Just thought that I would post a short history of my time on Discussion Forums, now that I have in effect retired. It has been a personal journey and for me, fulfilling.
I'm going back a few years to when I first got on the Internet. Maybe about twenty years ago. A whole new world, at least for me. What do you look at? Pondering, I remembered a Buddhist magazine, Tricycle and wondered if they had their own website. Sure enough, yes, and I found it and looked over a few articles and photos of various Buddhas and Buddhist wannabees sitting on cushions seeking to meditate their way to nirvana. Scrolling down the Home Page I spied the words "Bulletin Boards" and wondered what they were. Perhaps private ads along the lines of "Buddhist, GSOH, wishes to meet like minded for zafu sessions". But no. Investigating I saw that here we had a rich assortment of various people, with "screen names" such as Dharmakara, Lotus Flower and other such exotic titles, all raising questions, answering back and forth, and all sounding quite knowledgeable as far as Buddhism was concerned. For a couple of days I read a few of the threads and then the thought popped into my head..........I too could register, I too could assign myself a name, I too could join in the talk, actually express a point of view.
Believe it or not this thought gave me the collywobbles. Did I have the nerve? Seriously, my hands shook and my heart thumped. Nearly fifty years old and the thought of expressing an opinion, even on the relative anonymity of the internet, filled me with apprehension.
But nothing ventured, nothing gained. With trembling hands I registered. As a first swipe at the obvious conventions of the media, I gave myself the name of "Dookie", a name my daughter had often called me - I have no idea why. Then I had to decide upon my very first post. There was a deep discussion taking place between two suitably named worthies, posting back and forth on various points raised by the classic zen book "Zen Mind, Beginners Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki, a book they obviously relished and admired. Me, it was one of those books I had found it hard to get into and in fact never really got into it at all. To be frank, it had bored me rigid. Should I say this? Should I step in and have my say? I hesitated but then thought that if I feared to do so and held back, what was the point? So in I went, speaking my mind.
I was totally ignored! The conversation carried on around my meagre and rather paltry post as if Dookie was non-existent. Perhaps the fate of so many in this world. But Dookie was made of sterner stuff; what does not destroy us makes us stronger says Nietzsche. Soon I was back on another thread and this time drew a response! Someone in cyberspace had actually read my words and seen fit to answer! Very soon, another thanked me for "making my day" and I have to admit, this almost reduced me to tears. The thought that words of mine had touched another's emotions.
From then on there was no stopping me. An English teacher in the USA, in fact a published novelist, sent me an email and told me that I was one of her "favourite voices on the Boards", another asked me where did I get my wisdom from. I never associated myself with wisdom and told them so in one way or another. The fact is that for me it was a question of self confidence, self esteem. There is a thin dividing line between this and pride. I tried, and endeavour, not to cross it. Good to take to heart the words of Honen, one of the "fathers" of Pure Land Buddhism, who said:- "When a scholar is born they forget the Nembutsu". Everything that is truly of worth is a pure gift of Reality-as-is; given, not attained, realised, not earned or gained by merit.
Anyway, eventually I learnt that Dookie was a word in the USA used by children for poo, a fact that threatened to tarnish my reputation just a little, not to mention forestall any suggestions of wisdom. But I soldiered on.
The Bulletin Boards on Tricycle finally disintegrated, unmonitored they sunk under their own weight of spam, flaming, sledging and insults. So much for Buddhist ethics
But I had the bit between my teeth. I registered again and again on various Boards. Christian, Secular, Atheist, Agnostic, Islamic, General, Ex-Christian, Inter-faith and various new Buddhist forums. Two hiccups when once I was censured for a "racist" post ( I had posted of my thinking that Wei Wu Wei was a "wizened little Chinaman" before finding out his true identity as the Irish Aristocrat Terence Gray) and then received a lifetimes ban on another when I crossed swords with the Administrator who took exception to my implying that a post of his was based upon gossip.
But it has all been good for me.
I have retired from all Boards now after perhaps 30,000 posts or so. In my time I have been called a hypocrite, a liar, the "voice of satan", even the Anti-Christ; I have been called wise and been called stupid. I have been known as Dookie, Tariki, Cobblers Apprentice and one or two other equally preposterous names, as the mood took me. Generally I have sought to be polite and truthful. We can only try. One of my fondest memories of meetings in cyberspace was various exchanges with a guy in Sri Lanka who had ambitions to become a Theravada bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) who eventually thanked me for extending his knowledge of the Buddhist Scriptures. My worst? Crossing swords with a member of a Fundamentalist Christian Sect whose bigotry, which he was totally oblivious to, was, to me, shocking.
In the end, as the wag said, "There are only two types of people in the world, those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't". There is great mileage in the zen advice that if we wish to know the truth then "cease to cherish opinions", simply because, as per the great parable of the raft, the Dharma is for "passing over, not for grasping". For me this has its echo in the Gospel advice not to judge others.
From being afraid to say boo to a goose I will now say what I like, when I like. If not now then when?
Anyway, I have cut and pasted this from my blog, and the full illustrated edition can be found by those who enjoy punishment, on:-