Empathy Vs Sympathy and The Other Superman

The Other SupermanTake look at what is actually happening….

Swinging from  a highwire and scaling 50 metre silk ropes with your bare hands while carrying the weight of a wheelchair is not a feat that most people would be able to contemplate. Let alone achieve. So it’s no wonder that Paul Nunnari, Paralympian and aerial artist aka The Other Superman actively discourages pity or sympathy. Although warmly appreciative of the good intentions of these “ity” athy” bearers, he suggests empathy as more appropriate and to focus on the ability over the disability.

This approach encourages seeing first the other person rather than their disability, what they are doing rather than how they are hindered and perhaps what is common rather different. When considering what I share with Nunnari I sadly admit it certainly isn’t steely commitment or achievement of my highest goals…..

When Paul was asked by Peter Greco on 5RPH’s Leisure Link what he had gained from the Australia’s Got Talent experience he said it was the opportunity to change the focus to a person’s ability over their disability and to get the message out there that no matter what happens to you in life you can get up and achieve your goals if you set your mind to it. 

Nunnari crash landed towards the end of his grand final performance – after various aerial activities included spinning from his neck. In typical form he viewed the accident as an opportunity to show not only his character in getting back up and continuing the show but to illustrate what people with disability do day in and day out. Simply getting up and getting on, take a moment to think about that.

His message is salient for all of us living with or without a disability and crosses more issues than is possible to address in a single blog. Just one thought; thinking about where we connect rather than where we don’t leads us to what we can learn from each other. Looking at Paul Nunnari  we can learn that it is possible to achieve what we might fear is unachievable and the great value in simply doing.