Like many others around the world, I have been “Greta’d.” Because of Greta Thunberg, hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of us, have been forced to face the absolute dichotomy between our values and our actions, between our words and our deeds. And for many, seeing this dichotomy has resulted in a metanoia, a turning around from how one’s life was lived before.
It is simply impossible to imagine a scenario where a 15 year old schoolgirl silently sitting outside of the Swedish parliament building each Friday, holding a black and white hand lettered sign, would, in a year’s time, become the acknowledged leader and icon for a mass movement of countless numbers of people all over the planet. But that is what has happened. It is beyond belief, but it is a fact.
Many English words have their origin in ancient times, and have, over millennia, come to have meanings different from their origin. Such a word is charisma. Saying that someone is charismatic implies that the person is popular and has a capacity of persuasiveness and charm. There is even a sense of something a little shallow in the word.
But the pre-Christian origin of the word charisma is from the Greek word kharisma, which means “gift of grace” or divine gift. This gift was of an extraordinary quality, given from above, and through this gift from the gods the bearer was empowered to express faith, knowledge and virtue in her words and deeds. The charismatic person did not receive this gift through merit, or some earned quality, but, instead, is acting as a kind of intermediary. One might say that her role is her purpose.
Some people have compared Greta to Joan of Arc. Fighting and dying for the glory and independence of France was the cause of Joan of Arc. It seems to me that a more fitting comparison might be Mahatma Gandhi, who, through the power of his own gift of grace, led an enormous nonviolent movement in the cause of freedom and social justice. Finally, I suppose all the comparisons are irrelevant.
The scientists say that we are now coming closer to possible tipping points from which there is no return. At the best, the climate we evolved in is no more, and will, to at least some extent, further worsen. For us to be reminded of these truths in such a fashion that we can no longer ignore them is Greta’s role. And the gift that she has been given, a gift coming perhaps from the earth itself, the earth as Gaia, is, for some of us, the means to awaken to the struggle now at hand.
Comments are welcome.


  1. But won”t money, the short-term gain, win out in the end? I agree Greta is quite remarkable and I hope her feeling for the planet will carry the day.

  2. Yes, Fredrica, how can I disagree with what you say, as the power of money and the inability of all of us to take the longer view is undeniable. In the short term, you are absolutely correct. I think the possibility lies only in beginning to turn the curve more quickly than we would have otherwise. When the number of species becoming extinct every decade is in the millions, then a quickening of a transition, though so woefully insufficient, will allow millions of life forms to cross over. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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