At its margins, human life dissolves into banality. Our milestone moments seem to invite other people to hang on them millstones of ponderous rhetoric of which few ever question the desirability or even the necessity. Having for family reasons just attended commencement exercises at New York University, I can report, for instance, that the jazz musician and impresario Quincy Jones believes that racial stereotyping is “stupid” and is prepared to provide at length several examples of this stupidity—in case, presumably, you happen to be stupid —and that the retiring Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, has learned that “The only thing certain is that there is no certainty.” Therefore, says Mr. Rubin, we “need to be decisive in the face of uncertainty” and recognize that “good decision-making is the key to good outcomes.” This was said on the day that his own decision to resign as Treasury Secretary was...


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