Providence

Whew.  That last post really took it out of me, so this one will be far shorter. (I hope. There’s always the chance that I’ll hop on the Tangent Train and won’t jump off)

Anyway, all I want to say is to trust your instincts, because they’re almost always more than that.  They’re directions when you don’t have a map.   How many times have I begged God, “Just tell me what to do! SEND ME A SIGN!” when in reality, He’s probably already pulling me to the right thing every time, and I would know that if I would just shut up for two seconds.  

I always feel like I’m looking at the world with new eyes when I realize that something I was doing, seemingly without reason, was indeed for a very good reason. 

Prayer is much more than talking to God.  Prayer is letting your heart sit silent so God can get a word in edgewise.

Loved into Being

With gay marriage being the second most talked-about socio-political issue, my nature demands that I sort out a definitive position on the matter. This is going to be a long post, and I know it’s going to upset some people. If you’re going to write me just to tell me that, trust me, I already know. Save your breath.

“That’s disgusting” he said in a low voice, malicious, with just a hint of fascination and I followed his gaze toward two men shopping together a few clothes racks away. I don’t know if they were a couple, but judging by the stereotypes I was familiar with, both were obviously gay.

I smiled and shrugged, then turned away, worried about being caught staring, ashamed of my friend’s rudeness, ashamed of my discomfort in the proximity of gay men, and moreover, ashamed of my shame. If I were really a good, chaste Catholic girl, I would share in my friend’s revulsion at this vagrant display of uncloseted homosexuality. I should take my discomfort as an instinctive sign that I was right to recognize sin and shy away from it, indignant. Two men with frosted hair shopping together? How dare they! Don’t they know there are children around?! Instead I felt nothing but confused sympathy for the men who were possibly unaware of the contempt emanating from my shopping companion’s stare. And I was just sure that I would be declared a bleeding heart humanist were I to defend them, even in the name of good Christian charity. In fact, I feared that that was what I was. And anyway, because my opinions on the matter were vague, half-formed and possibly with more emotional foundation than intellectual–I have had gay friends and some of my family members are gay– could I say anything that would not contradict the Church’s teaching? “Well, they seem like nice people” would be beside the point. So I said nothing.

For a long time, I had a hard time making a decision on where I stood with the whole issue, and I avoided it. I couldn’t make myself believe that homosexuality was a choice. People don’t choose to have life be any more difficult than it has to be, and I don’t think anyone– Catholic, secular, gay or straight or otherwise– can deny that gays have it tough. Even setting aside the obvious things like prejudice, the pool of partners is clearly more limited than that of heterosexuals, making the opportunities for heartbreak even more abundant than it already is.

And if it’s not a choice, if people really are “born that way,” how can we Christians, whose whole religion revolves around Love and acceptance of the Will of God, treat other people, having no more control of their lot than we, with such hatred?

But then there was the “problem” of the Church’s teaching that the lifestyle is a sin, that it’s unnatural. And the Church’s teaching makes sense to me. Men and women’s bodies were built specifically for each other.

If someone had never heard of homosexuality and I told them the things that go through my head when I see a good-looking guy, they’d say: You want to put your what in his where? It’s common sense. Gay sex makes about as much sense as eating chalk, and pica is still recognized as a disorder by the APA1. Last time I checked.

[That’s Steve Gershom, a Catholic, celibate, gay man. I cannot recommend his blog enough, as it’s one of the most inspirational things I’ve ever read and gives a real-life, Catholic perspective the likes of which I haven’t seen anywhere else. His take on chastity is one of the best I have ever read, and applicable to everyone.]

Anyway, I was confused, until I first heard the term, “SSA:” Same Sex Attraction. As in, “He has Same Sex Attraction,” not “He is gay.” Finally, the vague opinions I had on the subject started to come together and make sense. Yes, the lifestyle is wrong, and acting on the attraction would be a sin. The inclination towards such a thing, a defect. No one wants to think of their friends or family or themselves as defective, but it’s true. And more importantly, it made me understand something that deep down, I think I already knew: that “SSA” is just one of the many defects we can put in the blank spot after “He/She has…” He/She has a tendency to be selfish. He/She has trouble concentrating during Mass. He/She has a drinking problem. He/She, has heterosexual temptations against purity. The tendency towards our own personal weaknesses, each unique as our fingerprints, is a defect found in all of us. Same Sex Attraction is just one of the many hallmarks of a fallen race, one of the literally countless shapes that the cross of temptation takes. Being tempted toward a vice is not a vice itself, as even Our Lord was tempted.

