With cloning, humanity has the possibility of a second chance on life. When I was young, I thought that my idols were indispensable. I couldn't imagine the world without them whether they were political leaders, entertainers, or sports personalities. As I age, I realize that we are given a lifetime of varying years to make our mark upon the world. If we succeed, great. If we fail, too bad, the next generation will have to supplement our efforts. I can't think of anyone that the world couldn't do without. Therefore, I don't see the necessity of cloning the great in our overcrowded world--to say nothing of the mediocre. Instead of cloning, we should all work harder at what we do instead of relying on our possible cloning to give us additional time to do our thing. The possibility of cloning merely distracts us from making the most of our time in the sun.

History is replete with examples of people and societies that became preoccupied with making their presence felt long after the notable was gone. One of the strangest early attempts at this was Jeremy Bentham, the English philosopher and economist, who was so enthralled by himself that he had himself embalmed and placed seated in a chair inside of a large box. The box had a large glass front so that you could clearly see him seated on the chair. For years, he was wheeled into the board meetings of the University College London, which he founded in 1826. When the roll was called, someone would say, "Jeremy Bentham, present, but not voting." He thought that his embalmed presence would cause people not to forget him and his thoughts. Bentham was only partially successful in this attempt. We remember his absurd attempt at immortality but few remember his thoughts.

However, the most ironic early precursor of immortality and perpetual presence in the world was that of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the leader who toppled the Russian czar. After his death in 1924, Stalin wanted to immortalize Lenin in part to endear himself to the masses. Boris Zbarsky and Vladimir Vorobiov were entrusted with the task of preserving V. I. Lenin for all time. Starting with glycerin and acetate, the team marinated Lenin for several days. Over the course of a number of years, they developed a successful embalming technique-partly out of fear that they would be shipped off to Siberia if they failed to keep Lenin looking alive in his Kremlin Wall mausoleum.

Stalin was so taken by their success, he ordered that he too be embalmed just like Lenin. So artful were the Soviet embalmers that other communist heads got the embalming craze under their skin (or actually in their veins to be more precise). North Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh, North Korean's Kim Il Sung, and Angola's Agostino Neto all employed the Soviet technique and still can be viewed and admired for their contributions to the world. However, the embalming technique and recipe is still held as secretly as is the recipe for Coke.

The ancient Greeks were very tolerant of human foibles, but what drove them crazy was hubris-false pride. Most of the Greek tragedies had hubris as their central issue. We should give heed today to their ancient wisdom. Bentham, Lenin, Stalin, et al are clearly gross acts of hubris. In addition, embalming doesn't so much preserve of the person as much as it preserves the folly of men and women. Bentham is laughed at with disbelief. Lenin and Stalin are historical anachronisms. They are here for all eternity, but their beliefs and the political system they created has come and gone. Soviet communism has gone, but they are still here. The USSR doesn't even exist anymore. Its diminutive successor, Russia, doesn't even know what to do with these embalmed relics of a tragic past.

The Romans had it right. When the Roman emperor would ride through Rome in a triumphal procession, a slave rode beside him whispering in his ear, "Remember that you are only a man." We aren't immortal no matter how much we might wish to be. Our time is limited; don't waste time trying to find immortality. Make the most of the time of your and now. All else is vanity of vanities.