These last couple of weeks feel like the Tower to me. Young people dying in the streets of Orlando, Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, Nice. Anti-muslim, anti-queer, anti-women rhetoric rampant, and gaining momentum, in the political discourse of the United States, where I live. It seems like we’ve only barely begun to integrate one tragedy when another befalls us.
The Tower. It’s always been the tarot card I’ve been the most afraid of, although their are certainly other doozies in the tarot. In the traditional image, it’s aflame, with people throwing themselves out of the windows in order to escape. Like the people trapped in the corridors or bathrooms at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, desperate to escape, unable to get away. Like the people who saw the truck coming among the festivities at Bastille Day, but weren’t able to move away in time. Like Diamond Reynolds, trapped in her carseat, as she watched Philando Castile die.
It’s a card that heralds disaster, failing structures, letting go of the things we’re attached to or that we’re dreaming of, so that something more authentic can emerge-- which is always a very painful process.
In times like this, those of us who are reasonably healthy and safe, we feel our hearts aflame. It’s a burning. Some of us have more privilege than others: we’re not queer, we’re not Black, we’re not Muslim, and for us it’s the burning of empathy, sympathy, and overwhelming helplessness or frustration at a system that doesn’t represent our values and is killing our friends and neighbors. Broken-hearted allyship. For many, many others, the burning in our hearts is the fear and anger we feel as safety and well-being seems to slip ever further from our grasp.
This week, a small bit of grace came in the mail. I had ordered a new deck of tarot cards from a small designer in Canada months ago, and synchronistically, they came on Monday. When I unwrapped them, one of the first cards I noticed was the Tower card. It looks like this:
It looks like a Temple.
When I saw this version of the first card, I found myself wondering -- for the first time -- why no tarot reader I’ve talked to, book I’ve read, or deck I’ve used has ever talked about trying to save the Burning Tower. It’s always about letting go.
This is not me, in any way, suggesting that we invest our time, energy, or love into the many dying and dissolving structures that harm people, the planet, our children. I’m not one of those people who is going to tell you to send Donald Trump or the Minneapolis Police Department some love.
What I do want to suggest is that we tend to our temples right now, especially now, in these times. The temples are the spaces that are the containers for all that we hold sacred: our communities, our families, our bodies, our sweetly broken hearts. It feels all the more important during such times of great turmoil, injustice, and tragedy that we find ways to connect to our selves and those we love, and from this place, find ways big and small to be part of the transformation and healing of our world.
In the tarot, the card that follows the Tower is the Star card. It is the card of hope, of our soulful aspirations unfolding with clarity, brightness, and depth into the world. There is light ahead, calling us forward, calling us into the best versions of ourselves, and the fires around us now are small in comparison to potential we carry for healing, love, and justice.
Or, as Rumi writes:
The time has come to turn your heart
into a temple of fire.
Your essence is gold hidden in dust.
To reveal its splendor
you need to burn in the fire of love.
With love and magic,