Arcana in Balance: The Tower


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The Tower card from the major arcana is, almost universally associated with chaos. Ted Andrews, however, associated it with the vulture, life, death and new vision. I like the combination of the two. I like to think of it as perception, especially a shift in perception under pressure, forced perspective if you will.

Chaos happens.

Changes big and small happen to everyone. How upsetting those changes are depend on your personality (your stress tolerance)…which in turn influences your perspective. If change and chaos happens to everyone, and everyone’s tolerance for stress is different, and everyone’s response to choas to unique, how can the Tower teach us much less show us balance?

Whether it takes a little chaos or a lot of chaos, once it hits the point that it bothers you, THEN what are you going to DO about it? That’s the point where the Tower comes into play. You can stay in the battle, lost in the forest because of all the trees – or you can climb the tower, look at the big picture and gain a “new vision” of what is happening. You are forced  by circumstances to shift your view of things, usually to the larger view.

There is a nice example of this in the basic Newtonian physics we learn in high school. It’s “brownian movement”. Atoms and molecules that have any degree of heat in them over and above absolute zero wiggle. Einstien demonstrated this by putting tiny pollen bits in water…looked at it under magnification and watched them moving around. All those wiggly little pollen bits is a choatic looking thing – kind of fascinating and pretty – but chaotic. If you take a narrow perspective, micro-focused, up close and up to your neck in it all…then you see vibrating little dots all over the place. What do you feel when you see that that?  What is your mindset then?

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But pull back. Climb the Tower. Look at the situation as if you were sitting on the moon. If you get the much bigger picture, then those squirmy dots might just be tiny pollen from a dogwood tree by a serene koi pond. Don’t you feel differently with that mental picture?

On the other hand, it helps to see up close too. You can’t thread a needle from half a block away.

The balance point for perspective is both focus and response. Sometimes you have to stay down in the fray of battle, and persist. Sometimes you have to climb the tower to take stock of the situation, and adjust your battle plans accordingly. Sometimes you want to see the fine detail so you can ‘thread the needle’ in every sense of the phrase. Sometime you want to see the big picture instead of the individual pixels.

Balance in perspective is one balance point the Tower shows us. There is another. Once you’ve gained your perspective, what are you going to do about it? This call to action is what elevates the tower card above perspective focused minor arcana cards like the 7 of cups or the 5 of swords. Just as you want to balance how broad or how granular your view may be, you want to consider how broad or how granular your response should be. In other words, is this a case for a few words of direction then hands-off or does it need to be micro-managed to the last detail? Do you need to be at ground level and hands (with less of a fall) or do you need to take the risk of climbing higher, seeing more, and perhaps falling farther?

The balance point of the chaotic tower is perspective and focus (microscopic vs macroscopic) and response (general vs detailed, hands off vs micro-managed)

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