Mr. Smith Goes to Dubai

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Will Smith

Will Smith, the movie actor, is a man of solid values, profound thoughts, and high principles. If you don’t believe that, just ask him. He’ll tell you himself, over and over again, just how deeply he’s thought about the meaning of human existence, about how to formulate his personal ethics and put them into practice, and about how to instill those values in his son Jaden and daughter Willow, both of whom he pushed into showbiz at age six.

Along with his actress wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will has cooked up a whole special language in which to talk about life, goals, and the universe. It’s not just enough, they explained to Oprah Winfrey in a 2010 interview, to marry, have kids, earn a living, and try to make a happy home. No, when “two spirits join together” in wedlock you need a shared “vision” because there is “so much more you have to be dedicated to.”

As Jada put it, she and Will are “two big beings that came together,” and once they saw their kids growing up and becoming “their own beings,” they realized they needed to form a “family business” aimed at scoring cosmic achievements. They needed to encourage their progeny to devote their inborn “excellence” to the high purpose of doing “service to greatness” and of “advanc[ing] and elevat[ing]” humanity.

Just as Will has done in movies like The Pursuit of Happyness [sic] and After Earth – and Willow, in turn, has done in her megahit music video “Whip My Hair.”

But Will and Jada aren’t content with just instilling values in their kids. As Will told Oprah, “I don’t want to be an icon. I want to be an idea….I want to represent possibilities. I want to represent magic, right? That you’re in a universe and two plus two equals four. Two plus two equals four only if you accept that two plus two equals four. Two plus two is going to be whatever I want it to be.” He went on to assert the importance of making choices: “There’s a redemptive power that making a choice has. Rather than feeling like you’re an effect to all things that are happening.” And he asserted his belief “that I can create whatever I want to create….I feel very strongly that we are who we choose to be.”

Okay, some of it doesn’t entirely make sense, some is neither original nor profound, and some is just plain hooey. But what more can you expect from a guy who for years was ranked by Forbes as Hollywood’s most bankable star, and was repeatedly included on its list of the richest Americans under age 40 – and who therefore, one imagines, is surrounded constantly by handlers who won’t stop telling him how brilliant he is?

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Will and Jada

Anyway, the point is that Smith isn’t content to give the world cinematic masterpieces like I, Robot and Hitch. He wants to enlighten us. He thinks he knows stuff. And he especially thinks he knows a lot about religious and spiritual stuff.

The fact that he’s donated a lot of money to Scientology – and that he sounds an awful lot like a Scientologist, and starred in the horrible movie After Earth, which is packed with themes that, according to many critics, seem to have been drawn from Scientology – has sparked rumors that he’s a secret member of that sect. He’s denied it, maintaining instead that he finds ideas worth using in a variety of faiths.

I’m a student of world religion,” he said in a 2007 interview, “so to me it’s hugely important to have knowledge and to understand what people are doing.”

Which brings us to his recent visit to – of all places – Dubai.

Tune in tomorrow.

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