The sights we see
Most of us have had the frightening experience of looking down from high places, or into deep canyons and chasms, and finding that we seem somehow fearful—yet fascinated. Looking down into deep places may have its attractions, but it also has its hazards. Looking needlessly at negative and unwholesome sights and scenes also has its hazards. It has long been known that we tend to take on the character and color of the sights we see, of the thoughts we think, of the places we go, of the atmosphere in which we live our lives. And those who look too often, too intently at the negative and undesirable side must be in danger of becoming negative in their outlook on life. Impressionable young people who are seeing and reading and looking and listening to the wrong kind of stories, the wrong kind of pictures, the wrong kind of entertainment, are likely to find their thoughts too frequently following the unwholesome side. Sometimes young people step into the wrong places just to see the sights and, in doing so, fix unsavory images in their minds that they are likely to remember long after they wish they could forget. Young people away from home, sightseeing in sordid places, don’t come out unchanged, because every sight leaves its imprint and impression—the undesirable or the wholesome sight, whichever they see. There is every reason why we should not go out of our way to see sordid and unwholesome sights, unless profession or duty requires us to do so. For, as one forthright person said, “We can’t handle dirty things and keep our hands clean.” 1 Stay away from whatever you don’t want to have cling to you or become part of you. Even if it doesn’t touch you physically, it may touch you mentally and morally. Gazing at sordid scenes will certainly add sordid memories later to be called to mind. Unless there is a duty or an honest reason for doing so, we should not do or see that which would be unwholesome, sordid, and unwise from which to make our memories.
Heber J. Grant, seventh president of the Church.
The tyranny of fashion
“Every generation laughs at the old fashions,” said Henry Thoreau, “but follows religiously the new.” 1 This brings us to what could be called the tyranny of fashion—the “in” thing and the “out” thing—and if we wait long enough the cycle turns again and all but brings us back to where we were. But the often unanswered question is who decides? who dictates? and by what reason? by what right? and why so slavishly should fashion be followed? Of course, there is, within some limits, the importance of appearance. Certainly people, when they look what they ought to be, seem more easily accepted—and with dignity and good taste there is increased opportunity and increased confidence. To whom, professionally, for example, would we turn or entrust ourselves—to one grubby, unkempt, an extremist who follows frivolous fashion, or to one clean, well groomed, attired in good taste? Clothes don’t make the man, but they may suggest some symptom of something inside. As a certain king once said: “I can make a lord, but only the Almighty can make a gentleman.” 2 It isn’t the label or the ostentation that makes the man. And that which is merely for show, merely for attracting attention to itself, may, by its very nature, be somewhat suspect. And so we need some guidelines on such a variable subject, some basis of what would seem acceptable. And among these are moderation, modesty, morality; reasonableness, self-respect; shunning extremes, along with some latitude for personal taste, but without exploitation or compulsion for profit—the kind of pressures that seem to compel so many people to follow the tyranny of fashion. Of course there is the counsel of Alexander Pope: “Be not the first by whom the new are tried, nor yet the last to lay the old aside” 3 —which is good as far as it goes—but, old or new, there are some things that should never be tried or turned to. Remember cleanliness, decency, wholesomeness, health; moderation, modesty, morality. Beyond these, nothing should ever induce us to follow the tyranny of fashion.
Henry D. Thoreau, Walden, Ch. 1.
James I, Remark, to his old nurse, when she begged him to make her son a gentleman.
Alexander Pope, Essays on Criticism.