Friday, June 16, 2017

Decent fellows enough.

One reason I prefer Twitter to Facebook, as a Sherlockian: Lack of gory details.

I hear that Twitter can be a horrible place, full of rude folk and personal attacks, and I'm sure it can be, if one catches the eye of the wrong folk. But with Sherlockians? I guess I've been lucky with my feed. Sure, I hear rumblings of things now and then. Just last night, a report came along of some Sherlockians somewhere being nasty to each other. No specifics. Just an echo of a disharmony, somewhere else on the social networks, a quiver of the web, if you will.

No gory details. No names that seem to need a judgment call as to who is right and who is wrong. And it's not like we're moving in with people and really need to make judgements, after all.

Before John H. Watson met Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Stamford said something about Sherlock that I always find "just right." Stamford commented, "He is a little queer in his ideas -- an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough."

That statement from Stamford has always been my default setting for most Sherlockians. Some of them are a little odd in their ideas, yes, but they're decent enough folk. But something changed over the last couple ten or fifteen years: The data explosion. We learned too much.

There was a day when you rarely found out personal details about the writers of most things you read. What you knew about them came through in their work, or it didn't come through at all. Sherlockians wrote about Sherlock Holmes, and that was how you knew them. You didn't know who they voted for in the last election. You didn't know if they went to a church that played with rattlesnakes every Sunday. You didn't know their every reaction to every world event in real time. And al that data takes some adjustment.

If you read those opening passages of A Study in Scarlet, you see Stamford's tone on Sherlock Holmes shift as Watson becomes more serious about moving in with Holmes. He starts with "decent fellow enough," but winds up at "You mustn't blame me if you don't get on with him." The difference? Stamford starts drawing up more information from his memory as the topic of Holmes is kept alive. And more judgmental statements start being made as he realizes Watson might actually bunk with this guy. But Watson adjusts.

Not adjusting or accepting comes far too easily. Exist in a place long enough, and eventually someone is going to cross a line that makes you put up walls. And when walls are up, you are left with only your imagination as to what is on the other side of that wall. And imagination can be a wicked, wicked thing, making it harder to consider tearing down those walls.

Something about speaking face-to-face makes us less quick to raise walls -- Watson takes in all of Stamford's information through the filter of Stamford's presence, and decides Holmes might be worth a shot. Can you imagine if the exchange between the two had taken place entirely on Facebook, with all of Stamford's FB friends jumping in to offer their thoughts on Holmes as well? I don't think we'd have the Canon today.

We're all decent fellows enough, really. Most of us just don't have John Watson to move in and explain it to everybody in print.

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