The Riddle

Mad Hatter: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”
“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied: “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.

Lewis Carroll

I realize that I still owe you a page on existentialism (rather than a mere post), for it is the most warped concept at Haven. The way that capitalism has hijacked philanthropy, Haven has hijacked existentialism. You can have your grande latte and save the children while you do it. You can have your meaningful existence without ever going out without the safeguards of dissection–without the safeguards of knowing–only we know how to play the master game, only we know how to be aware–only we know how to speak. We have solved the riddle.

The existentialism riddle is unsolvable–that is the whole point.

Today, however, I only leave you with Irvin D. Yalom, and in the future I will put all of the existentialism thoughts together.

The search for meaning, much like the search for pleasure, must be conducted obliquely. Meaning ensues from meaningful activity: the more we deliberately peruse it, the less likely we are to find it.

And Alan Watts:

If the universe is meaningless, so is the statement that it is so. If this world is a vicious trap, so is its accuser, and the pot is calling the kettle black.

Perhaps I write my life as if I were living it and live my life as if I were writing it because I, too, fall prey to this. You can merely ask someone at Haven if they want to go for coffee and they will turn it into a psychodrama where your intentions are put on trial. Dissection is not meaning, nor is it living. And–quite frankly–it is boring.

You cannot have your cake and dissect it too.

The more interesting question is… why would you want to?

Reflection Time

Today I was reflecting on all of the messages I’ve received from Haven. They can all be boiled down to: “if you were a different person, you would be worthy of space…”

My point exactly!

I watched the videos, including of someone I was meant to make a PowerPoint honouring while I was stuck in a closet.

The next time someone’s put in a closet and no one hears them until they start shouting, I hope we don’t then say, “we don’t listen to people who shout!”

My ultimate question is… If I would be worthy if I were someone else, don’t you think I would’ve been that person if I could’ve been?

The leaders made a small group almost entirely of themselves in the summit, even when the topics were diversity, power and dialogue.
No one again is going to be stubborn enough to break through that barrier or to prove that that barrier exists (attempting to break through is the only way to prove its existence, and one canny break through without knowing its existence…)
No one again is going to be this crazy. I am a gift!
And if someone in the future is this crazy… Please give them my number. They’re in for hell. But they probably already know that. Give it to them all the same. A sane person might say, “if you find that person, don’t tell me…”

If anything, I must be successful in life to show that person that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel that’s not owned by Apple. 

You think I’m stubborn because I finally value myself despite you. I think I’m finally free. Freedom comes at a cost, of course… That’s true existentialism.


I am pleased to report that a resolution to this matter has been achieved this week, which means that the hearing scheduled for September 12th in Nanaimo has been cancelled.

They came to their own resolution without me. I don’t know what to say. Cannot end with someone else’s resolution. Their decision will be mailed shortly. The way I came to terms with having the first investigation overturned and doing the whole thing over was that I might be heard–in person. Now there is nothing left to count down to.

I could come up with a lot of platitudes that would go along with this. Something about irony in life versus writing. Something about guilt and innocence and moving on.

But those would go against the entire point which is that sometimes there is no meaning.

According to Haven people, I am unaware, not responsible, uncaring… I got another one of those messages. When their philosophy succeeds, it is by virtue of their philosophy. When it fails, the individual is not good enough.

Frankly, Haven, I got tired of not being good enough because I didn’t fit in your box.

My philosophy may not have an orchestra, jazz hands or even be hugely comforting.

This is true existentialism–there is no meaning. But that doesn’t sell very well. If you are selling any philosophy, that philosophy cannot be existentialism.

True existentialism is that there is no resolution unless you are willing to write one yourself.

But I will stick to my timeline  and remember that this whole madness has created more allies than enemies. Those who turned on me were never really there.

And what does it say about an institution that makes personal attacks in response to complaints?

The Beginning at The End

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

If this were a short story/novella/novel, I would end with this. However, it is not the end yet, the end is in a few days… So just mark it as the end. Every honest ending is only the beginning told differently. Not with a resolution necessarily, but with a higher resolution image. That is my problem, I want the fireworks, The Haven song and cathartic circle, when all writing can offer is a higher resolution image.

So this really should be the end, I just have no self control to put it off. Perhaps you will tell me that I have put it off for too long. I would say that that is an easy thing to say from the outside.

This Facebook conversation occurred February 2016, 2 months before going public. Seems like a lifetime ago. In a sense, it was.

Friend: My question for you, Jill Talbot, is: if I have trouble handling every day life, if I’m not “resilient”, does that mean I’m mentally ill? Or does it mean that society is mentally ill and I have permeable boundaries, unwittingly sucking up this BS.

Me: I’m not sure if this is a hypothetical but for the record, you are resilient. Resilient people struggle.

Firstly, it doesn’t have to be one thing over another. People struggle for all sorts of reasons. My point is not that society is the only factor creating suffering but that we’ve been drawn to the illness narrative because we’ve developed this idea that sick people can be accepted and aren’t responsible.

My point is that we look for the most acceptable culprit for suffering rather than merely accepting people for suffering (not for why they suffer)

I grew up in a world of extroverts where being an introvert was sick or bad.
This is the dichotomy we’ve developed–sick or bad.

That you struggle doesn’t mean that you are sick or weak or that the world is fucked up.

It means you’re human.

And maybe you’re an introvert in a LOUD world of extroverts who are not as smart or sensitive as you are.

Of course not many agree with me. They would rather attach to diagnoses and claim to be scientific because they have brain scans.

That’s my 2 cents… Do with it what you will. I could be the one talking crap, who knows?

