Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Empathy versus Sympathy via The Wizard of Oz

In today’s Grammar Dance, empathy and sympathy will be explained in terms of The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was sympathetic to the Scarecrow. She could tell how sad he was not to have a brain through the abstract metaphors he used to convey his disconsolation. Likewise, she is sympathetic to the Tin Man. She understands how he must long for the heart he has never had because of his powerful emotional testimony. And she is lastly sympathetic to the Cowardly Lion who bravely seeks his courage. But because Dorothy is not a shirt and set of pants stuffed with straw, she cannot precisely know what the Scarecrow is going through. Similarly, Dorothy is not a transplant patient and cannot know in detail what it’s like to be without a heart. And being human rather than Panthera, she can feel badly about what the Cowardly Lion is going through without knowing precisely how he feels. It is a case of shared experience versus genuine caring. Like assume and presume, sympathy and empathy are similar in type, but differ in degree. So toward whom does Dorothy feel empathy? Why, Auntie Em of course! Auntie Em, as in EMpathy. Like Auntie Em, Dorothy is human and also knows exactly what it is like to be missing family. She is from Kansas, they have the same friends, and they share a litany of other common experiences, so there’s your mnemonic. Auntie Em for empathy. There’s no place like home.