Out of Sight, Out of Mind

We freeze-dry coffee beans at the peak of their freshness in order to assure coffee consumers the finest coffee. The following is a bizarre story about a man who tried to do the same for himself. His name was Jeremy Bentham. He was born in 1748 in England and died eighty-five years later-well beyond his personal peak. Bentham worked very hard in many fields of learning. He made a name for himself as a utilitarian in philosophy that pursued the greatest happiness for the greatest number. In addition to being an excellent philosopher, Jeremy became a famous thinker in economics and law and founded the University College of London. However, Bentham wasn't satisfied with his greatness; he went further-further than he should have gone.

As Jeremy Bentham grew older and neared death, he wanted his ideas and his influence to live on in this world as if he were still present. In his will, Bentham stipulated that he was to be embalmed and seated in a wooden box with large windows so that all could easily see in. The theory behind all the glass was to allow the greatest number to see the greatest of thinkers. When Jeremy died on June 6, 1832 at the ripe old age of eighty-five, he was embalmed as he had instructed.

If this were not bizarre enough, Bentham was ushered into various board meetings of his organizations. Someone would always begin the meetings with this strange but accurate statement: "Jeremy Bentham, present, but not voting." You may laugh to yourself, but you must hand it to him: Bentham had accomplished his dream. He was visibly present even after his death.

Bentham had also speculated that one day there could be a "Temple of Fame" made up of "a population of illustrious Auto-Icons" like himself (an auto-icon was one who was embalmed like him). It is too bad someone didn't get to Bentham when he was peaking and freeze-dried him before he went beyond reason and good sense.

Now, before you laugh again and relegate Bentham's story to the bizarre, there is something for each of us to consider. We all want to be remembered after death by our families and loved ones, but we probably do not want to try Jeremy's technique. You may, however, wish to try another way of making a lasting impression on the world around you. Here are several suggestions:

Go about your world in a kind and gentle manner. Work hard, and do the best you can. Show love to those around you. Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Help those who are in trouble, and celebrate success with those who have accomplished worthwhile projects and deeds. Allow the people who come after you to place you in the Hall of Famous People-if they wish. Don't you work toward that goal as Jeremy Bentham did. Someone might come up behind you someday and freeze dry you before you make a fool of yourself.

One closing footnote on Bentham: after the board meetings where Bentham was "present but not voting," he was rolled away and removed to some dark basement, covered with a dust cover and forgotten until he was wheeled out again for another meeting. In the meantime, he was as the old adage goes, "Out of sight, out of mind."