Then there was the matter of whether or not such a temptation can, or even needs to be, expelled entirely. “Prayed, willed or even married away,” as some believe. Elizabeth Scalia writes,

I have a theory that our gay brothers and sisters are, in fact, planned, loved-into-being “necessary others,” and that they are meant to show us something of God from a perspective that we cannot otherwise broach. I suspect art is a part of it. I do not presume to guess what attractions Michelangelo felt, but I could not view his stunning work throughout the Vatican and in Rome without recalling a quip someone (I believe Camille Paglia) once made, that when gays were closeted and presumably less active sexually, their energies had been subsumed into creating transcendent, living, time-smashing masterpieces. Now that they were “out”, said the wag, their art was mundane, mostly unmemorable, often lazy and insubstantial.

I know I am entering deep and destructive currents by even daring to swim here, but homosexual questions are all around us—gay marriage, certainly is at the forefront (and there again, we may actually have some instruction from Christ, in Matthew 19) but there is also the issue of recognizing the many homosexuals in our church who are excellent, joyful priests, faithful to their vows and their flocks—and they are questions begging for temperate, reasonable and loving dialogue.

Elizabeth, who wonderfully states that gays are “loved into being,” focuses mainly on homosexual influence in art, and I agree with her. But I would press further with the belief that people with SSA are called to celibacy, towards something even more noble. I propose that [y’all, this is where I take a deep breath and baricade myself behind my computer screen] many men have SSA because they are called to be priests. Of course, I’m not saying all of them are– I wouldn’t like it if I, a single girl, were told that since I may never get married, ought to just become a nun. The single life is a vocation as well as the married and religious life. I’m just saying that it fits.

The issue I’m tackling now is that I have to stand here, with a firm grip on what I believe now: that SSA is real, intentional by God, but a call to celibacy. How can I, an ignorant little straight girl, tell anyone else, “Sorry, but you’re just going to have to deal with it or burn in hell.” And yet, I’m Catholic and to pretend I believe otherwise would be hypocritical and dishonest, so I might as well just say it. [UPDATE: Believe you me, I want there to be some kind of a loophole, but Matthew 19, as Elizabeth cited, makes the situation pretty clear.]

I am trying not to sound as though I pity celibate gays. Perhaps I don’t know the troubles of Catholics with SSA, but as a young, single, Catholic girl, I’m no stranger to celibacy or the struggle that goes with that, and the discipline it demands to not even let your thoughts wander into dangerous territory. But celibacy is not the worst state to be in. In fact, St. Paul would argue that lifelong celibacy creates a climate in the soul that is perfect for obtaining heaven, and St. John Chrysostom says:

…celibacy is, as we said, an imitation of the angels. Therefore, virginity is as much more honorable than marriage, as the angel is higher than man.

But why do I say angel? Christ, Himself, is the glory of virginity…

So it’s entirely likely that the soul of a celibate gay man could be in better shape than a straight, married man’s. And celibacy is something not only catholic gays are bound to, but also single heterosexuals.

Furthermore, to pity them seems to imply that their SSA is the beginning and end of their being. Or really, that anyone’s sexuality is all there is to know. While theirs is a cross I can’t begin to imagine carrying, God never sends anyone one too heavy to walk with.

Catholic as a Cup of Coffee

Buzzed on my third cup of coffee right now, (and considering draining the last of the now-lukewarm coffee left of this morning’s pot into my cup) I find my thoughts on the drink turning philosophic. Though it might be more accurate to say that my thoughts are zipping between writing a few words here,  compulsively refreshing facebook, and reading webcomics, which is not my style. Normally if I want to write about something, I just type away until I’m done, while today I feel like a squirrel with ADD.  I’m not sure if this flies in the face of the claim that caffeine gives you more focus or if it proves it because I CANFOCUSONEVERYTHINGALLATONCE… LIKE… SOME SUPERHERO THAT CAN FOCUS ON A LOT OF THINGS.  But it’s no surprise that coffee makes a person think, as coffee houses have been attributed as the birthplaces of new, often revolutionary ideas and philosophies since the bean was first introduced to that side of the Mediterranean.

