What Matters Most in Life?

Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.  ~ Camus

Caspar-David-Friedrich-Monk-by-the-SeaImagine having everything that holds meaning for you stripped away. Start small and build up: Cardinals tickets, Blues jersey, Ram’s Super Bowl towel (or just the Rams themselves), toasted ravioli, your smartphone, your car, what you call home, your clothes, your religious texts, your friends, and your family. What is left? You on an island—alone.

While this may bring a smirk to some faces with thoughts of Tom Hanks hanging out with Wilson in Castaway, the reality for isolated individuals—whether by solitary confinement or through social alienation—is that exile ultimately leads to death. The side effects include visual and auditory hallucinations, “decreased inflammatory control, immunity, sleep salubrity, and expression of genes regulating glucocorticoid responses,” (Source). The authors of A General Theory of Love note that Sudden Infant Death syndrome (SIDs) likely results from infants sleeping in a crib, quarantined off from parents/caretakers. Infants regulate their breathing patterns at night according to their mother/father/caretaker (p. 195).

Yet such negative examples point to perhaps one of the few fundamental truths people can agree upon, “man is by nature a social animal,” (Aristotle). But in the era of the 24/7 news cycle, selfie-stick, and ‘internet-of-things’ it is easy to forget that what drives all of these apparatuses is the desire to connect with another human. Swimming through the inundation of social media, we have begun to pick and choose with whom we share our experience. We create in-groups and out-groups and quickly tear the other faceless side down with a simple click.

Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see  ~ Kierkegaard

The result is that we endlessly label ourselves and thereby differentiate ourselves from everyone else. So, while we are ‘more’ connected, we are also increasingly disconnected. We forget that the person who prefers one team over another, who likes different microbrews, who went to a different high school, who has a different skin color, who comes from Ladue or Normandy—is, underneath all of those labels and in the deep, a person.

In St. Louis we ask everyone where they went to high school to see if we know anyone in common…and to attribute them a label based on where they grew up. This is can be healthy or unhealthy depending on intent. Yet, when we begin identifying ourselves as residents of North County, South County, West County, or the City we create barriers between ourselves. They’re snobs. They’re poor. Their city is in decline. They’re this. They’re that. What ‘they are’ is human—and just like you they are imperfect, vulnerable, and crave authentic human contact.

So what is St. Louis Strong inherently about? It’s what life is intrinsically about: human connection. We believe progress, joy, passion, hope, laughter arise from our empathetic relationships with others. We believe relationships drive everything. That is why it’s our mission to unite the region beyond our petty differences—so we can become St. Louis Strong.

What matters most in life? Other people.

One day you will ask me which is more important? My life or yours? I will say mine and you will walk away not knowing that you are my life.  ~ Gibran