Sherlock Holmes (or how I got into college)

I’ve been looking at my college admissions essays from four years ago, as I’m trying to write my essays for grad school now. For my college admissions essays, I wrote about my passion ~ Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is still my passion in life ~ my inspiration… but my writing was not what it was once was. Four years of writing lab reports and reading scientific papers really drains the metaphors and poetic language out of you.

Humankind is shaped by its experiences with societies and people—real or fictional.  The world-renowned Sherlock Holmes has captured the hearts of billions, including my own.  Somehow Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has created a global delusion that his sleuth is a work of non-fiction.  Many people are taken back when told that Holmes never lived at 221B Baker Street; as I am taken aback when people claim that he must have once walked the streets of London.

Perhaps it was his impressive display of wide-ranging knowledge that convinced his admirers of his existence.  His extensive command of chemistry and law has dazzled his fans.  Furthermore, his practical comprehension of politics, botany, geology, anatomy, forensics and cryptanalysis completely made up for his unfamiliarity with literature, philosophy and astronomy.  More than just brains, he was an unquestionably skilled violinist, boxer and fencer.  Not only was he a logical, deducting machine, but also a master of disguise—often able to fool his colleague Doctor Watson.

To set a balance in Holmes, Doyle flawed his creation.  As talented Holmes was he was also one of the most callous, sardonic, arrogant pricks ever.  If Holmes had lived today, he might have been diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder.  He went through periods of severe depression followed by periods of drug-or-Rubik-induced euphoria.  “My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants”.  Even Doyle agrees that Holmes is a monster—attempting to kill off the detective several times.

However as unrealistic as Holmes may be there have been times when I have empathized with the man and even equated his personality to my own.  My brain may not be filled with the same type or amount of information that Holmes carried, but my obsession with knowledge and my love for enigmas are identical.  And although I am not proud to admit it I have been known to be impassive, cynical and egotistical.  But the most salient similarity, and the underlying reason for my Holmesian passion, is that Holmes and I share the same goal—to find the single, objective truth.

Objectivity is essential to the foundation of the scientific method and yet an improbable goal that researchers can only strive for because human emotions and imperfections will spoil results.  Holmes was able to cast aside emotion for the sake of discovering that truth.  The immortal detective has inspired me to follow a similar path—to conduct medical research as objectively as possible.  Although, I may spend my entire life and never discover anything, I hope to keep Sherlock’s enduring motivation to “play the game for the game’s own sake”.  Learning does not present itself as a chore, but rather as motivation.

I love acquiring new information in order to erase any doubts and reinforce prior knowledge.   My mission is not receiving fame for finding some obscure incarnation of the sorcerer’s stone, but rather having the brainwork to give my life meaning.  “I cannot live without brainwork. What else is there to live for? …What is the use of having powers, Doctor, when one has no field upon which to exert them?”  Holmes has shown me the waste of idle days.  As relaxing as those days may be, perfection removes all excitement from life.  Challenges are a necessity of life –  otherwise we would grow listless with boredom as our minds deteriorate due to inactivity.

Sherlock Holmes is more than a fictional character; he is my passion.  He has instilled a mission into my life—to seek the objective truth.  There will always be more mysteries to solve.  It is only when “the subjective becomes objective and we can say confidently that we have reached our goal” .  Brainwork is essential to avoid idleness.  As humans age, amyloid-beta proteins build up causing the growth of plaque in dendrites, which are like “branches” of neurons that receive information.  Learning stimulates the development of dendrites.  However, idleness hinders dendritic-production, leaving us essentially brain-damaged.  To avoid that fate brainwork needs to be integrated into my daily life.

Me as a detective at SDCC 2011.


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