This alchemy comparison may sound farfetched, but itncontains a hint of the sort of process of intellectual and evennspiritual transformation I’m going to talk about today. Anperson’s ethical nohons tend to crystalize in the hermetic.nMine did. The pressure chamber in which my most deeplynfelt ideas were forged was not a surgical operating room, notna pressure-packed classroom, but a prison cell.nPrisons have been crucibles of both degradation andncreative impulse throughout history. Like most pressurenchambers, they seem to draw out the very best and the verynworst of mankind. Writers have attributed prison inspirationnto Boethius, Cervantes, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, andndozens of other ex-convicts who later made their marks innthe world. But, in many cases, the main inspiration wasnobtained through reflection, through the opportunity theirnprison experiences provided for uninterrupted thought,ntime to reorder their lives while languishing.nI have had periods of more or less stress-free imprisonment,neven in solitary confinement. A fellow prisoner, anmath scholar, once did me the tremendous favor of passingnto me (and I mean by that putting it through the concretenwall between us with our tap code, as I memorized it) annarithmetic formula of expansion that, in a remarkably fewniterations of such simple form that they could be performednwith a stick in the dust, would yield natural logarithms tonthree or four decimal places. After weeks of thought, Inreconstructed the process of going from natural logarithmsnto logs of base ten. I slowly became the world’s greatestnexpert on the exponential curve; I dusted off the constructionnof a log log duplex deci-trig slide rule in my head. (Nonpencils or papers were allowed in the cell; my log tables hadnto be etched with a nail on the concealed side of a bednboard.) I became one of the few men alive to trulynunderstand why any number raised to the zero powernnecessarily had to be unity, why zero factorially is unity,nand so on. I spent months and months in deep concentrationnand, at one point, could have written a pretty goodnadvanced mathematics text. I knew the logarithmicexponentialnpicture inside out.nYou might find it interesting that after I’d been homenabout two weeks I was so struck with disillusionment at thencontents of a freshly received letter that I almost cried. Itnwas just a short letter from my young son’s prep schoolnmath teacher with a casual request for a brief, writtennsummary of all it took to build a slide rule in prison. Henobviously had devoted very little reflection to the comprehensivenessnof mathematical development entailed. I chosennot to do it, and I hope you can understand my frustratingndismay with the commonplace insensitivity of this “big easynworld of yaekety yack,” as I sometimes maliciously thoughtnof it those first weeks out. More about disillusionment later.nThose stress-free prison experiences occurred only late innthe game—only after the North Vietnamese ceased tryingnto extort propaganda and other material from us (a heavensentnreprieve, which took effect only after President Nixonncame into office and reversed the previous Administration’snmisguided policy of keeping known instances of communistnbrutality against American prisoners secret from the Americannpress). My mathematical thoughts came from thenstress-free period. The ethical thoughts came from thenperiod when the pressure was on—extortive pressure,ntorture pressure—pressure to the limit to get us to contributento what turned out to be their winning propagandancampaign beamed at the American man-on-the-street,npressure to the limit to get us to inform on one another.nThese last two ideas were tied together as integral parts ofnthe extortion system.nThe central strategy of the extortion system involved notnonly the imposition of loneliness, but of fear and guilt—nfear of pain and guilt at having betrayed a fellow prisoner.nWe were all in solitary confinement and solemnly warnednthat any attempt to communicate with fellow Americans,nby wall tap, by signal, by whisper (you name it), would benevidence of our ingratitude for “the humane and lenientntreatment of Ho Chi Minh.” The rules of the game werenthat such ingratitude gave the North Vietnamese the moralnjustification for pommeling the communicator while hisnarms were simultaneously squeezed with tourniquets, shuttingnoff the blood circulation until he submitted. Theirnsystem was designed to produce the propaganda and informationnthey wanted, whether the American chose either ofnthe two obvious ways to go: to stay off the prisonerncommunication tap code network and eventually becomenso depressed after a couple of years that he would presumablynbe willing to buy human contact at the price ofncollaboration with the enemy; or to join the Americanncommunication network, that is, to join the Americanncovert civilization, get caught communicating as one eventuallyndid from time to time, and then be put through thenstandard chain of events. That chain went from torture tonsubmission to confession to apology to atonement. Thenatonement was of course to be the giving away of prisonernsecrets—being an informer in other words—plus writingnthe old propaganda statement about how he had been guiltynof bombing “churches, schools, and pagodas.” In theory, atnleast, we were in a no-win situation.nI think that’s enough background to show that we were inna pressurized quagmire of ethical dilemmas. People werentrying to use us and have us tear each other apart in thenprocess. From this cauldron were extruded some basicnethical guideposts.nFrom this eight-year experience, I distilled one allpurposenidea, plus a few corollaries. It is a simple idea, annidea as old as the scriptures, an idea that is the epitome ofnhigh-mindedness, an idea that naturally and spontaneouslyncomes to men under pressure. If the pressure is intensenenough or of long enough duration, this idea spreadsnwithout even the need for its enunciation. It just takes rootnnaturally. It is an idea that in this big easy world of yaeketynyack seems to violate the rules of game theory, if not ofnreason. It violates the idea of Adam Smith’s invisible hand,nour ideas of human nature, and probably the second law ofnthermodynamics. That idea is: You are your brother’snkeeper.nThat’s the flip side of What’s in it for me? If younrecognize the first as an expression of virtue and the secondnas an expression of vice, let Bacon’s distinction add relevancento my concentration on adversity: “Adversity dothnbest induce virtue . . . whileluxury doth best induce vice.”nI need to tell you it soon became clear that the only waynto go—for peace of mind, for mental health if you will, asnwell as for practicality—was to forget that business aboutnnnAPRIL 1986/13n