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Pushing the Frontier

wilderness masters the colonist. It finds him a European in dress,
industries, tools, modes of travel, and thought. It takes him from the
railroad car and puts him in the birch canoe. It strips off the
garments of civilization and arrays him in the hunting shirt and the
moccasin. It puts him in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and
runs an Indian palisade around him. Before long he has gone to planting
Indian corn and plowing with a sharp stick . .  . In short, at the
frontier the environment is at first too strong for the man. He must
accept the conditions which it furnishes, or perish, and so he fits
himself. . .
Little by little he transforms the wilderness, but the outcome is not
the old Europe . . . The fact is, that here is a new product . . .

The Significance of the Frontier in
American History

Frederick Jackson Turner
Read for the American Historical
Association, Chicago, 1893

Those who spend their
time on the edge find themselves changed by it. They are not just
pushing into new territory. The untamed territory infiltrates their
being and transforms them into explorers. They become more than
civilized seekers who want to know the boundaries of knowledge. While
there they cannot help but imbibe the wild, digest it. Eventually it
becomes them and they become it in some measure.

This is the fate not just of people living in the region between
settled and unsettled country, but entrepreneurs who extend their
businesses out into new areas, growing the market with their efforts
and taking on new jurisdiction over which they can exert their

What boundary will you stretch this week?

capacity to tolerate complexity and welcome contradiction, not the
need for simplicity and certainty, is the attribute of an explorer.

Heinz Pagels