The Ice Man and the Virgin
Ayo Akindele, Division 2, 12th grade #ws18e-s1d2

Can you describe the first emotion you ever felt? What was it like? A raw bundle of nerves, cephalically split, exposed and twitching in pleasure and agony? Or was it like a mound of butterflies, rising from your stomach to your throat, an inexplicable feeling leaving you gasping for air? Chances are you were probably too young to remember, as is the case for many. But not Sherlock Holmes. Being a high-functioning sociopath, a certain detachment was one of his most defining characteristics— that is, until he met John Watson, who slowly introduced him to the world of emotion.

At his core, Sherlock is a man on the run. Cursed with a heightened perception, he dashes from distraction to distraction, in the hopes of constantly stimulating this perception, which is his only reason for being alive, as he doesn’t care about anything else. He lives like he’s on the run because he’s being chased relentlessly by the nothingness of a typical humdrum life— a lack of stimulation— which would rob him of his reason to live. I’ve had the misfortune of experiencing these bouts of nothingness, and truly, they’re nothing but tragic. I’d describe it as an intensified apathy, where nothing matters. Therefore, nothing is deserving of any exertion of energy— not even breathing. I usually try to sleep, whenever these bouts emerge, to get rid of them. But for Sherlock, whose heightened perception is constantly active, sleep isn’t enough. This is why he never stops searching for impossible cases to solve, and why he turns to drugs when there aren’t any. He needs the stimulation to survive, because he has no emotional foundation to fall back on. When John came into his life though, that all changed. He began to develop an empathy for humanity, one that didn’t exist previously. This empathy, shown in his growing concerns for the well-being of people other than himself, is the bedrock of any emotional foundation. In developing this, Sherlock opens himself to the possibility of feeling, for the first time, the emotions that many people, like myself, have taken for granted.

Sherlock’s first true emotions manifested themselves as an extension of his empathy; they were anger and rage with the purpose of protecting the people he cared about. When his landlord was attacked and hurt, he retaliated by defenestrating her attacker. How many times? He lost count. His emotion in that moment lends itself to a depth that he revisits when he saves Irene Adler from decapitation at the hands of criminals. To get to her, he had to find her, then fly to her location and infiltrate a combatant squadron, risking his life for hers. This shows that his root emotion was driven by empathy, but it wasn’t yielding to any of the greater emotions like joy or love. That’s partially because the danger he faced, in his quest to save her, produced a thrill much like the one that he got from solving his cases. This thrill that he feels whenever he solves a case is a thrill of survival, nothing more. It might seem like a greater happiness, but it’s simply relief at the temporary evasion of a nothingness that’s inevitable, unless he forms a foundation of emotion. Another reason for Sherlock’s empathy when saving Irene is found in his relationship with her. Irene is the only individual, except Moriarty, who nearly outsmarts Sherlock. This makes it easier for him to empathize with her, but nearly impossible for him to feel more. Because of his empathy, his empathy-driven emotion, and his need to solve cases, Sherlock’s developed a hero-complex in which he seeks to constantly save those he’s close to. While stuck in that mode, there’s no room for any greater emotion as can be seen in his quote “sentiment is a chemical defect found on the losing side”. If Irene had outsmarted him and bested him at his own game, his hero-complex wouldn’t have applied to her and there would have been room for greater emotion, but she didn’t.

Sherlock has yet to cross the barrier between empathy and positive emotion. That is why I would choose to be him. At this point in his life, with his emotions only capable of further growth, Sherlock possesses a potential for such great feeling. True happiness, joy, love, contentment: all of these lay ahead of Sherlock. When his emotion outpaces his restrictions of empathy, this world of bliss will be his. A bland existence of greyish hues will be replaced by the smell of grass just after it rains. Christmas jumpers and hot cocoa by a marshmallow fire. The sunset shimmering through waves of soft hair in a smooth summer breeze. Laughter and kisses to the sound of cheering and fireworks. The moon gleaming in eyes that never looked so beautiful. Ecstasy in the dandelion dreams of smiling children. A life worth living. All for the first time. This is why I would be Sherlock Holmes.

Being Sherlock Holmes would mean introducing myself to a world of beauty and being able to fully appreciate it. It would mean falling in love again, for the first time, but this time without the baggage of a lifetime of emotions. It would mean living without the need for thrills or stimulation to survive. It would mean a life of contentment, without the burden of a looming nothingness. The stress that comes with needing to save everybody would be alleviated, because the foundation of emotion far outshines the responsibilities of empathy. But, as Sherlock, I would also be in a better position to help people. Coupling emotional intelligence with Sherlock’s intellect would create a human being in the best position to help others and, more importantly, to love them. As an advanced Sherlock, while I would enjoy the beauties of the world, I would also have a hand in creating them. Being Sherlock Holmes would mean a chance at a life worth living. For that, I’d trade anything.
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