By Allen Levin

Each morning I take Toby for a walk. I see people that are nice people. They are also walking. I see them in the distance and I can’t tell if they are coming toward me or away from me. Half of them are walking other dogs. Many of them are simply walking. I look at each, enjoying that the average age is vastly beyond mine (I’ve come to realize that having old neighbors means a quiet and mainly safe neighborhood). They walk with a certain finality. Largely their journeys are over.

A few of them talk to me. I’d rather not talk, I just want to walk the pup and get back home. Sometimes I can’t resist stopping and letting Toby sniff another dog’s undercarriage. He seems to download the info as the other dog does the same to him. I think it’s good for him and it allows me to say hello to the passersby. I enjoy reading the people I pass. I wonder if they are happy with their journeys. I wonder if they lived their dreams. I wonder if they believe in reincarnation (if they didn’t live their dreams this time, do they believe they’ll have another shot at it)?

It seems to me most people, regardless of age, are walking ghosts. They never really lived. They didn’t pursue what they wanted. They pursued what was easy. They pursued what was expected of them. They work, sleep, pay bills. They absolutely don’t seem happy. They find some other in a similar lot in life and bump uglies. They disappear into the digital void or in their heads. They aren’t present. They aren’t grateful. They aren’t really living. They are the walking dead. They are walking ghosts long before they are deceased.

Do you know any walking ghosts? I know many. They are dead and they don’t know it. A few walking ghosts make dramatic shifts in their realities and all the sudden they are alive! They stumbled upon an actual life. Most just drift through “life” not really living. It’s so very sad! How can they live? They can live the life they are passionate about. Their life can mean something! They can grow, change, evolve. Learning is a great way to live! Exploring. Improvement is the key to youth.

Look around at your old neighborhood. Look around at the shopping center. Look around at people. Get over to Venice Beach. I’d say 80% of people are already walking ghosts. What would it take to wake people up? I don’t know, but most of the artists I know are alive! Art is passionate, gritty, risky, and infused with life! What is your art? What do you mean? Who are you? Are you alive? If you are among the living, what is your fight? Artists are fighters. Artists love and give. Artists sacrifice. What have you sacrificed?

Have you “bled” on stage? Have you left bits of your soul in your work? Have you truly exposed your truth and the truth around you? When I think of the best stand up comics, they are artists. Have you explored stand up yet? Comics will take pain and convert it into laughs. That’s living! The ones that impress me are the funniest people that are sober.

Let’s also take a look at addicts. These people may be alive, but they are ruining their art. They are cutting short their journeys. They are disrespecting their bodies. Once again, this is another side of being a walking ghost. Look at their meth-faces. You can tell. Look at their skin. Look at their teeth. Once again, they lose themselves in their addictions and that’s not really living.

Living for an artist isn’t hiding from the pain. It’s living in the center of the pain. It’s feeling all of it and growing past it. It’s learning from pain. It’s creating from pain. It’s the television pilot about Jessica, that broke open your career. Jessica, the same woman who you needed so badly you couldn’t breathe without her, yet your reality is that she’s gay. You can’t have her. She’s confused, yet she’s gay. Your heart is broken and it’s your own “Chasing Amy.” You write. You create. People end up with jobs and food and money because of your art. Your pain has contributed to life. Seem specific enough?

You don’t regret any of it. You love, you hurt, you learn. You create. Live again in your art. Become the opposite of a walking ghost – become immortal. Your art can continue to inspire long after you are dead. Live here. Create here. Be the inspiration you seek and you will feel what it means to truly live. Let’s not get lost in the crowd of nobody. Let’s be the somebody we can be. Let’s live while we are alive.

Onward and UP.