Sunday, December 29, 2019

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, icons for the future

The week ahead brings us to the year 2020, which for a lot of us once seemed a lot like saying next year is Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. The future tends to get here whether we expect it or not, and history is being made as we speak. This is what I was thinking as I finished up The Watsonian Weekly for this week, so I thought I'd expand on it a bit.

We often forget that the Sherlock Holmes stories, when they were written, weren’t about looking lovingly back on the past – they were about a visionary detective who was looking ahead toward what was possible, and becoming the consulting detective he could envision when no one else could. Sherlock Holmes, when he first appeared, was the man of the future.

It's ironic that so much of Sherlockiana has become looking back, documenting the past, holding on to that frozen pod of Victorian imagination we call Canon. It wasn't built as a cozy comforter, but as a constant lesson in "the world isn't always what it appears to be." It taught us to look for the truth, even if the abused dog is much less romantic than a curse-created hound from Hell. It showed us to look past the fear to the factual, and hell if that ain't a lesson we need to learn again and again and again.

We can't all be Sherlock Holmes, so observant, knowledgeable, or insightful, but we do also have John Watson to consider. John H. Watson may not have been the visionary that Sherlock Holmes was, but Watson was an explorer of sorts, eager to find out just what Sherlock Holmes was about and what lay at the end of each adventure. Our Sherlockian world has outpaced all of us in it’s ability to grow, change, and show us previously unheard of iterations of Holmes and Watson. Emulating Watson, taking up the call to see what's really going on with those often eccentric sorts who are trying to see beyond the obvious, is also a worthy endeavor.

I always end each episode of The Watsonian Weekly with Watson’s good-bye to Stamford as Watson walks away wondering about this fellow called Sherlock Holmes, but just before that, just before Stamford says his own good-bye, he has these last words: “I’ll wager he learns more about you than you about him.”

Live with Sherlock Holmes long enough, and he will show you more about yourself than you are shown about him. It’s the Watsonian way.  And in this new decade of the 2020s, we’re sure to be learning a whole lot of new things about ourselves and the world around us. Some good, some bad, some merely "what is." We have no idea what's coming, exactly. Glimmers perhaps. Expectations of certain routine things. But a lot that will still be a little better with a view inspired by Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

And the game is afoot again.

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