It is pitch black. My eyes are trying to adjust, fumbling in total darkness. Suddenly a flash of light, and then another one, and one more. A drum like sound pierces my lungs. As I got closer it becomes louder and louder, so much that I stop, paralysed with fear. What could be on the other side?
This is the sound of a heartbeat, amplified. Here thousands of heartbeats have been recorded. It is like you have been shrunk inside an artery or womb and there is nothing between you and the heartbeat, except darkness, utter darkness. Somehow the darkness makes it even more sensational, as if all your five senses are totally at the mercy of these beats.
They are all different; young and old, male and female. It is like every human act, good or evil, has been de-constructed into a heartbeat. Everyone is reduced to the same level, whether you are a chief executive or the youngest kid at the kindergarten. Here in one of the most peaceful beaches on earth is something so primal and raw, humiliatingly so.
So what has the Museum of New and Old, Park Avenue Armoury, and 17 other institutions have to do with this experience? They have banded together in this project, allowing visitors to record their heartbeat for all eternity. From 13 different countries, young and old, healthy and sick, they are there, searchable by place and name. Some are soothing with the rhythmic lull of a pendulum, while others are scary, like a drum out of control. What does a heartbeat mean to you? Is it a celebration of life, like the first cry of a new born? If you had a near death experience and your heart beat is heard again it is a sound of relief.
On the way back from the museum to the port of Karato, I heard the soothing sound of the sea, its calm and gentle waves kissing the squeaky white sands of the beach. It made me realise how evocative sound is, it can soothe or scare people. The waves don't represent any particular person, but we readily identify with it the same way that a newborn identifies with a mother's voice.
On the other hand, when I passed an old grandmother, I am reminded of the differences in the sound of our footsteps, the rhythm, pace and hardness. The sound of footsteps may not be as evocative as one's heartbeat, but if we close our eyes and listen to these sounds we get a sense of our humanity.