When: 2016/05/22 7 AM SLT
Destination: Amaterasu Omikami Grand Shinto Shrine of Little Yoshiwara
We’re attending: The class about Shinto, the most popular religion in Japan
Next time: Weekly on Saturdays at 5 PM SLT (PDT) and Sundays at 6 AM SLT
Next class subject (2016/05/29): Shinto basics (highly recommended as introductory class)
More information: Little Yoshiwara in-world group (click the link while logged on in Second Life to open the group profile)
It is early in the Sunday morning in Second Life, when residents are supposed to be having their well deserved rest after a long week of work. Only the frogs occasionally croaking in the pond and the birds’ distant chirping reply to the morning tranquility. The spring breeze coming from the outside spreads around the fragrances of nature, so vivid and pleasant. Those of us who could not stay in bed this lovely morning have gathered at the Little Yoshiwara classroom for the weekly Shinto class. We took our places on the zabutons around the table, had a cup of complimentary tea, black or green, and prepared to learn some more about this exotic and so intriguing religion, practiced in most of Japan.
Each week, on Sunday at 6 AM SLT, Little Yoshiwara’s very own Xuemei Yiyuan holds a class on the topic related to the Shinto religion. According to herself, it can be a class on Shinto philosophy, on Shinto deities called kami, on festivals, etc. Xuemei adds new classes all the time. Each class is self-contained – if residents have missed a class, or a series of classes, they will not be stumped at the next one. As a matter of fact, one can start learning about Shinto at any point, not waiting for the “Basics of Shinto” class, which, of course, is included. The difficulty of the class depends on the subject.
Such classes, available for everybody regardless of the background, are very much suitable for Second Life. It is not an easy task to form a series of timed events in such a way that renders the attendance of the current event meaningless if the previous timed event had not been attended. First, “real life first” is not an empty sound – it indeed comes first, and if it requires the resident’s presence at the time of the event. the resident has no choice there. Second, the nature of Second Life facilitates exploring rather than commiting, and the resident used to one time events would think twice before commiting to the course completion. As such, a series of self-contained classes is the best format for Second Life – those who want to continue the education on the subject and do not have real life limitations to do so are able to accomplish that, and those who want to take classes occasionally are not left behind due to the missed material of the previous class.
The class is held in chat, which turns out very convenient for several reasons – it is easier to follow for people with hearing impairment, as well as for people whose native language is not English; it is easier to keep up with the conversation, since typing typically takes longer than speaking; one can take a short real life break and catch up with the class upon coming back. Did I mention the conversation? Xuemei takes questions about the subject during the class, and the discussion of the subject is not only allowed, but encouraged. When done in chat, everybody is heard, since interrupting while chatting in text is hardly possible. At the end of the class, she hands out the notecards with the lecture in it, so any time one needs to review the material of the class, one can do so. It also helps when the resident was late for the class and has missed the beginning of the lecture.
Today’s topic was on the development of modern Shinto philosophy, and among the classes I have taken on Shinto at Little Yoshiwara, this one by far has happened to be the most challenging. However, at the end, Xuemei answers all the questions that have not been answered along the class, so whenever somebody has some confusion with any point of the subject, she does her best to resolve it. In my case, that was the very thing that helped me make sense of the material.
It is slightly past 7 PM SLT, which means the class has come to its conclusion. We put our clay cups back on the tray and stand up. Wishing each other a good day, or a good week, depending on our timezones, we have goodbyed and were on our way. The noren (the curtain that serves as a divider between the rooms in Japanese houses), slightly disturbed by the residents passing through it, waved us goodbye after the last student went through, with a little help from the morning breeze, before coming to rest.
The Grid is waking up.
Stay digitized, be safe!