A Few Screws Loose

A Few Screws Loose


Cognitive Dissonance



Twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, I haul out one of my extension ladders, fill my back pockets with various wrenches and screwdrivers, and venture up onto our log cabin roof. My purpose is always the same; tighten any loose nuts and bolts on our solar array and conduct a visual inspection of the roof itself.

In the old days they called this type of activity “preventive maintenance” and I always find something that needs tightening or adjusting on the solar array. Nothing major, mind you, just a screw loose here and there which might cause a problem sometime down the road. A quarter or half turn with a 5/8” box end wrench or 5/16” hex key and all’s right in Cog’s solar universe.

Loose screws and fittings are known structural vulnerabilities when generating power from sunlight. The constant heating and cooling of the aluminum frame, combined with high winds out here on the edge of the mountain, present minor challenges easily overcome if one is proactive and not afraid of heights.

Well, not too afraid of heights. I admit to being a little queasy until I get my sea legs properly adjusted. Mrs. Cog, on the other hand, does not like me on the roof and lets me know her displeasure every fifteen minutes or so when she appears outside looking for blood and guts spilled from a fallen Cog. In truth I don’t blame her for her concern. I’m not as young as I once was and balance is no longer my strong suit.

Once every nut and bolt has been hand checked/tightened I turn my attention to the roof itself. I was a residential home builder back in the 70’s and 80’s and I’m quite familiar with all the techniques used in home construction. While construction materials change a bit with time and innovation, structural fundamentals have remained pretty much the same.

That said, all the homes I built back then (in the northeast) employed asphalt shingles for weather protection. Metal roofs were a rare animal in my world and almost exclusively used in commercial and/or industrial applications. Here in southwestern Virginia the opposite holds true. Many homes around here sport metal roofs of various styles, colors and manufacture.

In fact I was so surprised by this phenomenon six years ago I asked the realtor, who was showing us what would eventually be our new home, why metal roofs were so common around here. I’ll never forget his response because it made me laugh out loud. After hearing my question he paused for a moment, then looked me straight in the eye while saying, “Because they have better salesmen”.

It was too funny…one salesman recognizing the innate brilliance of another. While I suspect there might be other reasons for the common use of metal roofs on residential properties in these parts, since I would only be guessing I’ll stick with the realtor’s explanation.

While walking the roof looking for obvious problems such as faulty rubber boot seals around vent pipes or loose metal panel corners, I was shocked to discover a (metal panel) screw loose, backed off from its seat by at least a half inch. That was one very loose screw by any measure. A quick survey of the roof uncovered at least three more screws backed off from its seat by a similar distance.

Recalling my last roof inspection in the spring, I’m willing to bet the house those screws were not in this condition. I find it hard to believe I would have missed such an obvious fault in several locations. What the hell was going on?

Initially I assumed the plywood underlayment or rafter itself was defective and the screw had lost its purchase, similar to a hole in wood so damaged the threads of the screw no longer make good contact and the screw is easily pulled out. But when I tightened the screw by hand using an adjustable wrench, it felt solid and seated firmly to the metal panel. It did not spin freely as would be experienced if the threads had been stripped.

After some thought I surmised normal expansion and contraction, combined with high winds from two near miss hurricanes this summer (Florence and Michael) did their dirty work on our roof. A quick check of nearby screws convinced me I needed to check and possibly re-tighten every single screw on the roof. While it could be competently argued I personally have a few screws loose, my roof would not suffer the same fate. Several hours, and one aching back later, the task was complete.

Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Bottom line; if I had not been on the roof looking for problems, the first inkling of a (now serious) problem would have been water spilling onto our bed located directly below the loose screw and soon to be missing or damaged roof panel.

While engaged in the repetitive task of bending over to tighten a screw or two, them moving on to the next set of screws and doing the same, I began to ponder what else was loose in my life psychologically and emotionally speaking. An ongoing and invasive self assessment should be, and actually is, a part of my weekly routine these days. This was not always the case in the past.

This inner examination works hand in hand with a dictum by Socrates I try to embody. “An unexamined life is not worth living”, or as I shall more charitably phrase it, an unexamined life is not much of a life at all. Of course, it really comes down to our definition of what constitutes a good “life”. For some, the good life is endless dining out and the money to pay for it. For others it might be four to six months of tailgating and front row seats on the 50 yard line.

Ultimately, because so much of life is composed of individual preferences and perspectives, only we as individuals can decide what is good or bad for our own situation. But as more and more of us squeeze ourselves into large cities and urban areas, many of our choices are already selected by others, leaving us little more than to choose between the rock and the hard place.