The purpose of coffee houses as a place to hold intellectual discussion has changed little since their introduction, though now it’s college students writing theses and holding study groups and anthropology majors discussing last night’s NPR program from behind plastic lenses,  instead of bearded men smoking pipes discoursing over the new philosophies proposed by that Hobbes fellow.

Coffee found its true home in America, though, when it was brought over in the 1700s, and really became a symbol of independence from England by becoming the official substitute for tea during the Revolution.  When I think of coffee drinkers, I don’t think of Europeans sitting on outdoor patios sipping espresso in tiny cups.  I think of construction workers carrying thermoses, and hurried office workers in suits and ties.  I think of stained mugs growing cold on a messy desk and my drowsy, Californian grandmother in the morning, sitting on the porch in her robe, smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of black liquid that, during the time of these memories, made me wrinkle my nose and wonder how a person could stand to sip something that so closely resembled mud in looks and in taste. 

But the thing I really wanted to say about coffee is that it’s the official (I hereby decree it) drink of Catholics. Yeah, yeah, it was discovered by Islamic monks.  But if it hadn’t been for dear Pope Clement VIII,  it may have been forever confined to the regions of North Africa due to over-zealous Christians who pronounced it “Satan’s drink” because of its connection to Islam.  After trying it himself, His Holiness announced the drink so delicious as to be “baptized” making coffee the only beverage I know to be an actual member of the Mystical Body of Christ.

At least, I think that was the point I was getting at.   It’s actually been about three hours since I started this post, and, excuse me but, I need another cup of coffee…

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Help with Inspiration

“I don’t really do inspirational,” I said to my office mate, heavy air quotes on the word “inspirational.”  Days before, he had recommended “The Help,”  a recent book about the lives of black women who worked for white, Southern families in the 1960s.  

Running dangerously low on reading material, and trusting Tom’s taste in books, as love of literature seemed to be a main component of what we have in common, I ran to Border’s soon after (hot button topic today, for me, or what?) specifically to buy this book.  I was disappointed to find that, judging by the back-of-the-book reviews and summary,  and from flipping through the pages to get a feel for the author’s style, that it was just too… “inspirational.”  It was the kind of book Oprah (God rest her soul*) gave away at show tapings, and I don’t say that just because it’s a book about black women.  It had lines that were written specifically, it seemed, to be quoted in a facebook status. 

I walked out of Border’s with “The Disappearing Spoon,” a book about the Periodic Table.

Now, I’m not exactly a cynic, despite having a mean sarcastic streak and a proclivity toward dark humor.  And I’m told I can be a touch insensitive.  But as I told Tom,  if I need to be told something is inspirational, then it probably isn’t.  

What I’m talking about, I only just realize as I sit here, in fact, is the inspiration that is superficial.  It’s easy to inspire people by telling the story of strong women who rose triumphant above their station, as I’m sure they did, in the end of the book.  Or maybe they didn’t, like the many who suffered continued oppression even after the civil rights movement, but certainly, by the end of the book, there was some form of personal triumph of love and friendship that is expected in the end of a New York Times Bestseller of its type, and in that, alone, inspiration is easy to find.

But I was wrong to say I don’t “do” inspiration.  I love it when art inspires me, and knocks me out with the strong, but inutterable realization that I just saw or read something important.  I like the kinds of books whose inspiration “washes over me,” which are the words Tom assigned to my preference.  I’m inspired by words that show me the way towards the author’s intentions, then leave you grasping at air looking for a way to describe exactly what it is, instead of spoiling the ending for me by telling me what it is outright.  A slow dawning of the mind, like a sunrise. An inspired essence, rather than an inspired sentence.  I want to be inspired, but not in quite so many words.

 

*I know that Oprah isn’t dead.  But try telling that to her 15-20 million daily viewers with an O-shaped void in their daytime tv playlist.

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Leila Was Robbed

Surprisingly, I have so many ideas for posts that I actually had to write them down so as to not forget them. I wasn’t intending to write another Sedevacantist post so soon after the last, but this post Leila, author of Little Catholic Bubble, has her story of “reversion” called, “I Was Robbedthat I thought was worth sharing. The thing is, I agree with her 100% on every single accusation and observation she has made regarding post-Vatican II Catholicism. And because I went to a Novus Ordo Catholic school as a youngster before being pulled out and home schooled, some of the things she talks about are things I witnessed firsthand.

