by Daniel A. Kaufman
What strikes me more than anything about our current moment is how utterly alien the dominant zeitgeist is from that of just a few decades ago. Increasingly, I find myself unable even to comprehend people’s reactions to social, political, and cultural developments, let alone identify with them. This rather abrupt estrangement is jarring, causing daily life to take on an air of unreality, and far more than my encroaching physical decrepitude, it is what makes me feel old.
The 25 propositions below say things that pretty much everyone in the United States understood until five proverbial minutes ago. I collect them here, not just as a reminder of how much things have changed in such a short time, but because together, they represent a wisdom about life that is needed today more than ever before.
 You can’t always get what you want or deserve. Indeed, you often will not get what you want or deserve.
 Who and what you are is only partly self-determined. And it’s not the larger part.
 How you are characterized, spoken about, and identified by others is not generally up to you.
 Confronting strangers with a raftload of stipulations as to how they must engage with you assumes that they care to engage with you in the first place, which may be untrue. And if they do, they probably will cease wanting to, unless you bring something so extraordinary to the table that it justifies all the trouble.
 You cannot make another person like or respect you. Nor can you make them act as if they do. And if you could, it wouldn’t mean anything and shouldn’t satisfy you.
 Justice will only ever be partially served, no matter what you do, and it is dangerous to make its pursuit overriding of all other considerations.
 The right of young people to create the world they want to live in is matched by the right of prior generations not to have the world they went to great effort to create [often at great cost] screwed up.
 Not discounting individual cases which may vary widely, as a general matter, no one living in the US and born after the Second World War is less “safe” or experiencing greater hardship or deprivation than those belonging to the generations behind them.
 What we think of as “progress” is and always has been a mixture of steps forward and steps backward. Some things get better and some things get worse. [This in no way contradicts .]
 With regard to the relative merits of X and Y, a person who has experienced both is a better judge than a person who has only experienced one.
 Even for those who live in modern, developed, peaceful nations and who are financially well off, life contains more suffering than happiness.
 Every person will have to act badly at some point in his or her life, and for most of us, it will be more than once, perhaps even many times. This is a part of the human condition and cannot be changed and is one reason why we must be forgiving of ourselves and of one another.
 Good times are precious and rare and should be cherished. They should not be expected. Nor should they be scorned on behalf of some spurious conception of virtue.
 Safety is an instrumental good, not an intrinsic one.
 Offense, insult, and hurt feelings are not particularly important, other than to oneself and to one’s intimates. This does not mean that you should go out of your way to offend others but rather that if you are offended, you shouldn’t be surprised if those outside your friends-and-family circle aren’t inclined to make a federal case out of it.
 You don’t accost random strangers on the street and unload your personal meshugas on them, because it’s not their business and they don’t give a damn. Nothing about these reasons fails to apply when you replace ‘street’ with ‘internet’.
 Scores of millions of people, most of whom neither know nor live near one another, cannot constitute a “community.”
 On most occasions, in most circumstances, manners matter more than morals.
 One should care more about one’s intimates than about total strangers.
 Politics should matter less to you than your family and friends.
 For most people, “self-improvement” pursued too rigorously, too consciously, or too much achieves the opposite of the intended effect.
 The most virtuous people are the quietest about it. The least are the loudest.
 Terrible people have produced and continue to produce great works of art and popular culture, the value of which persists, regardless of the character or conduct of their creators. [Bill Cosby’s standup comedy from the 1960’s and 70’s, which remains among the best in the genre, is a good example].
 The point of engaging with arts and entertainment is not to develop a deep, personal investment in the character of artists and entertainers whom you don’t know and never will.
 The best comedy is almost always laced with cruelty.