Years ago on a whim I visited a psychic, a psychic of renown and one who was famous in those circles. Her name was Fan Benno and she was considered the grande dame of the Dallas psychic community with clients from lawyers to housewives to children. I visited her in her University Park home one summer afternoon. She escorted me to her reading room and held my hand as we sat on a sofa. She explained that that there is no death. Only energy. And she taps into a person’s energy in order to gain that person’s thoughts, feelings and history.
And then came the unnerving part.
She told me the mid-life crisis I was going through. She knew my family, my investments, my career. Everything. She then said, “Now that I’ve told you about your current life I am going to tell you about your past lives.”
“You and Carol (my fiancee then) are old souls. You’ve been together many times.”
“You have an unexplained uneasiness around water.” True. “You once drowned in the River Jordan.”
“If you were to visit Italy today you would find it very familiar because you were an artist there during the Renaissance.”
I thought “Hot damn, I love this woman!” Maybe living another life as an artist is possible. And then maybe not.
I was all goosebumps. Despite being a hot August day, I left in chills.
Years later Carol and I did visit Italy. I never experienced deja vu but I did find myself feeling incredibly comfortable there, despite being able to say only two things in Italian. “Where is the restroom?” and “Where is a good restaurant?” I thought I could be very happy living there if it didn’t mean leaving kids, friends and all the other people I love.
Although I’ve experienced no evidence of a former life as an artist, I’ve always had some quirky unexplainable strengths, even at an early age. When I was five I understood perspective and always drew keeping it in mind.
I understood that shading objects created volume. “Give me your lunch money and I’ll draw you a battleship that’ll knock your socks off.”
Erasing parts of a pencil drawing gave you highlights.
I understood that mixing blue and yellow gave you green, blue and red gave you purple, red and yellow gave you orange, and mixing all those together gave you something the color of dog droppings.
In the first grade I sat next to the blackboard. I was constantly drawing on it. Miss Hensley the teacher, trying to break me of the habit said “Cap, why don’t you go up to the front board and draw something for ALL OF US to look at?”
“Great!!” “Here’s a spaceship, and here’s the fuel tank, and here’s the front where the pilot sits, and here’s the escape pod that the crew can use to get away in case there’s a problem, and here’s the engine shooting exhaust fire, and here’s the comet coming straight at it.”
I had made my first presentation! My first one-man show! I was hooked and I knew I wanted to be an artist.
“You want me to do another one Miss Hensley?”
She never bothered me again.
I’m lucky. And if you’re a painter, or a sculptor, an illustrator, a printmaker, an architect, a photographer, or anyone who makes art, you’re lucky too. We get to make a living doing something we were born to do. We don’t have a secure paycheck, but we don’t have a boss either. The composer and philosopher Merce Cunningham said never have a job because someone can take it away from you. From the age of twelve he knew he would always be on his own. And he said that getting up every morning asking himself how he was going to put bread on the table gave him the advantage of being well-prepared for living, even to old age.