Decorated Navy SEAL, doctor, astronaut: Jonny Kim’s résumé at the age of 35 is intimidatingly brilliant. But, writes WEI KOH, biographical entries do not do justice to the arc of this Korean-American’s inspirational life.
Dr. Jonny Kim during NASA astronaut basic training.

“When a warrior fights not for himself but for his brothers… his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime… ‘The opposite of fear,’ Dienekes tells Xeo that night, ‘is love’.”

FromGates of Fire, on the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, by Steven Pressfield

One of the world’s greatest tragedies is that abuse is a cycle. And it is the victim and not the abuser it falls upon to break that cycle. Many are not able to. The language of violence and self-hatred is too deeply burrowed into their psyches and too inseparably enmeshed in their souls. The seduction of their rage is too strong. It overpowers their self-control and consumes them, leaving the path free for the monster within to stampede unfettered and unchained. But some women and men have the profound courage to break this cycle. To step away from the darkness and enter the light. One such example is the extraordinary Dr. Jonny Kim. Kim is a former Navy Seal, a veteran of two combat deployments and more than 100 sorties, for which he was awarded the Silver and Bronze Star medals, with a citation for valour; he won a scholarship to, and graduated from, Harvard medical school; and he is NASA’s first Korean-American astronaut, who at the age of 35 has achieved far more than most of us will ever dream of achieving in our entire lives. But it is his reaction to the abuse he suffered in childhood, and his decision to become a protector of humanity rather than a perpetuator of its often seemingly inevitable cycle of inherited behaviour, that is most admirable.


September 2020


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