Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes, is one of the most intriguing creations of literary fiction. He is, quite simply, extraordinary. His famous cohort, Dr. John Watson, is ordinary, at least by comparison. Watson has often been erroneously portrayed as a bumbling fool, but that flies in the face of Doyle’s attempt to make the average reader relate to Watson.
In this well-known interchange between Holmes and Watson, see which character you more closely resemble:
HOLMES: You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.
HOLMES: How often?
WATSON: Well, some hundreds of times.
HOLMES: Then how many are there?
WATSON: How many? I don’t know.
HOLMES: Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed. (“A Scandal in Bohemia” in The Complete Sherlock Holmes [New York: Doubleday, 1927])
You probably don’t know how many steps you regularly ascend each day, and therefore you relate to Watson. But here Holmes is making a point similar to the one Jesus makes in Matthew 6:25-34. There Jesus directly addresses the topic of worry, telling us what to do about it and why. Like Holmes, He says we need to take a good look around us and observe, or think deeply about the meaning behind what we see. This is what Jesus tells us to ponder if we want to be free from worry:
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
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