I agree with her, but I guess I take it a step further by rejecting the entire institution that produced this generation of Catholic clergy that are driving people out of the Church. [As I say that, a little voice in my head nods and says, “Mm. Matt 7:16.”] I have a hard time understanding the people who see the problems, and yet stand behind the men who, if not entirely condoning it, do not entirely reject it, and do little to stop such heinous errors.

At any rate, and no matter where I believe her conclusion that, in my mind falls somewhat short of the mark, her story made me go, “Yes! Exactly. Now, why don’t you come visit my Latin Mass?”

UPDATE:

I thought I should mention, especially so as to not scandalize any sedevacantist readers that at one point, she does say:

Catholics — be they priests, bishops, religious, theologians or laymen — who do not profess loyalty to the Holy Father and the Magisterium should have the integrity to identify themselves as Protestants, for that is what they are, i.e. they exist in a state of protest against the Roman Catholic Church.

I suspect that she is referring to the liberals, but I thought I’d throw it out there that, in case she is referring to Sedevacantists, or if anyone thinks that that is applicable to us, that we are still not in protest against the Roman Catholic Church. We are in protest against what many believe is the Roman Catholic Church, and we will certainly profess loyalty to the Holy Father, if ever one is once again seated in the Chair of St. Peter.

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E-books are Kindling the book-burning fire

I was looking for a place to kill time for the hour I had between my day job at the lawfirm and my part time job. I couldn’t go home, as home at the time was a half hour away and by the time I got there, I would have just enough time to unlock the front door before I had to step back out and start driving back to town.

“I just need somewhere to sit,”   I said into my cell phone.  Short on money, coffee shops were to be avoided, as coffee drinking is one of my more expensive vices.  Restaurants, as well, usually required some kind of purchase before letting you use their tables.  Malls opportuned window shopping, which I’ve learned to appreciate, but malls are crowded and loud.   I was starting to feel a bit orphaned until I reached the corner of 72nd and Dodge, a corner possessing both a Borders and a Barnes and Noble.  A book store is another dangerous place for my wallet,  but the heat index was climbing above 100 degrees, so I decided to take my chances and parked.

I was, of course, reasoning all of this aloud to my friend on the other line. 

“It’s too bad all the bookstores are going to close; then where will people go in these situations?” he asked.

I stopped in my tracks.  This was news to me.

“Yeah, places like Borders and Barnes and Noble are all going to shut down. What with tablets, readers… Kindles, you know… Real books don’t make enough money anymore.”

I shrieked with exhasperation.  I’ve never liked electronic readers.  Sure, as I tried to stuff a fifth book into my two-book-tops-sized purse, I mused about how much easier it would be to be able to have my entire library–a seven-foot-tall bookshelf, stuffed to bursting– with me at all times. I would never have toagonize over whether I wanted to read Thomas Sowell or Stephanie Meyer again!

But the prioritizing that having limited book-bag space requires is almost integral to a serious reader’s experience.  The more you have to discern, the less likely you’ll be to waste your time on trashy, $4 paperback romance novels.  It separates the wheat from the chaff, or the Faulkner’s from the Harlequins.

Besides, there’s something about a book.  It’s a realness. A comfort in the smell, and the earmarked pages, and its perfect, user-friendly design.  It’s a whole world that folds between into a compact rectangle.  There’s a weight to it that helps you connect with the weight of the words inside. 

 Rarely having the money for new books, the used books I picked up from Poor Richard’s, a secondhand bookstore in my hometown, often had these worn qualities which assured me that someone loved that book, and studied it intensely.  Quotes are underlined, pages are dog-earred, notes are scribbled in the margins.  My used copy of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel has a note penciled on the yellowing blank page in the back about the previous reader’s own depression.  I have countless books with notes from parents, aunts, uncles and friends that I don’t know in the front covers of books that were once given as gifts.  This might bother some people, but not me.  I have never had a librarian’s reverence for a pristine page. 

