Listening is one of the key components of human communication. If one properly listens, he may find himself comprehending far more details of any particular conversation, story, movie etc. However, in order to  correctly listen, I have always found that having a clear and concentrated mind tremendously assists in hearing what another is attempting to convey.

In this modern ADHD world of the internet, at times it may be an arduous venture to listen to one another. Generally speaking, if I am conversing with another I attempt to look them in the eyes, as this focus helps sharpen my senses for future recollection of the conversation. One important attribute of listening that is lost upon many, is to not only listen to one’s dialogue, but to also “listen” to said person’s body. Through examining another’s body language, a better understanding of discourse is obtainable. Lastly, one of my preferred methods to ensure that I am listening is to  respond to the other(s) in the conversation. By actually engaging in intercourse (ahem, hopefully in this case the non-sexual kind), one makes mental notes of what others are saying by simply responding properly.

In my opinion, one of the greatest listeners the world has ever seen was a man by the name of Cato the Younger. Cato was a Roman politician who lived from 95 B.C.E. to 46 B.C.E.  At the time, he was noted for his Stoicism, oratory eloquence, tenacity and abhorrence of “the ubiquitous corruption of the period.” Much like the men of Elliot Ness, Cato was in every sense of the word, untouchable. Now, despite all of my adulation of the man, he is most remarkable (in my eyes) for how he listened to a certain someone by the name of Gaius Julius Caesar.

Caesar may have came, saw and conquered, but only Cato listened and saw the man for what he was…an enemy of the republic.

The period was the mid 1st century B.C.E. At the time, Julius Caesar had formed his great triumvirate and was attempting to monopolize his authority over the Roman Empire. As most people are aware, Caesar was an incredibly clever man as well as a phenomenal speaker. Caesar more than capably won the hearts of plebeians and patricians alike with little consequence. However, one individual who did recognize the ever ambitious Caesar’s threat to the Roman Republic, was Cato the Younger. After their many interactions, Cato correctly deduced that Caesar was attempting to install himself as dictator of Rome by listening to both what Caesar did and did not say. When Caesar attempted to campaign for his second consulship, Cato openly challenged Caesar in law. Cato pulled every legal trick and filibuster to prevent Caesar from gaining more power, but in the end was unsuccessful. In one especially foreshadowing instance, Cato opposed a plainly crony act where Caesar gifted public lands to the veteran soldiers of Caesar’s longtime military ally, Pompey. While in the midst of a public speech protesting the act, Cato was dragged to jail by Caesar’s personal bodyguard (furthermore, Caesar would eventually pass this act after bypassing a Senatorial vote).

Unfortunately for Cato, he found himself among few friends despite all of his protests. This would inevitably result in his essential banishment to Cyprus, where he found tremendous success at the semi-gubernatorial position Quaestor pro Praetore. During this time, the triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey and Crassus began to waver and Cato saw this as an opportunity to act to save the republic. First, Cato attempted to be elected consular, but because of his scrupulous honesty lost in the time of rampant fraud and bribery. After failing to achieve his goal, Cato instead attempted to have the Senate relieve Caesar of his proconsularship (a Roman gubernatorial title that among other things grants legal immunity). Because of Cato’s actions, Caesar was forced between returning to Rome as a citizen to await trial or voluntary exile. Instead, Caesar decided to cross the Rubicon and ended what was left of the Roman Republic. Cato would join the civil resistance against Caesar, but as defeat grew imminent, he refused to live in a world dictated by Caesar. In consistency with the end of hope for the Roman Republic, Cato committed suicide in April of 46 B.C.E.

Cato fought valiantly, Cato fought nobly, Cato fought honorably. And Cato died.

In summation, listening is an incredibly powerful tool. It is best accomplished when engaging  oneself in conversation in some shape or form and may require listening “beyond the ears.” However, when properly executed one may be prepared to do anything from renouncing a dictator-to-be to completing a Journalism 102 assignment.

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