If there is a recurring theme in (President James) Garfield's diaries it's this: I'd rather be reading
. That might sound dull and perfunctory, but Garfield's book fever was a sickness. Take, for example, the commencement address he delivered at his alma mater Hiram College in the summer of 1880. Traditionally, these pep talks to college graduates are supposed to shove young people into the future with a briefcase bulging with infinitive verbs: to make, to produce, to do. Mr. Loner McBookworm, on the other hand, stands up and breaks it to his audience, the future achievers of America, that the price of the supposedly fulfilling attainment of one's personal and professional dream is the irritating way it cuts into one's free time. He tells them,
It has occurred to me that the thing you have, that all men have enough of, is perhaps the thing that you care for the least, and that is your leisure - the leisure you have to think; the leisure you have to be let alone; the leisure you have to throw the plummet into your mind, and sound the depth and dive for things below.
the only thing stopping this address from turning into a slacker parable is the absence of the word "dude." Keep in mind that at that moment Garfield was a presidential candidate. The guy who theoretically wants the country's most demanding, hectic, brain-dive-denying job stands before these potential gross national product producers advising them to treat leisure "as your gold, as your wealth, as your treasure." As Garfield left the podium, every scared kid in the room could probably hear the sound of the stock market crashing him back to his old room at his parents' house where he'd have plenty of free time to contemplate hanging himself with his boyhood bedsheets.