A Reflection on the Beauty & Pain of Life and Death

When it comes to life and death, I believe that ultimately there is no right or wrong explanation as to how and why things happen. Every person is right in their own way because it is their unique nature, circumstance, and/or environment that colors their perspective. Each individual's logic is structured differently and each individual's spirituality exists in varying degrees. If this is true, then how can we all come to the same conclusions about such highly sensitive topics like life and death? In truth, we cannot.

In reflecting on my own experiences of losing loved ones, I have settled on a conclusion...at least for now. While it may be inaccurate, controversial or seem outright hokey, this conclusion resonates deeply with me. It makes sense to me but it may not make sense to you. And I am okay with that. My intent in writing this reflection is not to define how things must be or how they determinately are. My intent is to simply to share my perspective as it relates to my experiences. So as you read further, all I request of you is to be open.

Human sensory reception is the means by which humans react to changes in their environment. When we lose someone near and dear to us, the sensory human experience is to react and respond as though we are suffering from a loss, a result of the change in our environment. However, the five senses of touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound do not account for the intangible. Just because we can no longer see, touch, or hear someone does not mean they no longer with us. From what I’ve discovered, it is quite the opposite. They are with us and a part of us. Even though a human is not physically accessible as they once were, their soul always is. 

Love and loss can definitely be explained in scientific terms. For simplicity sake, I will explain in the most basic term. When we “love” someone, we are biologically hardwired to produce increases in dopamine, which leads to an increased blood flow to the caudate nucleus, a part of the brain that controls memory, learning, and emotion. Over time and with continual interactions with our loved ones, our bodies become 1) accustomed to the dopamine release and 2) have a neural circuit network built around the emotions/feelings evoked by any given individual. When we lose someone, we have thousands of neural circuits devoted to the lost person, and each of these has to be brought up and reconstructed to take into account the person’s absence. Because of the lack of dopamine and our body's attempt to reconfigure its neural networks, we experience what is commonly referred to as grief.

While science can surely explain what a loss causes, it cannot explain WHY the responses are triggered in the first place. Yes, it could be that we are experiencing a change in our environment but this is only true to a degree. When we move to a different city or when the weather changes unfavorably, we are experiencing an environmental change. However, it is important to note that with these types of experiences, we do not typically feel emotions in extremes as we do when we lose someone. This then begs the question of why. Why does the feeling of longing come upon us when someone passes away? Why does the feeling of pain come upon us? Why does the feeling of overwhelming sadness and grief overcome us? Science can explain how the mechanism works but does not have a definitive explanation as to what causes the mechanism to fire in the first place. We definitely know where these feelings come from but why are they triggered?

My answer: the soul. I believe that every human has a soul, which is part of a larger collective consciousness that exists within us and among us all. The human experience is a period in which the body temporarily houses the soul. As soon as a human life ends, the soul rejoins the collective consciousness. The soul breaks free of the limitations of the human body and exists in its purest form. In doing so, all those who interacted with this soul in the human experience feel what we call pain and loss. But in fact, this is the soul of our loved one touching ours. When we become extremely vulnerable as we do when we lose someone, we are burst wide open. We are receptive and we are deeply connected with our highest selves, our souls. Therefore, the soul of the one lost is felt with such great magnitude because we are ready and open to receive it.

Tahn - I believe that you no longer needed this worldly life to take the next step in your journey. Your soul - in all of its incredible beauty and radiance - broke free of the limitations of this human experience. And in that instant, it's boundless and magnificent energy spread far and wide, touching the lives of literally thousands of people. You rejoined our collective consciousness and by doing so, sent waves and waves of love around the world. I saw it with my own eyes. Many have said that we lost you too soon. I may stand alone in this, but I don't believe that we lost you, even though our sensory human experience tells us that you are gone. But you're not. You're not lost. You're not gone. Your presence is so real and so tangible. Your love is palpable. I feel closer to you now more than ever. You are truly truly alive...not because I can see, hear, touch, or smell you, but because I can feel that brilliant soul of yours right next to mine. 

