Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Banging Ovation...

Audiences applaud or clap to express praise. Although applause has become conventional at the end of all performances, a form of etiquette it seems, loud or sustained clapping indicate high praise.

The root word for “applause” is applaudere, Latin for strike or clap. In Roman times, mild applause was limited to snapping the fingers or patting the hand; enthusiastic applause involved striking the palms of the hands together repeatedly to generate loud noise.
Skaters holding their boards while watching a skate competition or demonstration have a different way of applauding, they usually bang their skateboards against the concrete ground. At first glance, this may seem to be a rather crude or bizarre way of applauding. However, there are a few reasons why their medium for expressing praise is appropriate, and, in a sense, superior to that of mainstream culture.

To appreciate this we must first distill the psychological essence for applauding in general. In ancient Hebrew the word for praise, 'Hod', is related to the word 'Hed', echo, where a sound hits a hard surface and bounces off it. Echoes are produced chiefly when there is an empty or hollow space between the sound source and the reflecting surface, such as in a well or an empty room. Generally, the more powerful the sound the more powerful the echo.

The human heart is like a hard reflective surface. After all, we constantly and naturally react to incoming stimuli from the environment. Some stimuli evoke only a mild reaction,  while others, a dramatic one. When one perceives a great accomplishment or triumph, there is a natural need to reflect the positive experience back to its source - to produce an emotional echo. 
Of course, not everyone is capable of producing an emotional echo effectively. As mentioned, an echo requires empty space. Psychologically, this space equates to humility and receptivity, the ability to make space for others within one's self. The egotistical person, however, is 'full of himself' and thus only produces a faint echo, if that.

But why is praise expressed through clapping? Here are a few reasons:

1) People unconsciously  use raw sound as the primary medium for praising others to reflect the relationship between praise and the physical acoustic echo.
2) The palm signifies the human ability to actualize potential. The Hebrew word for palm is 'Kaf'. Its  two letters stand for the words Koach - potential and Poel-actual. This is because the hands are the  central medium for translating psychological potential into actual physical products as when writing, playing a musical instrument, building a house, or repairing shoes. People tend to clap when others exhibit prodigious ability in actualizing human potential. Hence we applaud an acrobat or a poet, not a waterfall or a cow. Using the palms to clap is thus an apt medium for praise since it uses the very instruments which one is praising others for. 

3) Kabbalah teaches that overwhelming and all-pervasive psychological energy has various outlets in the human body: the glowing cheeks of ecstasy, the bounce of laughter, and the clapping of the palms in praise.                                    
On this basis we can understand why skaters bang their boards to express applaud: the struck board makes louder noise than a clap of the hands; the board is the primary medium via which a skater actualizes potential; and the struck board expresses the all-pervasive energy of praise whereby a skater expresses that his entire being - from his head down to his board - is affected by the performer's accomplishment.

So next time you observe someone executing a gnarly trick, give them a banging ovation...                   

1 comment: