Originally, milestones were literally large stones, probably painted to stand out, set at regular intervals along a highway [which is to say a road that was raised up above the surrounding fields or woods through which it ran -- not to be confused with a turnpike, which was a road entry to which required payment of a fee, or toll, after which a pike stretched across the road would be turned or rotated, allowing one to continue.] Be that as it may, this new year marks a milestone along my life's journey. It is now just sixty years since I earned my doctorate in Philosophy at Harvard.
Nineteen fifty-seven was a banner year for the Harvard Philosophy Department. Twelve us earned the Ph. D. that year. My fellow PhD-niks began their teaching careers, but I had a different job: Buck Private. Shortly after commencement, which was in early June, I boarded a bus in Central Square with fifty or so other young Massachusetts National Guard volunteers and drove off for Fort Dix, New Jersey, where we all began Basic Training. My six months of active duty, followed by five and a half years of weekly meetings and two-week summer camps, was not motivated by an exaggerated patriotic fervor, but by my desire to avoid the alternative, which was two years in the Regular Army and two years in the Active Reserve.
Looking back with the benefit of six decades, I can honestly say that I am glad to have had the opportunity to wear my nation's uniform. Those six months taught me several very valuable lessons [for the details of which you may read Volume One, Chapter Five of my Autobiography], and gave me forever after street cred in arguments about U. S. foreign and military policy. The innocent question, "Which branch of the military did you serve in?," asked of an opponent during a debate, gave me a bundle of what they called in the old Dungeons and Dragons "hit points."
I have had my doctorate so long that sometimes I imagine that "Dr." is my first name, sort of like Major Major Major in Catch 22.
Rather more important is the fact that this year marks the sesquicentennial of the publication of Volume I of Das Kapital. I have not heard of any celebrations scheduled to mark the event -- certainly I have not been invited to any -- but as Willy Loman's wife, Linda, says in Death of a Salesman, attention must be paid. Perhaps the best way for me to add my respects, like the little juggler juggling before the statue of the Virgin Mary, is to deliver, record, and post a series of lectures about what is, after all, one of the greatest books ever written. Let me meditate on it some. I shouldn't think that is what Willard Van orman Quine and Nelson Goodman had in mind for me sixty-seven years ago when they taught a sixteen year old Freshman, but they are dead and I am not, so I figure I am free to follow my own star.