Since I was little I’ve always respected (and craved) applause. It’s the way, as a live performer you get the feedback that you were appreciated. And as an audience member, I don’t generally use applause as a way to say how much I liked the performance – obviously if a show was incredible the applause is more sustained and louder, but even if a show wasn’t very good, I still applaud.
Because applause isn’t to ‘grade’ a show, it’s to thank the performers for putting themselves out there, whether musicians or actors or comedians or whatnot, they’re doing something courageous, they’re sharing of themselves. It’s an act worthy of a show of appreciation, and societally we’ve determined that applause is the appropriate collective way to say thanks.
My daughter, on the other hand, has recently gotten excited about applause because my wife and I would cheer and applaud when she began to feed herself. Positive reinforcement. Clumsily pointing it towards her mouth and then getting some – or even most- of it inside.
At which point she immediately drops the spoon and claps, as if to say: look what a wonderful thing I did. She also looks expectantly at us, willing us to join her in the applause.
Which we do. Of course we do. But the thing she needs to realize, and I don’t yet know how to tell her, is that someday in the future, that applause will be much harder to come by.
But she’s young, she’s innocent and she’s learning to feed herself, so I just clap along.