“The great weakness of us Americans as a people consists in the fact that we cannot quite accept maturity, old age, death, or, for that matter, birth, babyhood. They are not in our imaginative picture of life. We try to live apart from birth, old age, death. We die from ‘perpetual youth.’” (1939)
“We must remember that the masterpieces of painting are done by children under fourteen. Why is this? I think it is because purity of heart is especially necessary to quality, and after fourteen it is only maintained by struggle. Before that it is a sweet and natural and unconscious offering to God.” (January 13, 1925)
The reminiscences of those who knew Carl Schmitt form an indispensable part of his legacy. They show in a vivid way that his thoughts on art, life, childhood, and religion were not mere theories but the expression of a lived reality. If you have memories of Carl Schmitt to share, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Please contact me at the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this Reminiscence, Carl Schmitt’s granddaughter Margo Skidd shares some of her childhood memories of her grandfather. She remembers in particular the gentle courtesy and respect he and his wife extended to everyone, especially children, whom they affectionately called “little people.”
Every Sunday afternoon for many years, my family and I would walk the short distance to my grandparent’s house for tea. As a young child I was taken with the atmosphere of their home as a place of peace and cheerfulness, a place where things are well-ordered and “the way they should be.”
I can see now that this stemmed from my grandfather’s habitual focus on real things, from his profound connection with reality. This was palpable in the respect with which he treated each guest and the deep affection he showed his beloved wife. All this made a profound impression on me.
To me, my grandfather was a “great man,” with his deep conviction and calm self-possession. Yet, although I was not old enough to enter into adult conversation, I was not just another “kid” to him. He and my grandmother were personally attentive to us “little people,” providing each of us with our own small chairs and space in the main room.
This affection and courtesy embraced everyone no matter his age. In this I sensed, even as a young person, something of my grandfather’s real greatness.
This Reminiscence was first published in the Spring 2010 issue of the CSF News.
“Oh for a Child and a God! Oh God! Oh relieve us, rest us from men in a world of men.” (1932)
The final part of Carl Schmitt’s essay “Room (with Bath) at the Inn” (1941):
“We will wait until we ‘acquire sufficient means’ to send a Packard to our underprivileged God in a dirty stable and quickly carry Him to the best hotel. The finest suite for the Holy Child is none too good.
“We in the hotel have progressed beyond the family. In some way we cannot fit the Child into the modern hotel in our imagination. Neither can we fit ourselves into the environment of the stable. His parents should have waited until they had acquired sufficient means to bring him up properly. We feel that Mary and Joseph have insulted heaven by not providing properly for the ‘environment of the expected little-one.’
“Sooner or later we are going to be slightly bored by an Infant Savior who chooses to redeem us from a manger. And sooner or later, I suppose, the Child will see less and less of us. I almost feel that it will be his loss and not ours.”