“MIT says 360 credits are a circle. And I have come full circle around—from here where I was born back to here. And it might seem to me at times that life is full of circles. But it is not—it presses forward in helices, like in DNA.”
– Umaer Basha.
This quote, though short, gives us a glimpse into Umaer’s perspective and lets us see how he effortlessly connected life and science. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1979 but grew up in Lake Forest, Illinois, only to return to MIT in 1997 as a freshman. He had a thirst for science and a curiosity about life that never ceased, and, as his friend Markus Nystrom reflected, “Perhaps most admirably, his own achievements never came at the expense of others, but were always reflected and spread outward by his love for teaching, for passionate debate, and for the written word…His motivation, as he many times expressed, was to be of service to humanity.”
Just as Umaer’s achievements will always be cherished, the memories of a kind, generous and humble individual continue to survive through the numerous people whom Umaer met and touched in his brief life.
The idea for this poem first came to Umaer while traveling, as he mentions in his introduction. “Escape” gives us a simple yet profound glimpse into Umaer’s various perspectives on the heavens and Earth. In his own reflection, Umaer wrote:
“I tried to brainstorm when I first began this piece, and thought of how one feels when he or she has been flying for a while, then begins to land in an airplane. There were feelings of freedom, originally, when one leaves the earth. One almost leaves everything behind, as he or she glides on air. Then I tried to capture this feeling without the physical sense: simply chaos, then freedom and seclusion, and back to the world. I tried to take the reader to another level, one of absolute peace.”
Since forgotten days, all that life has been: Deadlines, schedules, due-dates, assignments,
Problems, responsibilities, and commitments.
Everything freezes, set in place,
As this earth is left behind.
Cars, buildings, and trees fade without trace,
Not knowing what to find.
Clouds, never before sought,
Lay far below, beaten.
Nameless people, without second
We are embraced by the void of
Realized by life’s absence.
One goal lies ahead:
To find a place where one may find oneself.
Our destination now in hold,
We find a place of relaxation.
Time allows us to be told,
Where to find our own salvation.
Immersed in a sea of tranquility,
Quiet soothes all pain.
A colorless sky has flexibility,
Allowing vast galaxies into our domain.
Looking through a new horizon,
Perspectives are destined to change.
Where fear and anger abandon,
Hope comes into range.
As we leave this lonesome heaven,
A new light sparks a courageous flame.
It is cool, permeating light, perhaps driven
From a place which still holds our own name.