At least those that herd us into our relatively (for now) comfortable cages are kind enough to call it freedom of choice.

While Mrs. Cog assists me in burnishing my exterior, I alone am responsible for conducting frequent and fearless check-ups from the neck up. If I’m unwilling to actively search within for cognitive dissonances, false premises, herd mentality and sloppy thinking, to assume my mind and spirit will continue to function properly, or even grow, is the height of egoic narcissism and abject denial.

Unfortunately our cultural conditioning has instructed us to believe once we exit school, life’s learning phase is over and the doing phase has begun. If further education is needed, it’s purely for technical or career purposes. Sadly nothing could be further from the truth or more detrimental to our health and well being.

Setting aside (for this article at least) a more thorough examination of the question why this is the way it is (for example, a technically trained but not self aware population is more easily controlled/corralled) the constantly promoted act of mindless consumption in all aspects of our lives (food, drugs, work, sex, electronics, media and 10,000 other ‘things’) is a recipe for cultural suicide.

Can you say Seppuku? I ask because ritual self disembowelment is exactly what is occurring; the conscious and deliberate participation in a painful suicide, only slower and more deliberate if one can actually imagine that type of scenario. In practice most cannot or will not, for if we did we would either go mad from the shock of self awareness or change our individual and collective behavior to some degree or another.

Never underestimate the lengths to which “We the People” will go to maintain our denial. I say this with great confidence and authority based upon my own personal experience and that of many others. The last five years of my suicidal alcoholism, culminating in rehab in November of 1989, still shocks me to the core when I reflect upon it. Madness is the only explanation for my behavior back then.

And madness perfectly explains the slow motion suicide “We the People” are presently engaged in. We, and in this case I refer to the collective “we”, have some screws seriously loose and are well past the point where a little preventive maintenance can take care of the problem.

Nothing short of major surgery is needed if we are to have any chance of a full recovery. After three generations of fully immersed television/media programming by others who do not have our best interest in mind, we have effectively lost the capacity for independent thought and critical thinking. The television and various other media sources tell us what to think and why, perfectly tuned to our own customized ideology. The genius behind this mental manipulation is we select our own propaganda, thereby legitimizing it as “real” truth.

Over the last few years/decades, at some point each of us has wondered what in the hell is going on in this country. Why is everyone so uptight, anxious and angry? Rarely, if ever, do we look within ourselves to discover our own participation in the overall madness. Because we believe our own minds’ embedded propaganda, that echo chamber we happily fill with confirming and affirming snippets of fact, fiction and other people’s propaganda, from our own narcissistic perspective everyone else is wrong and we are right.

Since this psychological phenomenon is universal, we demand everyone else change while we declare ourselves to be blameless, even innocent victims, of other’s rigid thinking and selfish actions. It’s them, not me, is our smug declaration when viewing the outer madness, completely and happily oblivious to the raging demons within.

I understand the consensus belief is that the “smart” move remains to go along to get along; that the odds are higher we will meet less resistance and possibly gain greater “rewards” if we move with the herd rather than against the flow. But isn’t it rather hypocritical of us to demand change in the herd while maintaining our own beliefs and perceived self interest by remaining in sync and stationary?

Of course, we have convinced ourselves this is not the case, that we are free and independent of the mob’s madness and thus not responsible, least of all for ourselves. One of the commanding illusions promoted by the nanny state status quo (via its sycophant and subservient mainstream media) is the only way forward is the path presented; more money, more debt, more war, more media, more police and much more government.

These are bald faced lies promoted by those who benefit the most from our obedient and willing compliance, basically those who control and print the money, create and profit from the debt, make and supply war, manipulate the mainstream (and increasingly alternative) media, manage the police and occupy positions of political, corporate, judicial and academic power.

While you and I didn’t make the system, we do live in it. And increasingly that system is turning against those who once supported and benefited from it as it eats its most productive assets, its citizens, in order for the few to live in abject luxury just a little while longer. Everyone possesses an entitlement mentality, with the only difference being what we feel entitled to.

I am not predicting doom and gloom or even apocalypse now. What I am doing is simply pointing out the obvious. Even a casual read of modern history shows ideology, politics, socioeconomic systems and even nations rise and fall over relatively short periods of time. And NO nation is impervious to these forces, including America.

It’s long past time for some preventive maintenance, and even major repairs, beginning within ourselves.



Cognitive Dissonance

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