Merton writes that we won't find the likes of the desert fathers and mothers today---not even in Skete. What the fathers did had not been done before. With them "you have the characteristic of a clean break with a conventional, accepted social context in order to swim for one's life into an apparently irrational void."
The examples and sayings of the Desert Fathers have become themselves conventional stereotypes, models for the accepted social context of monasticism which is no longer shocking.
"We are no longer able to notice their fabulous originality," writes Merton. "We cannot do exactly what they did. But we must be as thorough and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains, and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, to find our true selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty and use it to build, on earth, the Kingdom of God. We need to learn from these men of the fourth century how to ignore prejudice, defy compulsion, and strike out fearlessly into the unknown."