When we see you
We are shaken
Trembling on a ground of waves
to upset, to reveal, to liberate
A cascading Tower looms tall. A lightning bolt cracks a hole through the sky. The crowned roof comes falling off. A man dances on his hands.
The Tower is perhaps the most feared card in the tarot. Ideas of ruin, devastation and crisis have long been attributed to the sight of the trembling tower walls, striking fear into those who see it.
And true, the Tower may bring these fears, but that’s not all that it offers.
To understand this card we have to first understand what a Tower is.
A Tower is a construction; It protects and fortifies from the outside world, keeping those inside safe. It may hold a reservoir of accumulated goods and knowledge, as well as serving as a vantage point to threats;
A Tower is a construction from which we can see.
Our lives are made of many constructions. Within the walls of our experience is a story about who we are, where we are from and what has happened to us. This accumulated store of energy becomes a tower; a way of being, a structure that keeps us safe, contained and fortified.
We need structures, like we need walls to a house. Walls and structures help us to define who we are and make sense of the world.
But what happens when the structure that we are familiar and safe in, is suddenly changed?
The sudden crash of lightning and the falling roof of the Tower can be seen as a dramatic, unforeseen event that shakes the foundation of the way things normally are. This strike could look like a revelation of truth, or a sudden upheaval that upends our perspective.
After this strike, we cannot go back to the way things have been.
And perhaps this is why the Tower is so feared as a card
because of change.
Humans fear change, especially to the structured ways we have learned to live. Change is the unknown, it’s the potential for failure, and the loss of what was.
But change is inevitable, and constant.
Shunryu Suzuki, the beloved Buddhist teacher, was once asked what the most important teaching of Buddhism was, he replied ‘everything changes’
The change that the tower brings may come about through crisis and moments of stark exposure, but some times we need these sudden shocks to wake us up to the reality of our lives.
And crisis, sudden change and loss may also bring some unexpected gifts.
There is a central figure who seems to be falling through the sky, plummeting from the Tower walls. I had always seen their dangling legs and outstretched arms as crying for help, as they fall to their death.
But on closer inspection, I could not say that they were really falling; their hands seem to touch the floor, and they have a peaceful look on their face.
What if instead of falling, they have escaped from the Tower’s door and are now jumping onto their hands, kicking their feet into the air with joy?
The Sufi poet Rumi wrote that the door to love was devastation, and that allowing ourselves to fall would one day give us the wings to fly.
Perhaps he was signalling the potential for devastation to open up the emotional landscape. As devastation takes hold, and claims our past we may feel a new connection to the world around us, one no longer governed and confined by old walls and structures.
There may be sorrow and mourning at the loss of what was, but allowing ourselves to release when crisis appears, as the jumping man seems to do, may eventually lead to a new liberation.
From the moment of crisis to the liberation of destruction we eventually find one of my favourite keywords for the Tower: reconstruction.
Carl Jung put it simply, ‘Nothing can be created without something first being destroyed’
The spark of the Towers’ flames may become a light that illuminates, showing us what we need to change and where.
But the walls will eventually be re-built. However this will not be a simple reconstruction, it points to a more deeper restructuring. One that goes down to the foundations, to the roots.
Seeing the Tower can be to see a problem in your life in all of its totality leading you to completely rethink and revise your perspective on it.
The Tower clears the way for new foundations to be laid, and with new foundations,
we can build new constructions, with new vantage points;
new Towers to see from.
until the shaking of the Tower walls begins again
and a lightning strike brings our Tower
like a trembling wave.
The way of love is not
a subtle argument.
The door there
Birds make great sky-circles
of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling,
they’re given wings.
Rumi, The way of Love
Artwork for this month’s When We See You comes from a collaboration between artist’s Jack O’Flynn and Tamara Macarthur. Tamara created the cards from paper mache, paint, gold and glitter, leaving space in the middle for Jack to re-create the tarot image with colouring pencils and pen. The image in the middle was re-imagined from the Tarot de Marseille ‘La Maison Devx’ (The Tower) card.
Tamara Macarthur is a Glasgow based performance artist whose work explores tears, longing and intimacy within the space of theatrical, glittering sets of cathedrals, trees, waves and stars. See more of Tamara’s work on her website below.