This world in which we lived is governed by a set of rules. Or perhaps more accurately two different set of rules. The first set of rules is a set of facts that we have come to understand about the physical world in which we exist. These are often called the Laws of Nature and they include: “Newton’s law of gravitation, his three laws of motion, the ideal gas laws, and the four laws of thermodynamics to name a few. The second set of the rules are the ones that we have structured to govern society. This second set of rules, I would like to believe, have been created in an attempt to help us live more harmoniously with one another.
There is a difference between the two. The first set has been discovered, and our attempts to more deeply understand this set while occasionally transforming our understanding of how the world works ultimately bring us to a more complete image of how the universe works. These rules are hard and un-yielding (unless we are pushing our understanding of them). For example if don’t respect the power of a river you might try to cross a swift deep river on foot. If you aren’t aware of foot entrapment and get snagged by an undercut rock or hole you might be quickly pushed under the surface. The river doesn’t care who you are, what you have done, or what you plan to do. She doesn’t care that you might have a family at home who depends on you to bring food back to the table. You didn’t respect her power and now you are in a deadly situation that will resolve itself in minutes without some type of outside help.
The second set of rules have been created in an attempt to govern, control, direct, manage, organize, simplify, and administrate for the convenience of all those involved in the system. As our understanding of the world evolves our second set of laws seem to expand, intertwine, and transform into an ever more complicated set of “Laws” that are enforced by humans. These rules can be broken by some but not by others, are enforced at times and not at others. This is essential because our attempt to develop an inclusive set of rules is always limiting and there are exceptions. When you but up against these laws a genuine smile and honest interest in the person across the counter may determine whether your parking ticket is enforced or waved. Never forget that the person on the other side of the counter is just that a “person” yet they have the power in that situation.
In Simak’s “Immigrant” earth finds itself encountering another race that is just a bit ahead of us humans and a lucky few are invited to join them on their home planet where a human quickly finds their understanding of how the world works unraveling at the edges. The Kimonians seem to have gained a much deeper understanding of the first set of rules and in doing so have been able to eliminate many of the second set, or at least on a level that people interacting with our current understanding can grasp. In this world the human is required to live by the physical laws of nature but this time another tangible being can occasionally hold the strings on when to enforce our limited understanding of those laws and when to intervene in an attempt to maintain a more harmonious Kimonity.
It leaves a human wondering how he could gain an understanding at that level. It could be learned, perhaps it’s a current limit on our ability to perceive.
“But it wouldn’t be a school—at least not the kind of school he’d ever known before”
“You’ll want to get up early” said the cabinet “so you aren’t late to school”