Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thoughts on Intimacy - New Braunfels Wurstfest and Thanksgiving

Wurstfest 2010 is history. Wurstfest is a 50-year-old annual 10-day celebration of German culture that happens in New Braunfels, Texas, every year. New Braunfels was founded in the nineteenth century by German immigrants, so the town has a rich cultural heritage that fuels the celebration. The festival starts near the end of October and lasts into the first week of November. It attracts big crowds, which come for the German food, German beer and German entertainment.

We're not talking about low-fat sausage or lite beer here. The music is loud and the crowds are boisterous and appreciative.

Kathleen and I are careful about our nutrition, and we don't bring sausage into the house. But smoked sausage-on-a-stick with German mustard and a bun isn't going to kill you if you only eat it once a year. And then there's real German beer on tap. Goodness.

2008 photo Edward Terry, with permission.
After my second beer, I was in a strange philosophical mood as I made my way through the crowd. So many people! I like to appreciate the people around me as real human beings, not two-dimensional props on the stage of my life. But in this crowd of perfect strangers, it was hard. I carefully observed each of them as I walked past, but I was thrown back to the simple fact that I knew nothing about any of them. Not a thing. Zero. Zip. Nada.

So how real could they be to me? It was tough. All I had was the baseline - we were all human beings making the best of life on the surface of planet Earth. We shared our common human condition. That's all I knew.

And that's the way it is with total strangers. The difference between a stranger and an acquaintance is that a stranger becomes an acquaintance when you share names and basic information about yourself. Later, when you encounter the individual, you remember him.

That doesn't mean you're friends. Friends share a lot more information. They get to know each other a lot better. They spend time with each other because they like each other, enjoy each other and trust each other. They do things for each other.

So the difference between an acquaintance and a friend is intimacy, the sharing of who we are. The greater the sharing, the deeper the friendship. It takes a lot of sharing over time to be promoted to "best friend."

And then there's the ultimate sharing, the most intimate of relationships - the life partner, with whom you share your day-to-day life.

The thing about friendships is that the relationships are always in flux. Over time, a friendship can grow stronger, if you invest yourself in the relationship. Or, if there's no contact over many years, the friendship can degrade. A lot of water can flow under the bridge. People can change. People can become a mystery to each other again. If neglected, over time a friendship can devolve into an acquaintance relationship.

This has happened to me many times. I'm sure it happens to most people.

Of course we don't want this to happen with family. Which is why Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. Most of our holidays don't make sense to me, but I love Thanksgiving. This year, the family Thanksgiving gathering will be at our house, an event that has become a tradition.

We'll spend time together, get caught up on life events, invest in each other, and build intimacy.

(By the way, you may be interested in my wife Kathleen's take on Wurstfest!)

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength


Anonymous said...

With the ubiquitous "friending" and "unfriending" (what ridiculous words) of the social network subculture, the true definition of friendship has been corrupted. I appreciate your incites here.

I have seen friendships evolve and devolve, too. The myriad landscapes of aging can affect them, as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Denny,
My name is Jane and I'm with Dwellable.
I was looking for blogs about New Braunfels to share on our site and I came across your post...If you're open to it, shoot me an email at jane(at)dwellable(dot)com.
Hope to hear from you soon!