To Tariq Uncle, Erin, Kabeer, and Tony - over the last 5 years, as each of you took the next step in your souls' journeys, my growth compounded exponentially and my perspective shifted tremendously. You have taught me how to understand pain, how to accept the death of this human body, and have revealed, more and more, the true beauty of the soul's life beyond what we can see. 

The five of you have transcended this human experience and exist now in your purest form. I am infinitely grateful to live this life with that version of you right by my side. I promise to always remain open and share my soul with you so I can feel you close...always and forever. I love you.

Old is Gold

As human beings, it is our tendency to be excited most by all things new, different or unusual. Fresh ideas, perspectives, and experiences are bound to catch our eye. A new phone, a new travel destination, a new friend. We are drawn to novelty without being conscious of it. In fact, we can also even draw energy and excitement from it. It is rare, however, to be as excited about those things that are familiar to us. The rarity that something constant and recognizable can continually generate so much elation is incredibly special. I was lucky enough to experience that this past weekend when one of my oldest and best friends, Umna, came to visit me in Boston. 

The long weekend was spent enjoying everything under the sun, with the exception of warmth since it was apparently the coldest weekend in Boston in the last 59 years. Despite the fact that the frigid temperatures prevented us from walking around (which is the way I like to explore Boston with new visitors), the four days were filled with complete gluttony, laziness, spontaneity, a ridiculous amount of laughter, exploring, binge watching Season 2 of How To Get Away with Murder, tons and tons of love, and of course, photography sessions.

For most of my friends, getting harassed by Nitasha + DSLR is not the most enjoyable experience. This typically ends in someone getting upset at me or threatening me that they're going to learn all of my tricks and proceed to chase after me with the camera. Umna, on the other hand, makes my job a complete breeze. Luckily, we have 10 years of friendship on our side (many of which were spent practically living together) so there is a great level of comfort we have with one another as model and photographer. She poses, smiles, laughs, and follows my cues without a single complaint while I snap away from every angle imaginable. On Monday, we spent about two hours frolicking in the snow through the Boston Public Garden in hopes of capturing a few good memories. However, the final product turned out to be way better than either of us expected. The combination of Umna's patience/cooperation (and pure drop dead gorgeousness) and my willingness to experiment/boss her around made for some pretty memorable shots, a few of which turned out to be the best portraits I've taken to date (don't worry, I repayed her in Shake Shack for being an amazing subject).

This was definitely the highlight of the weekend because 1) photography is such an exhilarating creative outlet for me, 2) I was proud to see a visible improvement in my work, and 3) I, most of all, got the opportunity to photograph one of my best friends. I could not have asked for a better way to end what was already a perfect weekend of sisterly bonding. All the joy and excitement Umna brought to my little home in Boston was a beautiful reminder that old truly is gold.

The Sun Has Set on the Weekend...

The sun has set on the weekend, Monday blues have passed and we're full force into the week. When everything begins to move at hyper speed as the week commences, it's so fun (and relaxing) to look back through my phone's camera roll and recap, especially when it was an exceptional weekend. Looking back on these past few days fills my heart because my parents were in town and we had a blast. The best part was that their trip to Boston was a complete surprise (I received flight confirmation information from them on Tuesday for their arrival on Thursday morning)! Their time here was filled with walks, brunches, sunsets, a whole lot of coffee, sightseeing, eating, shopping, and most importantly tons of quality time. I had such a good time that I didn't check email for four days and even managed to keep my DSLR out of my hands for all but a few hours. In these few hours, we witnessed one of the most breathtaking sunsets I've seen in Boston all summer. My mom, dad, and I sat on the Esplanade overlooking the Charles River and drank coffee while watching the sunset. It couldn't have gotten better than that. Check out a few shots I got during our time on the Esplanade!

I loved every minute of this past weekend and wish I could've captured more moments like these; but, sometimes, its nice to get out from behind the lens and enjoy experiences for what they are. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for such an amazing four days!