The Sound of Listening

Brett Moss is gear & technology editor.

If the folks behind the National Day of Listening, scheduled for Nov. 26 (the day after Thanksgiving) were really serious, it would be the National Day of Silence, since if everyone is listening, then no one is talking.

Of course one might still hear the birds singing, crickets chirping and the refrigerator humming along … Does “listening” to a CD or an iPod count?

And that would make for very bad radio.

But the gang promoting the National Day of Listening aren’t quite so literal. Their goal is to encourage people to record other, everyday people discussing their lives. They started pushing the concept in 2008.

The hard-hearted amongst us might argue that recording the mundanity of everyday life is rather boring and, well, mundane or unexceptional. We already live that life, so we don’t need to be listening to it. It might make an interesting school history or social studies project for the kids, but as an annual activity it may be a little lacking. Or perhaps it is the fulfillment of the Warholian “15 Minutes of Fame” that we feel we are all due.

Of course one could also point out that talking with one’s neighbors does engender a degree of civility and neighborliness not always seen. So maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all. And I know that the folks who love what StoryCorps does (our editor among them) will find my thoughts on this snarky. (StoryCorps states that its mission is “to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”)

StoryCorps founder and MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient Dave Isay said: “The National Day of Listening, which coincides with Black Friday, traditionally the largest shopping day of the year, provides a meaningful alternative to holiday consumerism and proves that simply listening to one another is the least expensive and most meaningful gift we can give.”

By the way, speaking of holiday consumerism, you can buy Dave’s book (makes a great Mother’s Day gift!), at the National Day of Listening Web site. (It should also be pointed out that Black Friday has rarely ever been the largest shopping day of the year.)

But I’ve digressed. The National Day of Listening works in partnership with NPR, and some NPR presenters will provide their own interviews. The National Day of Listening Web site has instructions and tools for participating.

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