Leitmotif

Reason as the Leading Motive

My Theoretical Expansion of the “Frontier” Model

Posted by Jerry on January 10, 2006

We humans seem to have a predilection for beaches and large bodies of water. We seem fascinated by the blurry boundary between land and water, and gravitate towards the edge of that indeterminate ground.

I suppose the idea of the solid earth disintegrating into a million little pieces of sand particles, dying and being dragged under the feeble waves of the sea seem like a rare and enchanting paradox of distorted demarcation and union – air, wind, water, and earth – the natural elements interacting and fusing together at the shore. However, having given this phenomenon some thought, I think there is probably another psychological effect at play.

A concept of “Frontier mentality” has been studied by social scientists as a possible influencing factor in the exuberance of the American productive pursuit. In 1893, Frederick Turner first postulated his hypothesis of the physical vastness of the American landscape as having important ramifications on the people that inhabited it.

According to that theory, the vastness of the American landscape may have generated an optimism of unending possibilities in the minds of early American immigrants who looked upon the unending lands of this continent as grounds for further exploration, production, trade, property, and experimentation. The theory purports the Frontier mentality as a possible cause for the concept of the “American dream” where everyone can have “more”, and the “more” would never run out. While this theory has been challenged vigorously over the years, scientists still admit that the American “frontier past, real or imagined, is indelibly imprinted upon our soul as a nation.

So, strangely enough, while I was watching some rubbish on TV about “million-dollar” homes typically being erected along beachfronts and shorelines, I wondered – why? What is this penchant for a view of the water? Or is it that people do not seek the view of the “water” per se, as much as they seek to reach the edge of the land?

In that train of thought, I came upon a possible theory in the same vein as the “Frontier” model. I think that while the vastness of the American continental land signified a sense of unending possibilities and opportunities for people, I posit that reaching the edge of the land – or reaching the edge of the “vastness” – and erecting a million-dollar home signifies a symbolic “end of the journey” of sorts – a pinnacle achieved such that there is no frontier ahead to conquer, no distance further to go – literally and symbolically.
Hence, the almost synonymous juxtaposition of “million-dollar” homes with “beach-front” location – it serves to convey an achievement of the American dream, a successful culmination of the pursuit for happiness.

Furthermore, I believe there is a similar psychological phenomenon occurring when people like us – the not-so-wealthily-endowed – display exhilaration, a thrill, or sometimes even a serene calmness when we go to the beaches. It is the same effect of experiencing for a few brief moments an illusion of having reached the end of our “journeys” with nowhere further to go – and hence the celebration of reaching that destiny – or that serene calmness that is similar in experience as when standing on top of a high mountain.

Of course, the mundane and the obvious also play a role in our experience of the beach or the mountain-top trip – the family or friends one is surrounded with, the sun, the vacation, the break of “normal” life, etc. But I think there is a definite subconscious influence on our minds in the symbolic nature of standing at the edge of land or on the top of a mountain – and its corresponding images of end, success, achievement, rest, pinnacle, etc. that it elicits. There is definitely more that can be researched and developed around my theory, and therefore is open for further speculation.

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6 Responses to “My Theoretical Expansion of the “Frontier” Model”

  1. Ergo Sum said

    Hmmm… a corollary of my theory would be – people of countries that are not very expansive, that do not have vast, open, plains, that are either too small, too narrow, or an island in themselves, are probably not as crazy about “beach-front homes” or lake-shore locations, as such because they have not been influenced by the optimism of unending opportunities lying ahead, and therefore the “end” of land, as such, probably does nothing symbolically.

  2. Ergo Sum said

    Well… what about large countries like China and Russia? Have they always historically had a cultural tendency to have large water-front homes? Have their wealthy folks always historically preferred that? hmmm. Who’s gonna test this?

  3. innommable said

    LOL… Ergo, the lone think-tank.

  4. Ergo Sum said

    It’s usually lonely at the top. What can I say… my shoulders hurt… should I shrug?

  5. innommable said

    I dare you to shrug.

  6. Joe said

    Perhaps the ocean is not seen as the end, but rather a recreation of frontier ideals, such as unlimited resources and independence from others.

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