table once they open up. And, man, have we seen all types in this Sherlockian world of ours, from captains of industry to cat-horders. (I don't mean cat fanciers . . . I mean actual, have-your-house-declared-unfit-for-habitation cat-horders.) And they all bring something to the table. And you never know what that something might be.
A perfect Sherlock Holmes society is something that probably can't even be defined with much detail, because the best stuff is always the stuff you didn't expect. I'm certainly having no luck defining the thing. What I do hope is that every Sherlockian gets the chance to be in at least one good Sherlockian society for a while, as I know those exist, even now.
Maybe that's even the best purpose for any Sherlock Holmes society: To give the fans of Sherlock Holmes a chance to be amidst a society of Sherlockians that they enjoy for a time, however that enjoyment comes.