Andrew WK probably isn't on the radar of most Catholics.
Some Australians may have seen his interview on the ABC's Tonightly program, where he discussed his philosophy of life with host Tom Ballard. He’s a musician whose concerts are a mix of rock-and-roll and motivational speaking, and while the music might not be to everyone’s taste, if you listen closely to what he has to say there’s some strongly life-affirming messages to be found. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EteZ6sd1iAE
Quite simply, Andrew WK's philosophy is based around one theme: partying.
In our culture, partying is a bit of a bad word. It's associated with ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ - often to excess. If someone lives a 'party lifestyle' we know they're on track for a fall. Somehow all the excess is going to catch up to them, and for many the consequences can be life-destroying.
But what is a ‘party’, exactly? Why do people ‘party’ in the first place? Is it really about getting wasted or hooking up or any of those things we tend to associate with the party life? Or is partying more essentially about celebration – finding joy in a time and place and community?
As Andrew WK says in his interview with Ballard: 'Partying is celebrating the fact that you're not dead. So... you can party on a special occasion, from time to time. Why can't the special occasion of being alive in the first place give you a reason to party 24/7, 365, forever?'
If partying is an attitude, a state of mind, then it’s a discipline that can be learned. You don’t even have to be at a social gathering. As Andrew WK says on his Twitter account: ‘If you can’t find the party, BE the party.’ According to his ‘party tips’, eating a sandwich counts as partying. You can party with animals. You can even party with objects around the house.
So what has this to do with faith and prayer, you ask? Well, Jesus was a bit of a party animal himself. His first miracle? Delivered at a party in Cana. His healings and sermons? Delivered at parties in towns and in the homes of friends, so much so that people called him a ‘glutton and drunkard’. At his biggest party of all, Jesus puts on a feast for 5000 people. Then there’s the final special moment he shared with his disciples before his death – the Last Supper.
Indeed, many of the times in the Gospels when Jesus gets angry are times when people are trying to disrupt parties. When a Pharisee notices Jesus isn’t paying attention to Jewish customs at a party, Jesus goes into a screed against Pharisees. When Martha is unhappy that her sister Mary is spending too much time partying with Jesus and not looking after guests, Jesus rebukes Martha for not joining the party. What’s important for Jesus is celebrating the moment – the people and relationships.
To look even deeper, if Andrew WK is right that partying isn’t just about gathering with friends in celebration – but in fact a state of mind experienced any time we are celebrating life with gratitude – then any religious activity can be a form of partying. And if Jesus’ whole existence here on earth, from his birth to his death and resurrection, was a celebration of God’s love for us, then what else was it other than one long, blessed party?
So perhaps consider that the next time you have a few moments to spend in prayer. Consider how you might spend your time with Jesus celebrating the life that you’ve been given here on earth, the relationships that you’ve received, and the joyful reality of just being a living human being. Have a party with Jesus.
Because while Jesus left us physically, I don’t think his partying ever stopped. Indeed, I think he continues to celebrate with us each day, at our side, any time that we wish to open ourselves up to him.
24/7, 365, forever.