What’s in a name?
The tenderness and vulnerability of being a human allows us to experience wonders: the colors of the rainbow, a breeze, the sound of distant music. Our human heart allows us to feel so much. And we can understand that others are feeling this too, underneath it all: tremendous gentleness, curiosity and love for ourselves and our world. This tenderness is natural and sacred. Therefore, we want to honor and protect this ability to feel.
One important way to do that is to prevent sexual violence in our communities. If a community does not protect its children from sexual abuse, it will affect that whole community’s ability to connect, trust and feel. If a community does not honor and respect women unconditionally, its future is in great jeopardy. If a community allows youth and elders to be diminished and abused, it will lose its strength and wisdom.
Because most of us have been living in a society where sexualized abuse has been treated as inevitable or even normal, for so long, we have forgotten how natural respect and freedom from fear are. To live with dignity, that empowers all of us, is very available, if we want it. Such happiness, and the relationships that bloom in such an environment, are as ordinary and as wondrous as a sunflower.
“Sunflower” is a compound word. The first part refers to our nearest star. The warmth of the sun is a universal human experience. Human societies recognize the sun’s amazing quality of stable, peaceful radiance that allows life and growth. Its light allows us to see clearly, and is a symbol of wakefulness. The sun’s energy automatically conquers the world without a battle. On a sunny day, we often touch in to a natural feeling of “everything is all right.”
The second word is “flower.” In the evolution of our planet, flowers developed because pollinators could see color and sense nectar. Flowers turn into fruit, which are also brightly colored and very important to mammals, birds, and especially primates. Most flowers grow upwards, yearning and turning towards the sun. Such beauty and richness is part of our human birthright. Such longing and growth is a symbol of our human heart and bravery.
Sunflower Voices is a site where survivors, leaders and everyone else can join in sharing vision, ideas and experiences of living life beyond the limitations created by sexual violence. How can we allow that sun to warm and nurture us, how can we blossom, as survivors exploring our world? What would it feel like to grow up in a community that cherished and protected its children without “secrets”? What potential becomes available to us when as adults, we conquer and eliminate habits of sexualized aggression? How would it feel to live in a community where we are sure of being supported when we disclose, where everyone says “NO!” to accepting, condoning or enabling sexual abuse?
The first step in creating something is imagining it. You are invited to envision the view, the practices, the experience of life in a culture that doesn’t even have a word like rape. A community where we all can blossom and turn toward the sun.
– Pamela Rubin
(Photo courtesy of Jeanne Cain)