Bernard Lonergan, one of the great intellectuals of our century, used to speak of something he called differentiated consciousness. For him, that meant a mind that did not think simplistically, namely, which did not divide up the world too quickly into blacks and whites and either/ors. To have a differentiated consciousness is to be able to hold seemingly opposing forces together and see them not as contradictory but as paradox. In such a consciousness there is less either/or and more both/and. As well, the person who has such a mind is able to carry the tension that this kind of paradox creates.

1996 will be a good year, for the world and for the church, if all of us can be a bit more differentiated in our consciousness. Put more simply …

1996 will be a good year if conservatives can be a bit more liberal and liberals can be a bit more conservative. How much easier it would be to have community at every level – political, ecclesial, social – if conservatives would be more open to risk and if liberals would respect more the need for a certain caution.

1996 will be a good year if social justice groups begin to stress more the value of private morality, including sexual ethics, even as various prayer groups and conservative Christians begin to underscore the importance of social justice. Think how rich would be our spirituality if everyone stressed equally both the private and social domain.

1996 will be a good year if those who stress responsibility put just as equal a stress on human rights and those who are so morally and politically righteous about human rights, each time they speak publicly, speak also of the responsibilities concomitant with those rights. Think about the possibility for public discourse if every speaker equally values both rights and responsibilities.

1996 will be a good year if social analysts, schools of psychology, and secular moralists stress more chastity and purity, even as church circles, especially conservative ones, stress sexual passion and sexual enjoyment within marriage. How rich will be that marriage – passion and purity.

1996 will be a good year if men become more sympathetic to the oppression of women even as women become more understanding of the depression of men. In fact, 1996 will be a very good year if both sexes take more to heart Virginia Woolf’s plea that “we adopt an attitude of sympathy towards both sexes, given that life, for both of us, is arduous, difficult, and a perpetual struggle.”

1996 will be a good year if the elite (artists, intellectuals, and theologians) listen more to the poor and the less educated, if the intelligentsia take popular culture more seriously. Conversely, however, improvement here will only happen if, at the same time, the less educated and popular culture takes more seriously what is emanating from the circles of the elite. It was Aristotle who made the statement that a society is healthy when the elite listen to the common folk and the latter return that favour.

1996 will be a good year if liturgists who value so strongly prescribed ritual are more open to creative innovation, even as all liturgical congregations and celebrants respect the place and power of ritual and accept that the liturgy, since it transcends them and belongs to the whole community, is not theirs to do with whatever they like. How good our liturgies could be if we had the same respect for both ritual and creativity.

1996 will be a good year if those groups and individuals who value so highly political correctness would loosen up somewhat, regain their sense of humour, and not make a grandiose ideological drama out of everything. The value of this, however, is contingent upon those who are not hypersensitive becoming considerably more sensitive and less callous to the issues that cause all this hypersensitivity.

1996 will be a good year if the scientific community acknowledges more the importance of poetry, metaphor, and religion, even as artists, poets, and theologians learn the importance of mathematics.

1996 will also be a good year if newspaper columnists are less self-righteous and they live more what they preach.