CONVERSATION IS THE CORNESTONE of civilization, the very essence of culture and community. Face-to-face talk is the way humans have always connected with each other, from the ceremonial fires of tribal villages and the salons of Paris to the book clubs, bowling leagues, street-corner chats, and pillow talk of modern-day America.Yet, as the pace and decibel level of society increases, engaged conversation is in danger of being crowded out from the center of our lives. Almost everywhere you turn today, there is a flashing TV screen, ringing cell phone, blaring music, or a friend hurrying away to her next appointment. This represents more than just missed opportunities for a chat. It also means diminished prospects for important ideas and projects. As Margaret J. Wheatley explains in our cover story, all significant social change arises from people sitting down to talk about what matters to them.In the wake of September 11 and more outbursts of violence around the world, we need to talk now more than ever. And that’s exactly what compels Wheatley, Conversation Café founder Vicki Robin, and others highlighted in this section to find new ways to cut through the clatter and get us all talking again. Good conversation is not only satisfying, it’s the first step toward changing the world.