Given the death and devastation visited on this city, this country, by malign, religiously brainwashed nihilists-the shock we feel, the suspicion that this is the true beginning of the twenty-first century and that our modern life as a Western democratic republic has made a sharp turn in the direction of the unknowable-perhaps it may seem as if our theme this morning, our discussion of art and its importance, is rendered quaint or even ridiculous. What is the point of sitting alone in a room and writing. Why are actors on a stage of any importance. What is any art but playtime, indulgence, mere embellishment on the deadly business of life, when the voices of singers can be stopped in their throats by the sickening thunder of collapsing skyscrapers?