The recent onslaught of tragic deaths in our news has got me thinking that life is indeed pretty ephemeral. Death has always been tailing us, but we are always told to look forward and press on, and just let it fade into the back of our minds.
Where else would be a better place to reflect on the fragility of life than lying down in a coffin? If you’re daring enough, Haw Par Villa’s Journeys To Hell Tour will offer you an experience like no other.
Due to the many superstitions of being in the coffin (before it’s your time anyway), I was too afraid to go on my own, so I had to get a friend to tag along with me.
Haw Par Villa is known for its haunting sculptures and disturbing insights into the Buddhist and Hindu depictions of hell and the afterlife.
The fact that we arrived in the glaring sunlight of the afternoon sun made it unbearably uncomfortable for a day of reflection. But I was grateful for the bright sunlight, which made everything a little less eerie.
We finally located the coffin experience after much trial-and-error, and also linked up with Rong En, the marketing & communications executive at Journeys Pte Ltd, which manages Haw Par Villa.
We were then introduced into this grim room which was void of colours and life. There was an overhanging gloom that encompassed the room, which probably worsened with three sweaty bodies entering.
On a more serious note, this room was set up with the idea of providing an experimental playbox for individuals to get a hands-on experience with a coffin.
“During one of the Journeys to Hell tours here, a pair of young kids sat in the coffin and play pretended that the coffin was a boat,” Rong En recounted, as we listened intently to one of her more light-hearted experiences to liven up the atmosphere of the room.
The reflections, written in brightly-coloured markers, may seem to add a little sunlight into this room, but it ultimately seemed futile. A more cynical part of me thought they resembled the drawings left behind from a deceased toddler.
As a child, the coffin was always an object of respect for the dead. We have always only been offered the view from the outside, and to explore and touch it would definitely result in a huge yank on my ears from my parents.
I got my colleague to test out the experience of lying down in the coffin. Initially, he thought he would feel very claustrophobic, with a lot of haunting images coming into his mind while making his journey down.
But the actual experience wasn’t exactly as daunting as it seemed. He told me it vaguely felt as snug as the same shell scrapes all us men have dug during our Basic Military Training (BMT). A complimentary pillow is even provided in the accommodation too!
It was then my turn to lay down in the coffin, and it genuinely allowed me to put myself in the shoes of all the deceased I’ve paid respects to. There was a warm, gentle comforting wave that enveloped me, knowing that no matter what sort of death they have experienced, they were undoubtedly at rest when they were laid down in their coffins.
But given the many superstitions and bad luck associated with being in the coffin, why would this exhibition be set up?
The Management got back to me saying this: We hope to confront the taboo topic from an educational standpoint to bring about understanding and appreciation of the topic of death and the afterlife, and shed light on the philosophies instead of dismissing it as superstition.
And at that moment, I had a bit of a revelation. Death in itself has always been inevitable; it’s just part and parcel of the cycle of life. Many of us go through life pretty much ignoring this unavoidable fact, until it’s too late. And as a consequence, we don’t appreciate those around us enough.
It seems like we have all the time in the world, and that has hardened a lot of us and stopped us from embracing our raw emotions. If we all acknowledged and embraced the finite nature of life, then perhaps we would all be more vulnerable and genuine in our interactions with one another.
Bearing in mind that we never know when we will be in the face of death, might just make living a lot more meaningful.
If you’re yearning for a newfound perspective on life, I highly recommend this cathartic experience. Thinking about your own death might just shed light on a new way of living.
Dates & Times: Every Friday, 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Prices: S$18 for adults, S$9 for Child
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