In the BBC series Sherlock [which you really ought to be watching], the title character is portrayed as at once stunningly brilliant and unbelivably out of touch with everyday life.
He can make incredible deductions by observing the smallest detail, but gets so caught up in the world of his mind that he seems to be at a loss as to why people go on dates, or which goes around which when it comes to the earth and the sun.
That’s where Watson comes in. He has other skills of course, but he plays the role of companion at least in part to give a touch of humanity to the sheer intellect of Holmes.
And the thing is, being Watson isn’t as glamorous. Holmes gets the attention and the praise; Watson is at best given a “supporting actor” credit. But we need Watson, and we need people willing to play that rather less glamorous role.
From theological studies to church leadership, I sometimes get the impression that everyone in the field thinks they’re Holmes, or at least that they want to be. Detached, larger than life, the one with the big ideas who run circles around lesser minds – there is no lack of people vying for the top spot.
And that’s not all bad, we need people in that role, but there is a special honor in the role of Watson, or Sam in Lord of the Rings, or the companions to the Doctor, or Ron in Harry Potter. In being the one who comes alongside the hero, and the one who bridges the gap between the hero and the world.
If anything, this is a particularly Christian sort of role to take on, a role of humility,pointing away from ourselves and towards another, like John the Baptist.
Holmes is brilliant, and the story needs him, but the story needs Watson as well.