‘The Cobbler’ as an acted out thought experiment is a literal take on what can happen if you walk in another’s shoes. As the proverb goes, ‘Before you criticise a man, walk a mile in his shoes’. And as Depeche Mode kind of retorted in ‘Walking In My Shoes’, ‘… before you come to any conclusions, try walking in my shoes, try walking in my shoes. You’ll stumble in my footsteps.’ Well, maybe yes, maybe not?
The titular cobbler discovers a mystical shoe stitcher machine, upon the use of which enables wearers of the shoes to take on the appearance of their original owners. One can even take on some of their behavioural characteristics. You can imagine his bafflement mixed with excitement when he realises this, and empathise with his initial almost reckless toying with his customers’ repaired shoes.
Bored with his inherited family vocation, he now has ample chances to walk a few random miles in others’ shoes. But you know what Uncle Ben reminded Peter Parker – ‘With great power comes great responsibility!’ After some fooling around, he realises the much more meaningful and great potential of his ability to take on others’ identities. He thus soon snaps out of indulging in privileged pleasures of ‘borrowed’ statuses and lifestyles.
The question for the thoughtful audience would be – ‘What would you do if you were him?’ Will your newfound power magnify your Three Poisons of greed, hatred and delusion, or their antidotes of generosity, compassion and wisdom? Would you do better or worse, for yourself and others? Well, the cobbler as strangers’ doppelgangers did break the precepts against stealing (of identities) and lying (by impersonations)!
Towards the end of the movie, having proven his integrity and skill to assume various identities for the greater good, to address injustice and such, his father lets him have access to a vast collection of shoes. Like a Bodhisattva who has proven his or her worth to wield supernormal powers to benefit sentient beings in all manners of manifestations, he is no longer a directionless cobbler, but a purposeful Bodhisattva! Though the stitcher is fictitious, we too can discreetly assume different identities at times to help one another!