"Mirror Image" (Poisoned Pen Press) now at your bookseller's.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


A pithy little fable, for all you Sherlock Holmes fans out there (But I'll be damned if I can remember where I first heard it.)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went for an outing one weekend far north of London. They pitched camp, ate a rustic meal over a wood-fueled fire, and sat contently as night fell, smoking their pipes and talking about nothing in particular.

Finally, they decided to turn in.

Some hours later, Holmes woke up his sleeping companion and pointed up at the ink-black sky, dotted with hundreds of luminous stars.

"Tell me, Watson," Holmes said. "When you look up at the night sky, what do you perceive?"

Watson blinked awake and contemplated the heavens above them.

"Well, meteorologically, I can tell from the striations of cloud that the weather will soon turn inclement. Astrologically, I can see that Orion's belt has shifted a bit toward the horizon. Astronomically, I understand that those stars twinkling above are actually roaring suns, giving off tremendous energy. Chronologically, I realize that the distances between those stars and our world are so vast, the light we see now actually shone from them millions of years ago. And, philosophically, I comprehend that in the limitless vastness of the universe, man and his works are quite small and insignificant."

Then Watson turned to his friend.

"Now, Holmes, what do you perceive?"

Holmes sighed. "I perceive that someone has stolen our tent!"


I don't think a Zen monk could have fashioned a better story about mindfulness, and the seductions of over-intellectualizing the world we experience. Plus, it's funny.

Anyway, happy to share it with you. And if anybody has any information about the story's origin, I'd love to hear about it.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Can't help with the origin, but the first time I heard this joke was when it was ranked as the second funniest joke in the world by a British psychology experiment/survey. Intro to the survey, and a link to other information including the joke that beat it out, at http://www.laughlab.co.uk/

(Came over due to Mark's plug.)