More (of anything) isn’t always better.

Venturing into Jordan’s hospital room was an odyssey. Washing hands and donning gloves and gown were only the beginning. To reach Jordan’s bedside I had to run a gantlet of intravenous poles, wires and tubes.

Once there Jordan’s frustration at his entrapment in hospital technology was palpable. On each visit he would shake his head and moan, “Is this worth it?”

As the days stretched into weeks and the weeks into months, Jordan’s room became more and more choked with sophisticated medical equipment. The IV monitoring equipment beeped and blinked, and the oxygen apparatus hissed and gurgled.

One day I could account for all the din in Jordan’s room except for a new faint rushing noise. Preoccupied with the cacophony of lights and sounds I recognized, I overlooked this apparently harmless noise for two days.

Finally on the third day I could no longer ignore something I could not explain. When I asked about it, Jordan with a smile directed me to a small primitive tape recorder on the windowsill.

“It’s from Pemaquid Point where I live. It’s a tape recording of the sea pounding the rocks I can hear from my front porch.”

Jordan could tell from my furrowed brow I was puzzled.

“It reminds me of my life: my wife and kids, my two-bedroom house, my boat and traps.” Jordan sighed. “May sound ordinary to you, but it means more to me than anything else. I miss it and want it back.”

Motioning to all the medical paraphernalia filling his room, he continued, “Can you get me back to my simple life with all this stuff going in me?” I did not know.

I could not find in an ancient book of wisdom an example of an individual similar to Jordan who questioned the benefit of extensive medical treatment.

Nevertheless, I discovered in the Bible a character who questioned the benefit of a surfeit of success, riches and pleasures in his life that may aid understanding Jordan’s distress.

Solomon, who ruled Israel in the 10th century B.C., inherited the vast empire of his father, King David, during a period called the Golden Age of Israel. Later, after he further extended the wealth and power of the nation and himself, Solomon wrote a telling treatise expressing his dismay at the outcome of his life when he had it all.

“Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless! . . . A chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, 4)

Over and over in the book, Solomon repeats the same poignant refrain extolling the simple life after critiquing different areas of his own life that went out of control with wanton excess: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction from his work.” (Ecclesiastes 2: 24)

More does not always provide happiness, meaning or health. More does not always mean better, even if utilized wisely or applied expertly: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12)

More only exacerbated Solomon’s problems with poor personal and political decisions that threatened the unity of the nation during and after his reign.

Shortly after Solomon’s death, his rich and expansive kingdom, awash in intrigue, was divided by two warring sons. In time both kingdoms were conquered and the sons went into exile, with only one returning to Israel.

More medical care could not restore Jordan to good health and the ordinary life he craved. Jordan’s life ebbed away despite each new layer of advanced therapy applied to the leukemia that proliferated.

Jordan of today knew what Solomon of old had to learn: The source of meaning in life lay in the fulfillment of the most basic needs.

I returned to Jordan’s room late one rainy afternoon after all the medical equipment had been turned off. The IV lines were removed and the pumps disconnected. The room was still except for the sounds of the waves off Pemaquid Point from Jordan’s tape recorder on the windowsill. Jordan could no longer hear the sea and would not return to the life that provided him meaning.

I still wonder: Why did a member of housekeeping, while clearing the room of the medical equipment, leave the tape recorder on as Jordan lay lifeless on his bed?

Dr. Delvyn C. Case Jr. is a hematologist/oncologist, writer, playwright and consultant to the Department of Spiritual Care at Maine Medical Center in Portland.