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Where is that Mycroft Holmes When We Really Need Him?

Feb 4, 2008
As a kid, Sherlock Holmes was my hero. Here was really a cool guy if there ever was one. He knew almost everything about everything and could solve almost any crime, even crimes that had stumped Her Majesty's best. But even Sherlock had his days.

On those rare but revealing occasions when our good Sherlock was bested, he had to swallow his pride, no small task, and go and seek counsel with his older brother Mycroft. Mycroft lived at the gentleman's club Diogenes, a place where few members spoke and all sipped their coffee and brandies and read the newspaper and looked at each other through the tops of their eyeglasses. That's where Mycroft lived. Mycroft also had some sort of government job but his exact duties and functions were unclear.

Sherlock would approach Mycroft and Mycroft would immediately start this sarcastic teasing of Sherlock. Only under the most extreme of circumstances would Sherlock go this route but there were times when he just couldn't get over the hump in the case. Even our man Sherlock could get stumped.

After a fair amount of belittling, Mycroft would give Sherlock the hint and one almost wondered if in fact Sherlock already knew the answer, but just couldn't get it out. And our poor hero Sherlock would slip away dragging his tail and feeling just a little bit wiser but a lot more foolish. Mycroft was Sherlock's comeuppance and reality check.

Yet curse as he may, Sherlock knew he would use Mycroft again. Sherlock knew there would come another case and he would have to go meekly before his brother and beg. The only thing worse than shame is ignorance.

Now whether Mycroft actually had the knowledge or just real good people skills is the question of the day. In the end Sherlock probably had the imagination and creativity to solve anything but at times just hit one of those mental blocks, as we humans are prone to do.

Did Mycroft actually know the answer or did he know how to structure the perception and question to reveal the answer? Did Sherlock always have the answer already within himself? Was Mycroft really too lazy to do the investigative work?

Would that our man Mycroft were around and on call today to help us out on this one. Like Sherlock we most likely would discover that a good dose of humility is a small price to pay for the right answer. The right answer can mean the difference between a project's success or failure. The wrong answer can lead one down a Narnian path to the twilight zone of no return.

Mycroft's secret was he kept getting a bigger and bigger perspective on the problem. At some point, he simply mastered it and moved on. Sherlock would hit dead end and like most of us throw up his hands in despair. Not Mycroft. Mycroft didn't structure the problem that way in his mind so he didn't feel that frustration. Mycroft didn't care. Mycroft just kept trying to get the greatest perspective he could on the problem and then probe Sherlock's head to fill in the blanks and connect the dots.

Holmes certainly led a more exciting life but clearly excitement was not how Mycroft measured his own life. Mycroft appears to be forever content sitting around the club reading the evening edition. Or the morning edition. Or looking wistfully at clouds of tobacco smoke. The club was Mycroft's reward for being Mycroft.

So in the end Mycroft probably didn't know the answer. Mycroft was a club rat; it kept him insulated from the cruel and insane world, a world of which our man Sherlock was always knee deep in; rogues and scoundrels and that sort of thing. In the end we have to conclude that Mycroft was nothing more than a well dressed guru pointing the way...and did perhaps Mycroft envy Sherlock?

At any rate we Sherlock freaks would like even tougher cases and to see our man Sherlock having to squirm and run to Mycroft for more brotherly advice. Sherlock seldom squirmed. This is what it's all about and part of what make both Mycroft and Sherlock tick. Well, at least Sherlock.

With Mycroft it was all just one big crossword puzzle but for Sherlock it was a way of life so that is why Sherlock wallowed in it. Mycroft didn't have to. Sherlock was the populist; Mycroft the aloof landed gentry. Sherlock lived life; Mycroft experienced life vicariously since it was so much tidier that way. Two paths that cross through necessity.

Besides, our Sherlock would never be content with the dull, gentlemanly life of the Diogenes club, right Sir Doyle?
About the Author
Jack Deal is a Sherlock Holmes fan. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog/business and http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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