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The world could use some applause

I get the biggest kick out of clapping for someone – applauding what they've done while softly chanting, “You're good, you're really good. Thank you, thank you, the world needs you.”

What would the world be like if everyone had such an audience?

I first realized this when my kids were in school, just starting to perform in public: Jessica in Special Olympics, Justin in baseball, Ben on string bass, Caitlin in soccer.

I came to see my delirious clapping as a kind of vocation. What could be more important than watching someone display their skills – at whatever level those skills were currently manifesting themselves – and knocking yourself out in appreciation? Thankful not only for their performance, but for their effort, their endurance, their desire to try with all their might to make the world shine for that moment.

Next week I'll experience that on a grand scale when I go to Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, to see my son's band, Lord Huron, perform before 10,000 people. Magnificent doesn't begin to describe it.

Speculation is that clapping was one of the first actions humans used to communicate. It's the most common sound we use, after our voices. Clapping is recognized throughout the world as a universal body language – even for people who cannot hear.

No doubt you've heard loud and clear the message conveyed by “jazz hands” (the silent waving of hands at about shoulder height). I can attest to the comparable deliriousness of this action, having resorted to jazz hands after my red, sore palms gave out.

Some captive animals, such as sea lions, have been trained to clap. But a grey seal near the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, England, in 2017 became the first wild seal to be caught on camera clapping its fins, according to Jason Goodyer, commissioning editor of the BBC Science Focus.

Scientists think male seals clap to demonstrate their strength, to ward off competitors and attract potential mates. (Hmm ... chest-pounding may be the human equivalent, so I think we're safe to pursue clapping as an end in itself.)

I hope you've known the exhilaration of being part of an audience bursting into applause – that moment that creates a common bond, a sense of belonging within a group of people who've just experienced something wonderful.

In a way, being part of an applauding crowd transcends the performance itself. It allows us to wildly ride the elation of the moment. It allows us to celebrate being good, gifted humans.

All of us.


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