Saturday, December 6, 2014

That legendary beastie we call the Watson.

I was thinking this morning about how much we'd all love to have a Watson.

Sherlock Holmes is always thought to be the rare and special individual in the Canon Sherlockiana and all its subsequent iterations. But these days . . . how many Watsons do you truly know?

In CBS's Elementary, almost no value is given to the Watson role -- all the regular characters are either consulting detectives, apprentice consulting detectives, or NYPD detectives. Everybody trying to solve mysteries, and often rattling off answers in interchangeable dialogue as if they're competing for air time. But here's the thing about that: It kind of reflects our current version of society.

Social media, social action, social anxiety, all of our "socials" seem to be about making people aware of what's in our heads and getting them to synch up with what we're feeling/realizing/truly understanding way better than anyone else. And we're all hoping someone out there will go, "Amazing, Holmes!" and follow us on our merry chase of a life.

We all really want a Watson. Someone to listen. Someone to be glad to know us. Someone who'll be there when you make that call.

Only sometimes, these days, it seems like most of us are trying to be Sherlocks.  Maybe it just seems that way because Watsons have "that grand gift of silence" and can go un-noticed. Or maybe it's that the perfect Watson, as Conan Doyle painted him with his words, is a mythological creature that has never truly existed in a pure state. Watson, as created by Doyle, may have been just half of what is in every woman and man, with Sherlock filling out the other half.

We talk a lot of spectrums these days -- spectrums of autism, spectrums of sexual identification, spectrums that show us we can have varying levels of all sorts of things within us. Perhaps there's a Holmes-Watson spectrum that depicts our balance of declaiming and listening, of leading and following. For even John H. Watson, M.D. wasn't a pure Watson.

Sure, he was Sherlock Holmes's Watson. But ol' John H. has had Watsons of his own, who sympathize with his every word and go, "Excellent, Watson, excellent!" Yes, as humble as we may consider Watson, he was a published writer, and you know he had to have a prideful moment when a key issue of The Strand came out.

Oddly, I think it was Sherlock Holmes who offered the best advice on our personal Holmes/Watson dichotomies. His words went something like this:

"Compound of the Busy Bee and Excelsior! We can but try -- the motto of the firm!"

Holmes is our Busy Bee, and Watson our Excelsior. Working as hard as we can on our own goals and  yet still lifting up our fellows as best we can. A good motto for any firm human being, especially these days.

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