Tower moments are those circumstances evoked by The Tower card in Tarot. They’re the times when circumstances are such that our world seems to crash down around us.
Like it or not, Tower moments are inevitable in life. They’re what change comes from. They’re what transformation comes from. Without Tower moments, we could easily find ourselves stuck in a holding pattern that, while comfortable (or even uncomfortable), isn’t getting us anywhere.
Different Packages, Same Results
Those moments come in different forms. We probably view them from the obvious perspective, relative to the human life.
When a friend or relative dies, it creates such vulnerability – and grief – that it really can seem as though everything we knew to be true crashes around us. It doesn’t have to be a tragic or unexpected death for this to be the case.
Even if we’ve known for some time that our loved one is near the end of their life, and even though we may have taken all measures we could think of to prepare for it, the reality often supersedes the planning.
It can be overwhelming emotionally, physically and financially. That overwhelm can create chaos where order once existed, and suddenly there it is: the Tower moment.
A Job Loss
It’s interesting to consider that a job loss is much like a death, in that it’s the finite end of something intrinsic – and important – to our lives, including our well-being and security.
For those who identify with their jobs as more than just a job, it can be devastating. And that’s beyond the fact that it can be – just like death – overwhelming emotionally, physically and financially.
This may be especially true if it’s a firing or a lay-off, which may very well come “out of the blue.” That pink slip (Are there pink slips anymore?) can act like the first in a series of dominos, creating disarray in our orderly lives.
The Tower-moments form comes in less obvious packages, too.
Forgiveness and Salvation
In the Broadway show Les Misérables, based on the 1862 book by Victor Hugo, Jean Valjean is imprisoned for two decades, for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. (A Tower moment all in itself.) He’s released, finally, and yet is told he’ll always be a thief and therefore a low-life. Unfortunately, he takes that to heart.
There comes a moment in the first act when Jean Valjean is caught stealing silver from a Bishop who offered him food and shelter. He lies, claiming the Bishop gave him the silver.
When Valjean is brought back to the Bishop’s house by magistrates, the Bishop lies, too, confirming he gave the silver to Valjean. He then takes it one step further, saying, “You forgot, I gave these also. Would you leave the best behind?”
He hands Valjean a pair of silver candlesticks and dismisses the magistrates. He then tells Valjean, “God has raised you out of darkness. I have saved your soul for God.”
Religion aside, the Bishop acknowledges two things in those sentences:
- Valjean is no longer a prisoner, except of his own choosing, and
- Valjean is a soul of worth as much as any other.
The result is Valjean’s next Tower moment. The Bishop’s forgiveness and blessing sends Valjean’s Tower of self-judgement crashing around the freed man’s feet.
The most pivotal lyric of Valjean’s emotional soliloquy comes at the end:
One word from him and I’d be back,
Beneath the lash, upon the rack.
Instead he offers me my freedom.
I feel my shame inside me like a knife.
He told me that I have a soul.
How does he know?
What spirit comes to move my life?
Is there another way to go?
I am reaching, but I fall,
And the night is closing in,
And I stare into the void
To the whirlpool of my sin.
I’ll escape now from the world –
From the world of Jean Valjean.
Jean Valjean is nothing now,
Another story must begin!”
How We Respond Is Everything
Anger, grief, despair, frustration, fear… They’re all reasonable human responses to a Tower moment.
- Who wouldn’t be grief-stricken by the death of a loved one?
- Who wouldn’t be angry and fearful by a lay-off?
- Who wouldn’t be moved to serve God because someone believed in you?
Cue needle screeching across an LP. Cue it, right now.
Jean Valjean could have stayed stuck in his suck-hole of self-judgement and anger over his situation. He could have run away with that bounty of silver and lived handsomely in a self-serving way.
Instead, his response was to completely change his life. He became an upstanding citizen and businessman, well-respected in his community. He adopted the daughter of a woman he felt he’d wronged, and raised her in light and in love.
He kept the candlesticks to remind him of that Tower moment. And when his end of life came, he handed his daughter his last confession, asked God for forgiveness, and found peace.
Yes, of course this is fiction we’re talking about. And yet…
There’s a beautiful point illustrated within that fiction, and it’s a point that is very much within the scope of our reality:
We choose how Tower moments affect us.
We choose whether they destroy us completely, or whether they change us enough that we can rebuild something of strength and substance that will be, perhaps, less subject to catastrophe.
We hold the ultimate power in Tower moments: the power of choice.
What recent Tower moment have you gone through? How did you respond to it? Is there anything you’d do differently now, given the opportunity?