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Love NOLA: When it comes to violence, do we want to listen?

This week NolaVie and WWNO radio are partnering on a series called Voices on Violence, comprised of one-on-one interviews with a diverse group of residents about quality of life issues in New Orleans. We hope you'll sign on and tune in. Here, Brett Will Taylor offers some thoughts about the thinking behind the series.

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

Brett Will Taylor (photo by Jason Kruppa)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the difference between hearing someone … and listening to them.

For example, are you still reading this column … or did the word “listening” remind you that you haven’t listened to your mother’s voice mail?  From two weeks ago.

Which is why you are now calling your mother. Rather than, you know, reading my column.

It’s OK. I don’t take it personally.

We hear…and see…and do…a lot every day.  A University of California study found that Americans typically multi-task our way through 11.8 hours of information each day. We half-listen to the radio while we half-talk on the phone, half-Tweet, half-check email and half-wait for the GPS to tell us where to make our next turn.

Wait.  That’s three too many halves.

Exactly.

We hear a lot, but are we actually listening?  And what are we listening for?

To be told what we already know?  Or is there any room in the gridlocked hard drive of our mind to actually consider a new idea?  What about one that completely contradicts a long held opinion or belief that we just know is true?

These may seem like mountainous questions when you consider some of the molehill aspects of our daily life.  Who cares if, no matter what you hear today, you refuse to return to a certain restaurant….because you had an awful meal there….three years ago.

But what about the more pressing issues of our lives?  The ones that really are mountains.

What about violence?   When it comes to violence in our city, isn’t it time to step out of our comfort zones, to put away our pre-conceived boxes of this demographic group and that one, to set aside our neighborhood—and political--feuds and actually listen to what each other is saying?

Next week, NolaVie and WWNO are going to give you that chance...to listen...through a new series called Voices on Violence.  Voices on Violence let’s everyday New Orleanians bring their everyday voices to the seemingly everyday instance of violence.

Working on this series has taught me a lot about hearing…and listening.

I have heard a woman whose son was murdered two years ago this past Easter talk about how there are days, even now, when she has to call in sick, because her heart is so heavy she literally cannot get up off the couch.  Her co-workers only hear that she’s taking a day off to sit on the couch.  They do not listen to the anguish of a mother whose heart is still broken.

I have heard an Old Metairie resident, who first reached out because of my column about a gunfight on my street, tell me how she is so beaten down by story…after story…after story of crime in New Orleans, that she’s seriously thinking of moving.  I heard her, but I did not want to listen.  I did not want to listen because her words were pushing all the wrong buttons in me.  The buttons that were feverishly trying to distract me from the whispers in my own head, my own heart.  The whispers that were saying what she was saying:   Maybe it is time to leave.

I don't know.  I'm still listening.

Voices on Violence will run on-air at 89.9 FM from June 3-7, at approximately 4:45 p.m. There will be a corresponding story each day on nolavie.com.

You may agree or disagree with the voices you hear. But I do hope you’ll listen.

I also hope you’ll add your voice by sending your own thoughts on living with violence in New Orleans to [email protected]. Rest assured, no matter what you say, we’ll listen, too.

Brett Will Taylor is a southern Shaman who writes Love NOLA weekly for NolaVie. Visit his site at ashamansjourney.net  Tweet him at @bwtshaman or email him at [email protected]

Brett Will Taylor is a southern storyteller whose previous column, Love NOLA, appeared weekly on NolaVie.  He now shares his stories at Brett Will Taylor: A Storyteller and his Stories. Follow him @bwtshaman.