David Brooks looks with nostalgia to a time when surgery was done without anaesthesia and draws some important lessons.
Burney’s struggle reminds one that character is not only moral, it is also mental. Heroism exists not only on the battlefield or in public but also inside the head, in the ability to face unpleasant thoughts.
She lived at a time when people were more conscious of the fallen nature of men and women. People were held to be inherently sinful, and to be a decent person one had to struggle against one’s weakness.
Character has always been mental. But anyway, Brooks wants to draw an analogy between remembering something painful that happened to you and facing up to facts that do not correlate with your general political orientation. These I think are completely different things. It's one thing to remember a terrible experience and quite another to be self-critical in your beliefs about the world. You're not morally wrong for having suffered a painful experience, and you're not morally obligated to remember the pain of surgery. Unless, of course, you're the doctor.