February 05, 2014 | 11:05 AM A popular television commercial features a man wearing a suit sitting in a circle with children. He asks questions like: "What's better: Bigger or smaller? Faster or slower? More or less? Now or later?" The kids give cute, impish answers. The argument the commercial makes is that more and bigger and faster and sooner are more desirable than their opposites.
Some of us buy everything we can afford and charge the things we can't. It may only be when we contemplate leaving everything, and we picture our heirs coming in and opening our closets and storage areas and recoiling at what they're going to do with all of our junk that we realize we have too much.
The opposite extreme is represented by Thoreau, who went to the woods "to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life," or Diogenes, who lived in a barrel and owned only a cloak, a stick and a bread bag. He continued the tradition of Socrates who said: "When I go to the market and see all the wares, I think, 'What a lot of things I don't need'."
Between those out to acquire all they can and those intentionally living simply is the middle way of philosopher Goethe and his nine requisites for contented living:
"Health enough to make work a pleasure.
Wealth enough to support your needs.
Strength enough to battle with difficulties and overcome them.
Grace enough to confess sins and forsake them.
Patience enough to toil until some good is accomplished.
Charity enough to see some good in your neighbor.
Love enough to move you to be helpful to others.
Faith enough to make real the things of God.
Hope enough to remove anxious fears concerning the future."
So, children, what is better: more or less? Dr. Wayne Willis