Like · Reply · 3 · February 12 at 3:37pm
There are people, also, who claim to agree with everything I have just said but also ended up being more condescending than the mental health system. The problem is when anyone claims to tell you what is wrong with you or how you ought to live. I added this bit here because I’m still too cowardly to post elsewhere as I don’t see any posts that do not worship the people who claim to be on my side. Don’t worship the diagnoses, the anti-psychiatric pseudo-spiritual, they tell the same story with different props. Just live. “To be human is to accept ourselves just as we are, with our own history, and to accept others as they are.” Jean Vanier. One day I will be as brave as you…
Like · Reply · 2 · February 12 at 5:24pm
I realize that I said “just live” as if it were the easiest thing in the world. No one knows better than me that it is not… But I’ve tried all the other ways.
Like · Reply · 1 · February 14 at 8:47pm

Jesus Camp

The followup from the film Jesus Camp provided some responses that seem almost identical. More articulate than I have been. I am still trying to figure out what happened. Let me know if you figure it out. I’m not kidding.

“Was it child abuse? Yes and no, I think they had the best of intentions, but I see it as sick people trying to treat sick people. It’s their coping mechanism for figuring out why we’re alive. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, though, because it allowed me at such a young age to question my existence.”

“They showed us what it meant to really feel deep emotions for life… Some people would say that it was all fake, but when I look back on it, our belief in it had made it real. It really taught me the power of belief.”

– Participant of Jesus Camp 10 years later

“One of the problems with faith-based teaching is it teaches children not to trust their own reason and intuition, undermining their ability to have confidence in their own knowledge and ability to process information. There is a lot of psychological damage that follows when people are trained not to trust themselves.”

– Psychologist


I also listened to an interesting talk by Daniel Shaw. Many great things in it, the part that stuck out the most is how followers of groups with narcissistic leaders are meant to feel shame about dependency and abandonment at independence.

This ties in exactly with Ben and Jock’s teaching. In particular, in calling the needs of children for love manipulative and entitled. In terms of independence, teaching that they are the authority on life itself with every action and word analyzed and dissected by leaders, as well as with leaders taking on the role of mother/nurse, ever rewarding sickness and immaturity. Doubt the value of their insults and you don’t understand yourself, the world or caring. They erase the self by making it the sole focus.

He also talks about the inescapable badness that results.

It is important to note that The Haven is different from other groups because it only meets the criteria for a cult for those which they take under their wing. This makes it harder for people like me because it is much harder to find people with similar experiences and harder to be believed. It is cult-ish for all, but only abusive to some.

It is also interesting to note that employees may be at higher risk than participants at The Haven. It is always easier to explain the consequences of the neurotic compared to the narcissistic.

I grew up around narcissists, was vulnerable, was neither employee, participant, faculty or staff, so I was very susceptible. I was whatever was needed for those with power.

I have heard some struggles from others, I leave it to them to choose to share their stories. They probably won’t and I can hardly advise them to, given what I have been through. I would only advise trying to be heard for someone for whom there is no other option left. Just the attempt can be an act of rebellion and a new way of life. But those people will do it regardless of what they are told, and true rebels are rare these days…

Was I courageous? Not as much as people think. Courage implies options. I waited until I had none of those left.

Very long but can be found here:


The overrated self

You first need to have an ego in order to be aware that it doesn’t exist.

Matthieu Ricard

I think that there is a major fallacy at play not only in Haven teaching but most new-age movements. The attempt to get rid of the narcissism of being concerned with approval and acceptance from others has lead to a focus on the self. Missing that these are flip sides of the same coin. Authenticity is not gained through self-analysis. At Haven I started to feel like I was in the director’s cut of a movie, and I desperately wanted to be in the movie instead. This was true of my time with leaders or long term followers more so than other participants. There also seemed to be less awareness than there was amongst outsiders.

In Shakespeare, the most authentic character is the fool. The fool works by mocking the self-obsession (to be or not to be) and the focus on the other (Juliet is the sun.) It is only through mocking the form we are in that we are able to succeed, but the director’s cut seldom has the freedom to mock its form.

To truly be authentic is to realize that who I am is ultimately irrelevant and go on living in the movie version, content that there will be misunderstandings, irony, humour and worlds of missing information. That is the point of existentialism, you choose the meaning in the movie, not to destroy the meaning there is by taking a sidetrack out of the film and into the director’s cut where the only meaning gained is that you have information others lack.

I would be a hypocrite if I claimed that the information provided by that way of living has no meaning or use to me, so it shouldn’t anyone else. However, if we want an objective look at what it means to be authentic, this version should be questioned.

Animals are incredibly authentic. The one thing that separates them most from humans (with the exception of primates) is that they have no self concept. A self concept is usually tested by if an animal or human attempts to get rid of a red dot on their nose upon looking in a mirror.

We cannot stop noticing the red dots on our noses, nor should we try. But to be truly authentic, we need to stop gazing.

London Bridge is falling but Brooklyn is not expanding

ALVY         The universe is expanding.

DOCTOR   The universe is expanding?

ALVY         Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!

MOTHER   What is that your business?
He stopped doing his homework.

ALVY          What’s the point?

MOTHER   What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!

DOCTOR     It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here.

From Annie Hall by Woody Allen

I believe this is the same fallacy made by Ben and Jock. It is comical because young Alvy has no understanding that there is no connection between the meaninglessness of the universe and his homework.

The point of existentialism is not that you shouldn’t do your homework.

Similarly, it is not the point that anything that has been created through evolution for the purpose of survival is automatically less true.

Otherwise art, language, indeed everything, would be in this category.

They have tried to create a category of true relating that is above all other categories.

Missing the point of existentialism–there is no hierarchy of meaning, it is all meaningless.

So for Christ sake, just do your homework. Find what you enjoy. That is the point of existentialism. Our freedom to create meaning is our terror. Not that one can be like God in a cloud, observing all others through an all-knowing lens.