There’s a used bookstore in downtown Omaha that is a maze of stacked towers of the written word, in no discernable order.  Buried in the middle, barely visible, is the store keeper’s desk, covered with bits of paper and more stacks of almanacs and novels.  The smell is of dust and outdated encyclopedias. I’m sure you could spend days there and continue to find something you’d never seen before.

On the other hand, new books have that crackling sound in their spine when you first open them, like something dormant waking up that welcomes you to stretch them out and encourages you to lay them open with their spine up.  Inside is crisp black and white.  While old books have the feel of a story that’s been told and repeated, new books have an air of anticipation, like it’s been waiting for someone to tell its story to. 

Today, when I was checking Drudge Report and saw this story,  I hope you’ll forgive my sounding melodramatic, but I felt like I was reading about a dying friend.  Bookstores, like the homes of friends, are somewhere to go when you have no where to go.  Books, and their homes are where I’ve gone to lose myself, as an escape from loneliness, homesickness and depression, or just plain ol’ boredom.  Running your fingers over the titles on the shelves often seems an intimate gesture.  If I had the money, I think the amount I would spend in bookstores would not only be enough to help Border’s out of the hole, it would fund the opening of several branches.

I’m not one to denounce technology.  I’m positively glued to my iPhone,  and human scientific progress and ingenuity is something that often leaves me in awe.  Were I to write my own wedding vows, I may or may not use the song Kip wrote for LaFawnduh to sing for my new husband [Yes, I love technologyyyy, but not as much as you, you see, but I still love technologyyy, always and foreverrrr].   Not being particularly computer-savvy, many things about my little PC still leave me befuddled, but I can recognize a good thing when I see it.   E-books are not one of those things. To me, e-books belong in the same technological category as human cloning and eugenic studies– I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

I don’t care if we have a Fahrenheit 451-style nationwide book burning– I won’t be buying a Kindle.

On the plus side,  Border’s liquidation sale should supply me with more than enough reading material to last me through the printed paper apocalypse.

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Blogging for the “Catacomb Rebellion”

I always feel unsatisfied when bloggers blog about blogging, and yet, that is probably what the first of my posts will be.

Catholic blogging, for me, always seemed like something I could never do.   As it is, Catholics are low on the radar, with only barely a voice in mainstream media.  Sure, I guess we have  Stephen Colbert (have you ever watched his Catholic Bender?  Hilarious!) but he helped get Obama in office, so c’mon. 

And frankly, until relatively recently, anyway, I didn’t really enjoy Catholic blogs, myself.   I didn’t think that, were I a secularist, I’d come away from it any more informed on Catholic teaching, or more warmed to the religion that so many mistakenly think is harsh, judgmental, inscrutible and yet, paradoxically, for simpletons.  I was looking for something earthy and real, that made the Catholic Church look like the reasonable, rational, timeless Entity that it is.  The ones I found were jargon-happy, seemingly written for Catholics alone, who already had at least the basics down.  Which is fine.  Those have their place, but it wasn’t what I was looking for, which was something that would showcase the intellect behind our beliefs, and that yes, we really, really believe them with our minds, as well as our hearts. 

And those were mainstream Catholic blogs–as mainstream as anything Catholic gets– written by members of the Conciliar Church who wept with joy at JPII’s beatification.  I couldn’t imagine writing a blog that focused on what I believed as a Catholic and expect it to get much attention, except from the people who, though agreed with me at least as far as the Papacy was concerned, sometimes had other misinformed, small minded beliefs that embarrassed me.  I can remember the sputterings of protest that ensued when I called some of my friends’ attention to the fact that Jesus would have looked like a Middle Eastern man and not the fair-faced European of our Renaissance paintings.   

Now, there have been books– books!– explaining the Sedevacantist position.  I’ll hopefully get a chance to address some of them individually and more extensively in later posts, but I’ll try to summarize.  In short, and in layman’s terms, Sedevacantism–derived from the Latin for ‘The Seat is Vacant” in referrence to the Chair of Peter in Rome– is the belief that the popes and priests that practiced and spread the errors and heresies of the Second Vatican Council, and participated in the further abuses and heresies that it paved the path for, excommunicated themselves by default.  And if the pope excommunicated himself,  we were on our own, a Body without a visible Head.  In the eyes of the Conciliar Church (the Church that recognizes Benedict XVI and a few of his predecessors as popes), we are in schism. 

