Friday, May 31, 2019

Stresslock Holmes

How stressful was Sherlock Holmes's job?

The man loved his profession and the challenges it handed him . . . and that was probably the part of his job that did the most damage. Not the bruisers, the killers, the thugs, etc. The love of his job.

Who can ever forget, once read, that Maupertuis business, "an investigation which had extended over two months, during which period he had never worked less than fifteen hours a day, and had more than once, he assured me, kept to his task for five days at a stretch."

Staying awake for five days straight is, indeed, possible for a human to do, but their mental functions are sure to decrease over that time. After five days without sleep, Sherlock Holmes might have been almost . . . normal?

But even Sherlock Holmes can't work fifteen hour days for two months without collapsing when whatever motivation that was driving him so hard suddenly disappears when the case was solved, at which point all the stress and strain came back on him.

We know the downtimes of his career were more problematic than the busier times, but the Maupertuis case definitely falls at an extreme end of the spectrum. Were it not of his own choosing, and those fifteen hour days were done at the demand of an insistent boss, we should call such a taskmaster all sorts of horrible things, but as it was Sherlock Holmes pushing himself for a job he obviously felt was necessary to be done, we do tend to let his boss off the hook.

But, man, what end was worth all that stress, all that work? That couldn't have been one he was doing simply for the mental stimulation. Surely lives had to be at stake, and lives he cared about at that. Some of his family involved? Or was he pushing something else from his mind with that "work is the best antidote to sorry" motive he consoled Watson with in "Empty House?"

There are depths to a work-stressed Sherlock Holmes we have yet to plumb.

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