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One of my many nerd-denominations is Sherlockian. I owe an existential debt to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When I got to third grade, I had run out of Nancy Drew stories, so I started reading Sherlock Holmes. I sat there with the dictionary my Dad gave me and looked up the words I didn’t understand. I didn’t get it all, but I did so well on my language testing that my teacher announced it to the whole class. Then everyone laughed at me, and I comforted myself that some day I’d be just like Sherlock Holmes, and they would all still be stupid. (Hey, I was in 3rd grade! Leave me alone.) Anyhow, Sherlock Holmes is a great nerd mentor. He confirmed my belief in the beauty and power of a curious human mind. He taught me that magic is something awesome you just don’t understand…yet.
Sherlock Holmes adventures unfold like a magic trick. Usually they begin with Holmes whiny and pissy because he’s got nothing to do and the world is stupid and he hates how dull everything ever is. And then there’s Watson getting irritated because he’s trying to read the paper. So he jumps in and starts challenging Holmes. Into this bickering, the plot appears in the form of a messenger or a lady or some strange person. While Watson listens patiently to the inciting incident, Holmes just sits there until he hears some bit that is just slightly odd, “outre” was his phrase. Then we follow Watson follow Holmes on the adventure. In the end, Holmes gives Watson the “need to know” for a cunning plan. Excitement ensues, and then everyone asks Holmes “How did you ever…?” And Holmes’ intellectual vanity overwhelms him so he explains how he figured out who-dunnit. Then everyone, except our lovely Watson, is like “Oh! That was easy.” Poor Holmes goes home and plays some lonely violin, while Watson takes the girl to dinner.
So, for most of the story, you are Watson. You don’t see what Holmes is seeing, you simply see him, through Watson, doing his thing. So when the reveal happens, you feel Watson’s wonder at the “magic” of his friend. And it’s not cheap magic. The magic of Holmes is the magic of watching the beauty and splendor of the workings of a human mind. And a great and creative mind too. I’ll take that sort of magic as much and as often as I can. It’s the most wondrous thing that I know of in the Universe, and that’s a pretty big and wondrous place.
So what? Well, I get asked a lot about my thoughts on spirituality especially in relation to my creativity, and a lot of folks are shocked that I can find all the magic and meaning and inspiration I could ever want in just life, the Universe and everything. In the mysteries big and small. Holmes took cases because they tickled his curiosity, and he read a world of import and significance into scratches on watches, in a person’s shoes, in types of soil. He was infinitely fascinated by his world. And so am I. What more could anyone want than to be alive and have a brain capable of observing, learning and reflecting on this amazing world full of infinite expressions of Universal laws?
To me the magic of Holmes also reflects the magic of a Mozart or Newton or Michelangelo or Shakespeare, of great generals and leaders, of people who use their investigation of the world and its workings to discover, imagine and create. This world is so full, as Holmes observed “No ghosts need apply.” There’s just so much out there that really exists. And it’s all awesome. This Watson thanks Holmes for turning her on to that magic. And to everyone out there making awesome from the world, thanks. “My blushes, Watson!”
“The Cosmos is also within us. We are made of star stuff. And we are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” – Carl Sagan