Is this supposed to be deep? Because I don’t understand why this quote pertains to anything in life. Who cares what one hand sounds like clapping? When will anyone need that?
It’s a Salinger-being-into-Buddhism thing, I guess. It’s an old Buddhist riddle, I’m pretty sure. To me, it relates to aspects in a person’s life that are memorable, important, and hence “make noise” with another person (two hands) but what are those events without another person? The sound of one hand clapping could be loneliness, the empty space in your head that is meaningless without accompaniment. The idea could even be extended to include God(s), i.e. “are these events worthwhile (do they ‘make noise’) without an omnipresence involved?” or “What is life on Earth/how can we function on Earth without the hope of an afterlife?” (The two lives, now and after-death, being the two hands.)
Of course, that’s just my opinion and my reading of a concept much bigger and more important than myself. Honestly, I like it better being sort of ambiguous. It’s a metaphorical make-you-think type thing, which is my favorite and part of what makes Salinger so incredible as an author and an inspiration, and Buddhist ideologies so interesting and thought-provoking as well.