 The main difference, along with the endless list of satellite and effectual differences, is that Vatican II was in error when it made changes in the Mass, in spite of the fact that in 1570, Pope Pius V made the Mass as it was then, the standard, as it remained until the 1960s, when Vatican II went into effect.  Sedevacantists attend Mass in its old, Latin form, untouched as it was intended to be.

Ironically, I’ve found that non-Catholics are more willing to accept this explanation than practicing mainstream Catholics.  Due to the objectivity that comes from being an outsider, they can more readily say, “Of course, if it goes against your religion to change something as fundamental as the ceremony it revolves around, and the punishment for changing such a thing would be expulsion from said religion, well then your position makes perfect sense!”  

Our camp is small, and needy.  When I’m in a romantic mood, I feel I can identify a little bit with the Roman martyrs of the early Church, at least in the sense that they are quietly rebelling against the “norm,” hidden underground, misunderstood and marginally unpopular, if known of at all.  The Catholics who do know about us have a warped idea of what we believe, some viewing us as a cult, or opposed to the papacy as an institution.

One of the most–what’s the word I’m looking for?– edifying… conversations about my Faith, for me, was the first time I talked to Catholic columnist, Max Lindenman (now, happily, a friend, and one I will be citing occasionally) who writes for Patheos. He had heard of sedevacantism, but had probably never actually talked to a person who actually held the view, and had certainly never talked to one he believed had any sense.  One of the first questions he asked me upon finding out this little quirk of mine, was if I had a problem with his Jewish ethnicity.  When I laughed and revealed that I, myself, had Jewish roots, he was surprised as he had always believed sedevacantist were anti-Semitic.  After setting a few more nasty and misinformed rumors straight for him, he generously conceded my sanity and had interest in things about sedevacantism that I had been taking for granted for years. 

As I’ve explored more, I’ve found that I read more Catholic blogs nowadays than secular ones, and have found in them the down-to-earth intelligence I craved, at least in the most basic Truths of the Faith, and only sometimes do I have to skip over either a reference to one of the most recent “popes,” who now sit in Vatican City, or some new Novus Ordo-y practice that makes me wince.  While those blogs have made me realize what I have in common with Conciliar Catholics, they’ve also emphasized the silence coming from my side, a silence I hope to fill once in a while.

UPDATE

To any readers I may have or attain later on, I ardently urge you to ask me questions about Sedevacantism. It’s much easier to address things on a smaller scale than try to capture the whole scope.

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Screaming into the Void [An Introduction to Blog #364]

I’ve started and promptly abandoned umpteen blogs.   I’ve had whiny, early-teen emo blogs,  stream of consciousness blogs, what-I-thought-were-high-minded blogs… I really thought my last one would take off and I’d be really good about keeping it running and I’d post thoughtful insights about the world, etc., etc. 

Well, I wrote two posts.   Neither of them were very good, and I soon realized a change in direction (and color scheme) was needed, but being the type that has a hard time changing midstream, I redirected my opinionated spiels back to Facebook comments while I watched everyone else’s infuriating opinions take their official place on the blaggosphere.

In my mind, I had plenty to say, but not really.   Anyone can start a blog, and there are many really good ones, (I am a marathon-reader of blogs) but many, many more reallyreallyreally bad ones.  I didn’t want to risk finding that I could produce nothing more than the kind that just blended in with the rest of those who are just screaming into the void that is the internet abyss, where inarticulate and poorly-spelled rants go to die, unread, which is probably just as well.  Was I really worthy to take up one of the few IP addresses left on the internet?  And would I be able to satisfactorily put my thoughts into readable words?

So I watched enviously from the sidelines as friends of mine articulately and intelligently bore their views–which I often disagreed with– for the general public’s scrutiny.  I was just a lowly commenter on their facebook page, proclaiming my principled dissent for far too few than my potential for monologue deserved.   And like everyone else (come on, admit it) I thought my opinions were waaaay more well-reasoned and balanced than anyone else’s.  Of course, that sounds narcissistic.  But let’s be honest, here: If I didn’t think my opinion was better than yours, I wouldn’t have started a blog. :) 

But you don’t have to agree with me.  In fact, I am a contradiction in that while I crave approval, when I actually get it, I stiffen uncomfortably and look askance at the speaker’s motives.   And there’s nothing I like more than a good debate.