Obviously Mr Jefferson had never read a lot of the popular literature of the twenty first century, some of which read like they were written by an unlearned person, and others read like they were edited by an unlearned person. In order to avoid the risk of offending many of the popular authors fast garnering millions of dollars in royalties, I will not mention any books here. The point remains, though, that reading does not necessarily equate to learning. Reading, however, can equate to recreation, and has the advantage over exercise that it need not be confined to any part of the day.
The next thing that jumps out is that Thomas Jefferson, may the Lord bless his wise soul, does not seem to have heard of mental health. Yes, exercise, does improve mental health, but reading does so as well, and it seems to me, from his sentences, that Mr Jefferson is talking of the kind of robust health that is energetic, kinetic, and bursting with movement. He is not talking of the health that lights up one’s innermost thoughts and adds a spring to one’s smile. He has a point, naturally, but maybe if he had been a twenty first century guru of everything, he would have phrased this same advice much differently.
Maybe he would not have talked of leaving ALL the afternoon for exercise and recreation, for if the ordinary man did so, the ordinary man would have to also go to bed with maybe one meal less in his tummy. Who but the school student, or the sports star has the opportunity to exercise all afternoon? It is also very questionable whether said school student or sports star would actually find this steady, compulsory sport practice recreational, all the time.
Maybe he would have suggested recreational exercise at different times of the day, suited to different walks of life, ages, and cultures. Maybe he would have added reading as recreation. Maybe he would have emphasised reading for health as well.
But, to give him his due, Thomas Jefferson is probably drawing the attention of people to the need for exercise and recreation, and recreation through exercise. Perhaps, in his wisdom, he foresaw, that there would come a time when people would get so cornered into eking out a subsistence during the day, and relaxing on their buttocks during the evening, that he saw the need to remind us to get out there and exercise. The “all” afternoon, is probably rhetoric, and the point about health and learning the same as well.
All Hail Thomas Jefferson.