Thursday, October 31, 2019

How Sherlock and John became (in some universes) friends

Over the last decade, Johnlock writers have pretty much explored every possible way that Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson could become lovers. I know, "every possible way' might seem a bit hyperbolic, but it's darned close to the truth. Compare that to, in the previous hundred years, how little Sherlockians explored how the two men just became friends, and one realizes how little we think about that basic, yet important, relationship we call "friendship."

Some of us love to look at Sherlock Holmes and explore the similarities we find between the legend and ourselves, but this morning, as I was considering the co-workers I've become close to over the years, I suddenly found myself looking back at Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

(Here is the point in the blog where two things usually happen, and they are going to here: a.) I have to stop and go to work, and b.) I wonder for a moment why I don't save this and write it up for a journal or something. Off I go. Back soon, because I don't have the patience to wait for journal acceptance and publication -- an ironic flaw, given that I'm now editing a journal.)

One of the most common trails to friendship is shared interests. Sherlockiana is a grand grease on the wheels of interpersonal relationships, but how do we get there when there are no shared common interests? How do we get to be friends with someone whom our normal screening processes would judge "not friend material" and cross those lines of "Trekkie versus NFL fan" or "Fundy versus Free Spirit?" We're facing that question a lot of late, as we see ourselves more and more categorized and labelled, fenced off in our little paddocks.

When you look at Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson, what did they really have in common? They both had a bit of medical training, but beyond that? The military man and the "making up my profession" artist? The "women of three continents" dude and the seeming asexual with a touch of misogyny? Sure, we can shave off some edges, and shift our viewpoints, but these were not two guys who were going to naturally decide to be friends and just start going to Norman-Neruda concerts together after a chance meeting. Nobody talks about "friendship at first sight" all that much. What friendships get based on most quickly is shared experience.

And it doesn't even have to be an intense, life-or-death shared experience. When you shove two people into a box for an extended period of time, be it an apartment, a shared office, prison cell, what-have-you, if they're not working as hard as possible to ignore each other, they can't help but start to learn about each other, start to understand a bit about each other, relate to each other . . . and if neither one is just entirely awful . . . become friends.

Maybe not best buddies. Maybe not life-long pals. But just friends.

In those universes where Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson are just friends, their shared adventures may have deepened their friendship, but it was not what sowed the seeds. That came from just existing in the same space for a goodly amount of time, forced to see what the other was about, develop trust, and accept each other into their lives. Because John H. Watson was forced to share rooms with Sherlock Holmes, he came to know what an amazing person Sherlock was . . . a strange guy he wouldn't have dwelled too long upon without that time in each other's space.

Sometimes, with some of us, that's just what it takes to open our eyes to the grand qualities that a person so different from us has to offer. Like Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, we're not always social butterflies making friends wherever we go. Sometimes, the universe just puts us in a virtual 221B Baker Street with some stranger that we then get to be surprised and delighted by.

And, as with Holmes and Watson, that can be a very good thing, even if we don't become a legendary mystery-solving team. Getting a friend you might not otherwise have had is reward enough.

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