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Biography & Autobiography August 09, 2014
Renaissance man – A review of the book ‘Paths Less Travelled’
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“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” - Rumi Everyday life throws many options at us; it gives us the choice to be the master of our fate. But in spite of such a tempting offer very seldom do men try to enforce their destiny and when they do, it’s even rarer for anyone to get it right all the time. But every now and then, history throws such a polymath into our midst who seems to know exactly what to do and when to do it. And they eventually become the torch bearers for future generations. Hon Kwong Lee, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Marine Corps, a former CIA officer and current practitioner of martial arts and acupuncture reveals in this startling and personal memoir, ‘Paths Less Travelled of a Scholar Warrior (Spy) Teacher Healer’, intimate details of an awe inspiring life led by him. Born to Chinese immigrant parents in America, this book details his life from growing up in New York in the 1950’s to joining the Marines after college, fighting the Vietnam war, serving in the CIA for thirty years and then finally learning and teaching martial arts and practising alternate medicine like acupuncture. At every stage in his life, life presented him with two options, two paths that would take him on completely different routes and every single time he chose the difficult and less taken path to arrive at a destination filled with contentment, peace and happiness. One of the most endearing things about this book is that it is written in such a manner that you will feel as if you are listening to a dear friend whom you haven’t met in a while, telling you his life stories over a good cup of coffee. Hon K Lee has an honest self assured voice that is sometime self deprecating and humorous but is highly sensitive too. This memoir is bound to take you back to your own childhood, your years of growing up not knowing how life would turn out and then of later years of knowing and reminiscing the good parts along with the bad ones. Hon’s dedication and his determination to choose his own path led him to enjoy each and every waking moment of his life and his work. In fact, he chooses not to look at the work he’s doing as merely a job and instead uses his time and skill to help others and become an important catalyst in the positive changes that we all want to see in this world. The book also contains some wonderful personal photographs that corroborate the texts and aid in the narration. Paths Less Travelled is an entertaining page turner and is an extremely fast read, especially for a memoir that offers an interesting and exciting peek into the life of an extraordinary individual. The events in Hon’s book are not laid down in any chronological order and are rather set according to the various themes discussed which have made an influence in his life. Even as a youngster Hon wanted to see and explore the world that existed outside the confines of Chinatown and his wish got granted as his work took him all over the world. The Vietnam part of the recollection is both horrifying and terrifying to read but at the same time becomes a very humbling experience when you learn about the bravery and sacrifices of so many brave young men. And his recollection of his days at the CIA reads like a script for a James Bond movie, the clandestine operations, the secrecy, the hush – hush manner in which all the details are discussed. There are in fact a lot of interesting passages and incidents that are bound to leave a lasting impression on you, and in no particular order some of them are - growing up in the 1950’s, the Rudyard Kipling poem given by his father, the Edith incident, the fist fights, the spy training, being a salesman, the Vietnam episode, Uncle Harry, his struggles at the latter part of his career at CIA which eventually became the impetus to kick-start an alternate career involving Chinese medicine and his work in the field of acupuncture. While a lot of autobiographies and memoirs will leave you impressed and in awe of the principal narrator, not many mange to make a personal connection with the reader. Read this book with Frank Sinatra’s famous track playing in the background and rest assured, you too will be in a happy place. 
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