Nobody Drops A Rock At Midnight.
Did Cavemen Celebrate New Years?
If I’ve learned one powerful lesson during my 65 years on this planet, it is to lead by emphasizing the symbolic. Celebrations reinforce the meaning of an event. New Years is no different. The cave people of our imaginations, holding clubs, fur skins draped diagonally over their shoulders, tending a smoky fire, dragging home a whole carcass to eat for a week, they probably did not know as much. On the flip side, symbolism, like religion or theatre, could have been their most used leadership paradigm before the formation of complex organizations. I am reflecting on meaning, in light of Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal’s Four Frames of Management. Follow me? My Daddy was a cave explorer and I am a symbolic analyst.
One New Years celebration was during a cave survey trip in Flint Ridge, part of Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave system. By the end of December 2020, Cave Research Foundation has surveyed 415 miles and there is still much more to explore. Cave dwellers lived long, long ago. At Mammoth Cave people did not actually live in the cave for extended periods of time, except when the tuberculosis patients were housed there for health reasons. But I am sure that there have been plenty of times that people have rung in the New Year while underground.
On the last day of December in the early 1970s I was there on a cave trip in west central Kentucky. Teamed with my brother Tom Brucker and geologist Carol Hill, who later became an author, expert at explaining both science and scripture. The connection between the two ridges had not been made yet but we at Cave Research Foundation were methodically looking for it.
Shortly after 11:30 pm, at Tom’s urging, we stopped surveying for a break. We each opened our shoulder packs to set up a small pot-luck of tidbits — canned date nut bread, a Milky Way bar broken into bits, and some canned peaches which I slowly carved the lid off of with my tiny opener, an army-issue P38.
Brother Tom was two years older than me. His bright ideas, sometimes the stupidest ones, were actually really fun. Back when we were in high school, we set every clock in the house to create a noisy racket at midnight. So I credit him with this little party during our cave trip.