The Symbolic Arch: Change and Challenge

Gazing up at the 630 foot Arch can remind you of just how small we all are. That reminder induces what early pioneers felt as they decided to begin their trek across the west. Crossing the Mississippi equated to crossing a threshold into a new and unknown world. In recent years, the Arch has lost some of its luster as we have perhaps forgotten what that soaring symbol represents.

An arch is a gateway leading from one place to another. In its simplest form, it represents change—the progression from the present to the future. An old greek quote captures the point:

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

ArchWhen we pass through an arch we are different in the flow of time from moment before.

It takes courage to step into this strange future. We’re required to accept that who we are will change and painful trials will confront us. Yet, it is that hungry spirit of St. Louis demonstrated by Lewis and Clark, Lindbergh, Joplin, Berry, which seeks out uncharted territory of human potential. We can journey farther, fly higher, and play faster than others imagine capable.

Like all symbols and myths, their deeper meaning can lay dormant and hidden under external strife and petty differences. With the West explored and commerce on the Mississippi evaporated, a bit of that adventurous zeal has faded. Citizens retire to the quiet, comfortable suburbs until violence erupts or the city’s woes demand attention.

However, a call in the distance is rousing the sleepy residents of Greater St. Louis. A new journey arises and another threshold begins to emerge. We’re beginning to see that the Gateway to the West is transforming itself into a threshold into the future. Instead of cowering and refusing to accept change, St. Louis must come together to find its strength to brave its future challenges or let itself crumble like an ancient Roman arch.