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Nobody is ever very thrilled to experience Tower moments. These are those times when lightning strikes: you lose your job, or you find out that your spouse wants a divorce, or you experience a seemingly sudden health crisis, or the stock market crashes and there goes your retirement fund. Basically, these are those occasions when things not only don’t work out, but they explode catastrophically and you find yourself thinking, “well, at least things can’t get any worse!” It feels like more than a loss. It feels like devastation is raining down everywhere. It feels like the end of the world.
Now, you may vehemently disagree with what I’m about to say. But in nature, Tower moments are a gift. They are Earth’s way of bringing itself back into balance. The lightning that strikes a tree and starts a forest fire burns dead trees and decaying underbrush, returning important nutrients to the forest soil and making it possible for more sunlight to reach the lower levels of the forest. Scientists report that young growth forests that have been through fires have greater species diversity, because remnants of burned trees provide homes and habitats for birds and small mammals–and small animals are prey for larger ones. Of course, not all the effects of forest fires are good–just ask the people who have had to evacuate their homes this year because of fires in Alaska and Washington and California. Sometimes, yes, fires do rage out of control, and sometimes the Tower moments in our lives do too. But in general, when you take the long view, forest fires do help to maintain the balance of a forest ecosystem. The same is true of a volcanic eruption: very destructive when it first happens, it often nourishes local ecosystems wonderfully over the long run.
In the human body, as well, negative medical symptoms are very often the result of things the body is doing to bring itself back into homeostasis, or balance. Spike a fever? Your body is trying to help white blood cells mature faster so they can go and fight infection so you can get better. Are you vomiting? Do you have diarrhea? You body has recognized that something toxic is in you and needs to be expelled.
Very often Tower moments in our lives are accomplishing something similar. The job you just lost may have been slowly poisoning you and sapping your will to live. The spouse who just filed for divorce probably was NOT the love of your life. (As Louis CK says, “Divorce is ALWAYS good news. No happy marriage has ever ended in divorce!”) That’s not to say that Tower moments don’t suck, because they totally do. But they are also huge wake-up calls. It’s as if a great wind rushed through your life and began sweeping away those things that you were ready to release and needed to release in order to focus on something else. The forest fire in your life is burning up the very things that were holding you back. I know you will say, “really, Bonnie? Was money holding me back? Because I had some and now it’s gone!” or “Were my kids holding me back? Because now they live with my ex and that sucks!” I understand all of that and you’re not wrong to say those things–obviously.
But. Nothing lasts forever, not even Tower moments. In fact, Tower changes quintessentially are sudden, fast changes–as fast as lightning.
If you think about it, you’ll see that this whole discussion is just one aspect of a very ancient debate, the one that goes like this: “if there is a God, why is there evil in the world? why do bad things happen?”
My answer is: when bad things happen, when your life turns to ashes, that’s when you have the opportunity to rise like a phoenix out of those ashes and fly. Which you would NEVER have done if your life had not turned to ashes in the first place.
In tarot, what comes after the Tower is the Star: hope, healing, peace, and renewal. The ashes of the Tower CAN and WILL nourish your soul. Those ashes will bring you wisdom, they will bring you compassion, and they will sure as shit force you to pick up some creativity and resourcefulness. Add a little faith to that mix and you will rise, phoenix, and fly again.