[Editor’s note: Every Wednesday New York City’s own Andrew W.K. takes your life questions, and sets you safely down the right path to a solution, a purpose or — no surprise here — a party. Need his help? Just ask: AskAWK@villagevoice.com]
I must admit, I’ve only recently discovered you and your writing, but I read your column on the dehumanizing effects of our political divide and I found it quite poignant. I was intrigued enough to look further into you and your work, and I must say, with all due respect, I just don’t understand your obsession with “partying.” The juvenile antics, unkempt image, and “partying” themes cheapen the quality of your ideas and, to be frank, make it very hard to take you seriously. I guess I just don’t get it.
Dear Intelligent Observer,
The very nature of partying is to provide a life-saving release from the constant pressure to “take things seriously.” Seriousness of the sort you’re describing is precisely why things like partying are crucial to our mental and spiritual health. I take joy very seriously, and partying is the formal pursuit and celebration of joy itself. I’m having a party to celebrate life. I’m having a party to celebrate partying itself.
It seems to me that people often equate intelligence with seriousness, and stupidity with playfulness. These people also tend to overvalue a sort of stoic distance and lack of excitement and enthusiasm as somehow being a sign of wisdom and advanced thinking. An austere and somber attitude doesn’t make someone smarter or more intellectual. Sometimes people are overly serious because they’re afraid of looking unkempt, unimportant, uneducated — they fear they’ll “make a fool out of themselves” if they don’t remain dour and stiff. In my opinion, if more people aspired to the level of life-mastery and self-actualization that a true fool has attained, there’d be much less conflict in the world. Fools realize that the most ignorant people are usually the ones most violently accusing others of being ignorant. Fools realize that in most cases, understanding is overrated. Most importantly, fools realize that no one really knows what’s going on, starting first and foremost with themselves.
You can enjoy something without having to comprehend it. You can appreciate a melody without knowing what notes it consists of. You don’t need to “get” me or what I do. I’m not here to be understood, I’m here to be experienced. I’m not here to impress you. I’m here to party with you.
I don’t understand why people have such a problem with partying anyway. Much like music, smiling, and laughter, partying is one of the few activities enjoyed by all people across the globe since the dawn of civilization. Despite how popular celebration is, partying still gets a bad rap for being “low” behavior. People think it’s irresponsible or somehow morally wrong to enjoy life in a pure and playful way without some “higher” purpose to it. But that is the whole purpose — the beauty of partying and joy is that it doesn’t need any additional purpose — it’s an end in itself. And that end is the experience of joy in the highest order.
Partying is fully immersing ourselves in the best and most immediate aspects of this incredible gift called “being alive.” Joy brings out the best in us. Partying allows us to experience the best of that joy and be truly ourselves. Partying allows us to be close with other people that we wouldn’t necessarily connect with in other circumstances. To look over and see a total stranger lost in blissful happiness, smiling from the depths of their soul for no reason except that it feels good, and to understand exactly what they’re feeling because you feel it too. That is the magic of partying. That exhilarating pleasure of not-having-to-be-yourself! That sheer delight of really being free! That glory of being in love with life! That feeling of feeling really, really good!
What’s all the rest of this madness for otherwise? What are all our ceaseless efforts for if not to earn us moments of pure euphoria and elation? Are we not meant to be in a state of energized enthusiasm about our own existence? Isn’t that an evolutionary survival technique anyway — so that we want to stay alive and press on — because we have joy to look forward to? I’m pretty sure that the end result of all our work, all our battling, and all our pain and suffering isn’t to see how serious and grim we can be. The darker the world, the more we must increase our efforts to stay in the light — and to defend that light from the encroaching shadow. If there is such a thing as evil, it wants nothing more than to have us believe that feeling joy is wrong.
We must be brave enough to wholeheartedly deny all the forces working to crush our spirit. We must not let devastation and death remove the joy from life. Existence is confusing and challenging enough as it is. Taking it too seriously and removing the few opportunities for unadulterated cheerfulness does not alleviate us of this burden — it weighs us down further and saps our strength until all we can do is plod along towards the void without any relief. The more appropriate response to life is to remain at play and in awe, not to mock the severity of our collective plight, but to truly stay engaged in the bewildering and ferocious grandeur of this adventure we’re on together. Whether we like it or not, we were all invited to this party and we must work to have the best time we can while we’re all here.
Having the strength to smile, to stay close to joy, and to stay close to each other will see us through our darkest and most challenging ordeals. It’s not as easy as being glum and cold, but it’s worth the extra effort. Believing that joy is wrong is the most violent disrespect to our inherent nature as loving, pleasure seeking creatures. Let us elevate ourselves and embrace our highest and mightiest capacity for happiness. This life is our chance to unleash as much joy onto the world as we can. Let us make that joy together. Let us cheer each other up and cheer each other on. Let us party and party as hard as we can. After all, we can’t save the world in a bad mood.
More:Ask Andrew W.K.