Maybe one day I’ll figure out why certain random thoughts pop into my head. For instance, I’m taking a shower before work last week when, totally out of the blue, I think back to an old documentary I watched one time about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. For no apparent reason, I remembered Will Smith talking about how embarrassed he was of his acting during the show’s first season and how hard he worked to improve over the course of the show’s run. I also remembered how he was basically the biggest movie star in the world at the time I watched that documentary.
Let’s face it, though: As much as I loved Uncle Phil, Aunt Viv (both of them), Carlton, Hilary, Ashley, and Geoffery, Fresh Prince wasn’t exactly Shakespeare. In fact, it was pretty dumb most of the time. As catchy as its theme song was (“I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air…”), I still cringe a little when I catch an old episode on cable and see Smith bobbing his head around while waiting for someone to answer the front door of the Banks’ mansion. I actually kind of wonder if he does, too.
Thing is, I don’t know if we ever would have gotten Will Smith the movie star without Fresh Prince. I don’t think anyone was really thinking of Smith as an actor when the show began. Without it, though, we probably would never have seen the Will Smith of I Am Legend or The Pursuit of Happyness or even Hitch. I guess you could say, then, that a goofy beginning was actually the springboard into bigger and better things.
I’ve been working through the worthiness of doing things lately. I can’t tell you the number of things I’ve turned down in life because I thought they were silly or not worth my time. Do you know how many southern rock bands I could have joined over the years? Or how many writing contests no one has ever heard of I could have entered? Or how many jobs I never applied for because I felt they were beneath me? Or the number of books I never started because the plot lines suddenly seemed outrageously silly to me?
In all honesty, a lot of those things I just mentioned actually were pretty silly. I just couldn’t picture myself, for instance, standing on stage and playing bass through a set of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers covers. Nothing against those bands; it’s just not my thing. On the flip-side, though, right now I’m not playing bass for anyone, mainly because no one knows who I am from all those years of turning down opportunities. Not to wear out a cliché, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
Thomas Merton, the American Catholic writer and mystic, once said, “Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.” Somehow, I don’t think Merton was envisioning a kid from the streets of Philly moving in with his rich relatives, but many a silly idea has come forth from thinking this way. In some cases, though, the seeds of greatness have been planted in those very ideas.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to become a “yes man” and start agreeing to every crazy thing that comes along. I am going to try to be a little more open to new things, though. Write a few more awful songs. Start the freakin’ book I’ve been talking about on here forever. Take some freelance jobs I’m maybe not so passionate about, just to get the experience under my belt. That all may sound like some sort of weird self-torture ritual, but I’m beginning to think it’s more about progression, even if I feel like it’s all a complete waste of time.
I guess Smith may have sort of bombed out last year with After Earth, but who knows? Maybe we just witnessed the beginning of the second act of his theatrical career. Granted, it doesn’t include a rare cab with a FRESH license plate and dice in the mirror, but it might lead somewhere even swankier than Bel-Air.