In a long section bashing the idea that:
- fresh & new = good
- old & established = bad
Merton spends most of his time differentiating between the good (which he calls tradition) and the bad (convention) about old and established ways of living. The immediate context is liturgy, church structure and activity, but it can be applied to just about anything.
Tradition, which is always old, is at the same time ever new because it is always reviving – born again in each new generation, to be lived and applied in a new and particular way. Convention is simply the ossification of social customs. The activities of conventional people are merely excuses for not acting in a more integrally human way. Tradition nourishes the life of the spirit; convention merely disguises its interior decay.
-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, Ch.8 Sec.16