Small fish and large countries

Just as a small fish can fall apart if it is interfered with too much while being cooked, so too can a country collapse if its ruler stirs up too much trouble by meddling in the affairs of its people.

Following the way means governing with a delicate touch, steering the country and its people away from potential harm. Only when it is absolutely necessary, do the wise intervene to keep it from hitting the rocks and put it back on course.

「治大國,若烹小鮮;以道蒞天下,其鬼不神;非其鬼不神,其神不傷人;非其神不傷人,聖人亦不傷人;夫兩不相傷,故德交歸焉!」
Governing a large country is like cooking a small fish.
When the world is run in accordance with the Way;
The spirits lose their powers.
It is not that they lose their powers;
But that their powers no longer harm people.
Not only do the spirits not harm people;
But the wise also do not harm people.
Since these two do not harm each other;
They all live together in peace.

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