In reading Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral,” I found myself making many comparisons to life in general and found there were many similarities to the way people tend to have “preconceived notions” of others based on their prejudices. We tend to look at others through our own eyes. Only when we push ourselves back to willingly see through someone else’s eyes can we truly see “the big picture.”
The story begins with the narration of a man who is very bitter and judgmental of his wife’s friend who is blind. He states “And his being blind bothered me. My idea of blindness came from the movies. In the movies, the blind moved slowly and never laughed. Sometimes they were led by seeing-eye dogs. A blind man in my house was not something I looked forward to.” All too often, that is the case with real life as well. We tend to make judgments based on our “idea” rather than the facts. An unmarried woman with children is a “whore,” a man in jail is a “criminal,” and a homeless man is “too sorry to work.” It is so easy to put labels on someone else and to discredit their validity based on the predetermined ideas of what we think that person should be because of something we know about them. But much like the character narrating the story for us, if given the chance to put down the biased guard and give someone a chance, we can find there is much more to a person than their handicap, or illegitimate child, or prison sentence.
As the story flows through the visit of the night, the blind visitor begins to dispel the preconceived notions of our narrator. He finds his guest to be surprisingly self-sufficient and rather pleasant in conversation. Which gives credit to the notion that if we give others a chance and try to get to know the real them beyond our initial judgment we may be amazingly surprised by what we can find. Perhaps the single mother worked two jobs to put herself through school and now counsels young girls about the hardships of teenage pregnancy, or maybe our inmate sought forgiveness and repentance from God while he served his time in jail and now volunteers his time to helping at the local church with their boys club encouraging them to stay active in sports and out of trouble, and possibly the homeless man lost everything when his company “downsized” and his wife left him for another man because he could no longer support her. Everyone has a story, and if we are unwilling to see past our initial prejudices of whom and what we think someone is supposed to be we can get a chance to peek in and see the amazingness that they can be.
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