Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sherlock Holmes still stands for something.

As with so many mornings of late, I woke up this morning to headlines of slimey power-plays by the greedy and self-interested. Those whose desire for winning that game whose points are scored with dollars outweighs all else: Truth, empathy, the future . . . why think of any of that when you can put points on the board?

In this world, we can't really afford to happily smile and nod when certain phrases are uttered.

Let's start with this one: "No shit, Sherlock!"

An unpleasant little thing that Watson would never say. Why? Because at it's core it's about disrespecting someone who, for whatever reason, seemed to be smarter than you. One could argue that it was about bringing down someone who was putting on airs, but in the everyday usage I've observed, it's about putting the Sherlock Holmeses of the world in their place . . . and that place would seem to be "You ain't so smart, Mr. Fancy-pants Detective!"

It's not a Watson sort of phrase. It's a Gregson sort of phrase. And not handsome TV Gregson.

Now let's move on the a phrase that might bring a little more disagreement.

"All Sherlock is good Sherlock."

All everything is never all something. And even that sentence is wrong, because throwing around universal constants in fields other than science and math is not usually productive. Even in those fields it can be a little dangerous. Because there is bad Sherlock out there.

Not just Sherlock that a particular person didn't enjoy, but Sherlock that betrays the parts of that character who have kept him alive this long. Or betray those things that make him useful to humanity.

Is "No shit, Sherlock!" -- that three word pastiche -- good Sherlock?

Well, let's think about what makes good Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes is our greatest image of a detective. A man who can find the truth about a situation despite all the charm or horror of the circumstances presented to him. A man who not only cares deeply about finding those truths to make other people's lives better, but who brings with him a best friend upon whom he can always depend. A particular tale can emphasize one part of all that, like his caring for Watson, over another part, but in the end, all of those pieces have to be a part of Sherlock Holmes.

Unless he's evil Sherlock Holmes, and that, by its very definition, is not good Sherlock Holmes.

So what am I saying here? In an age where truth is being perverted and science and learning suppressed, where egos and profits would foster any lie to advance their causes, we need good Sherlock Holmes more than ever. He stands as a torch in the darkness, a reminder that, even though he's fictional, the things he does seem possible. We can find the truth. We can make life better for other people. And we can, like Sherlock Holmes himself did many a time, admit our mistakes and be happy for those truths that do make life better for others even when things don't go the way we thought they should. ("Norwood.")

There are actually some hard lessons in the tales of Sherlock Holmes. But they are good lessons.

There is a core to Sherlock Holmes that should always be good Sherlock for us. Because it's about good things, things that make us better. Not a superficial package of a middle-aged white male with an English accent and a certain coat and hat, which is where bad Sherlock often emanates from. Sherlock Holmes can be a hermaphroditic fish alien that carries his pocket watch Watson AI in his belly-button pouch and still be good Sherlock, if he/she does what Sherlock Holmes does best.

Waking up to the sorts of headlines we wake up to these days, it's good to then reconsider Sherlock Holmes and that he's still there for us, still a reminder for us of things good and true. And that just maybe, when this story is over, the Sherlock Holmes in us will have some solutions.

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