Thursday, September 13, 2018

The maintenance that keeps things in our hands.

'Tis a curious thing when two thoughts enter your end in the course of a few days and start to interact. First was a notable tweet from Rowan MacBean that read "Talking to tiny fans about the cishet white dude gatekeepers in SH fandom: 'But soon they'll be dead, and then Millennials will rub their queer little hands all over everything those dudes held dear.'" A bit of a pot-stirrer, but a basic sentiment that's hard to disagree with -- time will change things. The second thought was a line on a podcast from DeRay Mckesson about everything built by man needing maintenance to survive. Every building, every institution, every law, every creation of humans . . . it all has to be maintained to last.

Over the years, I've heard many an overly optimistic Sherlockian exude that Sherlock Holmes, Sherlockiana, a particular Sherlockian club or tradition, etc. will be as it is forever. It's a very immature thought, the kind a kid has who has had much of the furniture in his home existing for his entire life. A fantastic feeling that was is will always be. A secure and wonderful feeling. But you get a bit older, live a bit, and realize how much we take for granted.

As responsible sorts, we try to see that and make sure our basic needs are going to last as long as we do -- food, shelter, etc.  Sherlock Holmes, and all those things that surround him, this very culture of Sherlockiana we enjoy . . . slightly less of a priority, but still requiring both maintenance and attention to last. Have you seen what water can do to a book? Fire is bad, and sure, it will destroy a book, but water . . . oh, it will torture and deform a poor book in ways that are more awful than burning. A library, one of those basic Sherlockian loves, requires protection and maintenance, whether it's five books or five hundred. You don't keep books in your basement if you can help it, or take a lot of care of that basement.

A society, a podcast, an ongoing publication, an annual event . . . they require even more maintenance. Nothing lasts forever, true, and just making something ongoing last five years, ten years, even just two or three years, takes work. A lot of work, most times. That's why we celebrate anniversaries and should probably celebrate them harder than anniversaries: it takes work to get to anniversaries. Birthdays, you just have to not die.

Maintenance. It's not pretty, it's not fun, but it keeps all that is man-made existing, and not reclaimed by the Earth.

Which brings me back to Rowan's original thought, to which I'll add one especially dark realization that came to me early in life: It takes people a very long time to die. This might seem apparent to some folks, but after losing a parent early on, as a child I expected people to die a lot more often than they did. And sometimes, the people you think should really be dead by now just keep on going, and going, and going . . . just look hard at Congress sometime. Which means that getting your hands on their stuff can take forever. And forever means a lot of maintenance has to go on for that stuff to be around when you finally get your hands on it, at which point it might even not be something you really want anymore. The world is a funny, shifty place.

And ideas, traditions, man-made items can die a lot faster than people.

Everything we hold dear, whatever your age, race, or gender, could be a completely different thing tomorrow without proper attentions. Sherlock Holmes lasting this long in a recognizable form is a wondrous thing, and has taken legions of fans of all stripes to keep him in the public eye. There are those Sherlockians who enjoy the old things in the old-fashioned way they were made. They are the ones who preserve certain old man-made things, maintain them, research to preserve more knowledge about them, and carry them forward. There are also Sherlockians who create new variations on the basic Holmes things to enjoy in new ways that inspire us to carry the great detective on further through our lives.

And those aspects, items, tales, etc. that we just don't care about? 

We will let them pass from existence, letting them go from lack of attention. What I'm getting at here is that putting your energy into those things that you enjoy, maintaining them, carrying them forward, is what gives future generations something to take in their hands and enjoy as well . . . if they choose. If you don't enjoy it, don't put your energies into it, it will be up to someone else to carry forward, and if that someone is out there, it will go forward. Until that day when no one picks up that book, that idea, that way of doing things any more.

Even things stored forever in a climate-controlled shelf in a library vault are only carried forward if someone in the future cares to look at them.  Why do we look at those things?

Because somebody enjoyed them once, shared that enjoyment with us, and led us to share that enjoyment with someone else. I can understand raging against the bull-crap that the old white dudes in any culture can throw around, especially when their chosen fetish is threatened. I really, really, do, which is why I do sympathize with Rowan more than a bit. Entrenched enthusiasm without awareness of a changing world can be problematic. But how does that saying go? "Living well is the best revenge."

Living well and sharing the things we love and enjoy so others can live well, too. And maybe, just maybe, carry those things forward in a fashion that means something to them as well.

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